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Working on It: Balancing SLOCA and Work – Jennifer Perneel

January 25th, 2018

{photo by Olu Eletu}

We’re back with another “Working On It” interview to share. In case you missed the previous posts, this is a series in which we talk to SLOCA parents who have a full- or part-time job in addition to SLOCA, to find out how they balance the extra work with school, home days, family, chores, meals, friends, and other activities. It’s not easy, but there are parents who have chosen to work alongside doing SLOCA, and we want to share with our readers how they make it all work… or are at least working on finding the right balance.

Perhaps you are a parent who is “working on it” too. We hope you can relate to these questions and answers. And if you’re a reader who is considering SLOCA but not sure how to balance our unique program with an additional job, read on for some insight!

This time around we had the privilege of interviewing someone whose other job happens to be teaching at SLOCA! Let’s hear from our very own Jennifer Perneel, who teaches Primary on Track B. (Fun fact: my oldest daughter, who is now a senior at SLOCA High School, was in Mrs. Perneel’s Primary class!)

Q: How many years have you been at SLOCA, and what grades are your children in?
My 13-year-old son, Dylan, began in Kindergarten (Little Wonders wasn’t open yet!). My 8-year-old daughter, Brooklynn, began the first year our Little Wonders program opened the preschool class. Dylan is now a 7th grader. Brooklynn is in 3rd grade.

Q: Are your kids on the 2-day or 4-day track? Do they attend Friday Foundations and/or Academy Classes?
My kids are on Track B. Their attendance in Friday Foundations and/or Academy Classes depends on my schedule.

Q: What is your job outside the home?
I teach Track B Primary at SLOCA!!

My Beautiful Class (minus one who was absent!)

We love to laugh and be silly!

Q: How many hours a week do you work? What is your work schedule?
My teaching schedule is full days on Tuesday and Thursday, but I also hold the position of Primary Lead Teacher and Friday Foundations Lead Teacher. In addition to lesson planning, prep, and emails for my classes, I work a lot from home to keep on top of my other duties. I have never tracked how many hours it averages out … not sure that I want to… I do a lot of work from home early in the morning or after my children go to bed.

Q: How do you fit in the homeschool piece?
I try really hard to protect Mondays and Wednesdays (our homeschool days). We will have the occasional dentist or eye appointment, but I try to keep all appointments for breaks and long weekends. We don’t do a lot on those two home days outside of when I need to be on campus and their one activity each. We start our day at about 9 and work until lunch. We then pick back up and are usually done with everything by mid-afternoon. Brooklynn dances on company teams for her studio, and Dylan plays All-Star soccer, so between the two, we have rehearsal and/or practice almost every night during the week. During particularly busy weeks, we’ll get ahead on homeschool days. If we have a mellow weekend at home, we may read ahead in history and/or literature, or work on a project. Fridays depend on my meeting schedule. You will often find my children working independently in the school library, or my parents will come over and stay with them while I go to my meetings.

And what everyone really wants to know...

Q: How do you (or do you) keep your house clean?  
Being a working and homeschooling mom of two active children means not a lot of time for the deep cleaning. I am very visual, so clutter makes me crazy. I am guilty of “my house looks clean, but please don’t open a cupboard or closet!” I do quick cleaning as I go through the week (basically, when I notice something needs to be done), sweep the hardwood floors after the kids eat lunch, and use the kids’ towels to quickly wipe down bathrooms when collecting laundry, etc. But the deep cleaning (and cupboard organization) is not consistent. This is usually the first thing I do as soon as we have a long break or weekend! Also, another perk of older children – they each have chores and responsibilities! And I am blessed with a husband who picks up the slack. It’s not perfect and there are times where I definitely do the “mom rage cleaning,” but it works for where we are right now.

Q: What do you do for dinners?
I am lucky to have a husband who is home in the evening. Dinner is served at the table, and we all sit down together almost every night. I am a good Italian girl, so food is my love language! My husband is also on a restricted diet,  so quick-fix meals and ordering out are rare treats. That all said – I do try to keep things simple. I plan our meals for the week and shop over the weekend.  Meals that I cook during the week are done in 30 minutes or less, with the minimal number of steps possible! I try to prep fresh vegetables over the weekend, washing and cutting everything I’ll use during the week and at the same time, separate some into bags for lunches or make a big plate of veggies we will all snack on all week. If I am making something that can be frozen, I will make a double batch and freeze the extra for a day when I just don’t have time or have a late meeting. I try to plan ahead as much as possible and do what I can on the weekend.

Q: How much does the other parent in the home help, with homeschooling and housework, etc.? 
I don’t want to turn this into a cheesy love fest,  but marrying this man was one of the best things I have ever done for myself! Peter is always willing to help with whatever chore or job needs to be done. He can be found creating a Greek Myth game board with our daughter, talking science and soccer with our son, vacuuming a rug, doing the dishes or even cleaning a bathroom after a child had a little too much fun in the shower! I am home and with our kids more, so naturally, most of the homeschooling and housework is on my plate, but I am very thankful to have a husband that will jump in, no questions asked, to help with anything.

Peter and Brooklynn working on a project 

Q: Do you have a strong family network that helps with the care of the kids, meals etc.?
My parents moved here “temporarily” to be near my sister and I. That was 18 years ago, and they are still here! Now that they are retired and live less than 5 minutes away, they are always willing to hang out with Dylan and Brooklynn when I have work to do on campus on a home day. They will even do homeschool work with my kids!  Thankfully, SLOCA is very flexible with the fact I am a mama, and my husband’s job rarely requires him to be out of the house beyond the typical work hours, so we don’t need to rely on outside help a whole lot, but what a blessing to have it there when I need it.

Q: Do you have any advice for someone considering SLOCA who works, and is worried that they can't do both?
It isn’t easy, nor for the faint of heart. I have given up a lot but know it is only temporary. Planning ahead is essential. Protecting homeschool time is essential. Communication with your partner is essential. Finding at least one person at SLOCA to connect with is essential (I couldn’t do it without my tribe!). Also, giving grace to yourself, your children and your partner is essential. I have been around SLOCA long enough to see what amazing things are happening for students and their families. I want that for my children and my family! I am so thankful for this quality time with my children and the special dynamic SLOCA brings to my family. SLOCA is hard work and working here does not make it any easier!  But I know in the end, my children will benefit greatly, which makes my mama heart so happy.

Thank you for sharing this, Jennifer! Your words of wisdom and encouragement are so helpful. And thank you for your vision, enthusiasm, and dedication in teaching our Primary kids over the years (mine included!). We are so fortunate to have you on Team SLOCA and we deeply appreciate the sacrifices you make to manage SLOCA as a parent and teacher.

Parents, can you relate to this? Leave a comment below.

If you’re a SLOCA parent who has another job as well and would like to be a part of this series, please email Down Home and let us know – we’d love to interview you too!


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