Monday, December 13, 2010

Balancing Act: Interview With Homeschooling & Artistan Mom Ann Rinkenberger of Harvest Moon by Hand


Thank you for taking the time to be interviewed for my blog. As a working and homeschooling mom I know you are a very busy lady! Basically in general I would like to know how you balance being a work at home mom and homeschooling. Either one of those roles are time consuming on their own. It would be great to know how you are able to maintain a successful crafting business while educating your two children. Maybe you could start by telling me a little bit about your successful craft business Harvest Moon By Hand. How much time a week do you spend on your business?


The time I spend each week on Harvest Moon by Hand varies by the season. Fall and Winter are the busiest times of the year for me, while Spring and Summer tend to be a bit slower. During the busy times, I may be working up to 5-6 hours a day. During the slow times, I may work an hour or two at the most per day.

How do you effectively divide time between working at your business and teaching your children and taking them on field trips? Has this changed at all for different ages and stages of your childrens’ development?

I do the majority of my work for Harvest Moon by Hand before my daughters wake up. Often times, I’m up at 3:30 or 4 in the morning and will work for several hours until they wake up and are ready for breakfast. Sometimes, while they are working independently during the day and don’t need my help, I can sneak in some extra time to make a window star, or do some embroidery or needle-felting.



Field trips and extra-curricular activities are a valuable part of homeschooling, and they are certainly some of the highlights of homeschooling. Earlier this month, for example, we went to the Minnesota Orchestra’s concert for youth. I woke up early to do work for my shop, we attended the concert (which was spectacular), and then stopped on the way back at the post office to mail orders. That afternoon, we continued homeschooling by focusing on the core subjects (e.g., reading, math) as well as doing some hands-on learning (e.g., home economics).

In some respects, when my daughters were younger it was a bit easier to get my work done as well as homeschooling. Their classes and workload were not as broad/extensive as they are now. It seems like as they get older, more subjects and work are added. Trying to get everything accomplished in a day is, honestly, quite challenging. There are many days where there simply is not enough time to accomplish what I’d like to do – both in terms of homeschooling and Harvest Moon by Hand.

I can only do so much in a day, and if I’m not able to complete everything…then I need to be okay with that and be happy with what was accomplished. Focusing on the positive – the achievements – rather than the things that weren’t completed is important.

I see I'm not the only work at home mom/homeschooling mom who is up late at night working! I also do not alway accomplish what I hope to accomplish in both areas. But there is always another day!

Is working at home and having your own business an important part of what you would like your children to learn from you? Do they participate at all in your business?

To me, it’s very important that my daughters see that there are a variety of options available for women. During their childhood, I have been employed by a small company; ran a non-profit organization at our farm; and started/ran a few businesses. They have seen both success and failure. They have seen persistence and determination to find one’s niche in the business and craft world. They have seen the impact of the economy and world politics on small businesses and non-profits. They have learned about the similarities between the 1930s and 2000s-2010s.

These are all valuable lessons that bring to life what they are starting to learn about in history, social studies, math, and other subjects. When I can draw a real-life example to what they are learning about, it makes the lessons that much more powerful and memorable.

In the long-term, I hope my daughters see that their dreams and goals are possible with hard work. If they want to do and achieve something, I hope that their upbringing inspires them to at least try. If they fail, then hopefully they will learn something, modify their goal, and try again.

As for participating in running Harvest Moon by Hand, they are not yet at an age or skill level where I would involve them in the creation of products or mailing orders. With more experience, they would probably be ready to help when they are teenagers.

For the time being, however, when they see me work on products, it inspires them to create or think – whether it’s making window stars, making a hand-embroidered toy, or looking through and organizing their stamp collections. (One of the things that Harvest Moon by Hand sells is sets of stamps from around the world.)

What are biggest challenges that you have had to overcome in playing role of the work at home, homeschooling mom, and how did you manage it?

The two major challenges that I have had to overcome when I transitioned from running a non-profit (with a staff, volunteers, and a monthly salary) to become a homeschooling mom with a small business on the side are:
- Loss of a regular, steady income that covered more of the daily expenses. Both my daughters have special needs that were undiagnosed at the time that they were adopted, so medical and therapy bills take a great percentage of the monthly income away.
- Lack of time to do daily home-care and special or personal projects. Any of these roles (working at home, homeschooling, or being a mother) is a full-time job in itself. Combining all three means that there is a tremendous amount of multi-tasking and trying to accomplish more than is possible in a given time period. I have had to be comfortable with the fact that some things don’t get done as quickly as I’d like, aren’t repaired in as timely a manner, or there’s not enough time to do things I would personally like to do. However, as I have been told, this is a season in my life that is for a certain time period. By being flexible and modifying my expectations, I can better enjoy each of these roles that I play (mother, homeschool educator, and small-business owner).

Do you have any advice for moms who are getting started with this lifestyle?

Start with one role at a time. When you are in a comfortable routine, then it may be a good time to explore adding another role and more responsibilities to your life.

As I’ve already mentioned, it is important to be flexible and modify your expectations as you move along on your journey with mothering-homeschooling-working. When any one of those areas seems to be suffering, it may be time to pull back from one (or more) of the other roles you have so you can properly address what’s happening in the area with which you’re struggling.

For example, last month I noticed that one of my daughters needs some extra guidance with reading while the other is struggling with a couple new math concepts. This is coinciding right with the holiday season. I had hoped to be able to introduce some new products as well as patterns for felt food in November and December, but my daughters’ education comes first. I continue to renew and re-list items when they sell in my shop, but will have to wait to create new products and patterns until they have a stronger grasp on what they need to learn.



Is there anything else you would like to share?

In terms of homeschooling, parents need to remind themselves that they don’t have to do everything in the curriculum, and not in the exact order it says. This is still something that I’m working on, but trying to remember this has helped lessen the stress I feel.

Also, I read somewhere that one homeschooling mom’s biggest challenge is making sure that she spends time with her kids. Yes, you read that right — spending time with them…that isn’t school-related, that is. She said, “By the time we’ve finished school for the day, I usually want some time to do my own thing, then it’s time for dinner and before I know it, it’s bedtime. I have to consciously make sure that I’m making time for FUN with my kids instead of just school and housework.” I think this is a great reminder about what’s truly important…family and building strong relationships with one another.

Thank you Ann for the wonderful information. Best wishes to you in closing out the remaining days of the holiday shopping season.

To view all of Ann's work you can visit Harvest Moon By Hand on Etsy.


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