A winning combination
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A winning combination

For most working families, fitting school drop-offs, pick-ups and extracurricular activities around job commitments is a daily juggle.

But hundreds of Victorian families are balancing their paid work with teaching their children at home.

Katherine Santibanez with her children, clockwise from top, Judah, Declan, Ariel, Zara and Ruby.

Katherine Santibanez with her children, clockwise from top, Judah, Declan, Ariel, Zara and Ruby.

Photo: Supplied

Katherine Santibanez works three days a week as a flight attendant with a major airline. The rest of her week is spent home-schooling Judah, 10, Ariel and Zara, 9, Declan, 7 and Ruby, 5.

Husband Derek is employed as a software developer but works from home, allowing him to take breaks and join in home-schooling activities.

While the Lara family follows the Victorian curriculum, Santibanez says they keep things flexible, incorporating everyday chores, charity work and nature play.

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Preparing for her time away is the most challenging part of Santibanez's week as she plans activities for the kids, arranges meals and co-ordinates extended family support for when Derek is working.

Santibanez says her lifestyle attracts wariness and awe.

"People wonder how I can do both, but I think being a flight attendant I can leave work behind when I come home and focus on my children," she says, adding that Derek more than carries his share of household duties.

"I think if you are in the right mindset and you have a firm belief in what you are doing, home-schooling is not as hard as people think."

According to the Victorian Registration and Qualifications Authority there are currently 4785 children registered for home school across the state.

While official figures are not collected, Home Education Network co-ordinator Sue Wight estimates at least one in 10 home-school families would combine paid roles.

"There's a huge range of work types because the home-school community really is a microcosm of the general community," Wight says. She says home businesses expose children to real-world teaching as they learn about ordering, invoicing and quoting among their other lessons.

"Once it becomes part of your lifestyle it is not so difficult to fit paid work around it. Everyone in the family recognises that they are all a part of keeping the house ticking over," she says.

Former primary school teacher Anabel Matchan chose to home-school after becoming disillusioned with the mainstream system.

Matchan and husband Dion now combine teaching their four children with owning and running Torquay's Southern Cross Montessori pre-school.

The couple is also spearheading plans to build a Montessori primary school in Geelong.

With her deep knowledge of the state curriculum, Matchan spends her summer break mapping out what Jordan, 14, Rhys, 12, Lucian, 8 and Marcus, 7 "have to" do to meet standards.

While she works full time at the pre-school Dion, previously an adult educator, implements and embellishes, using her plan as a baseline.

Family and friends are called on to help if the couple need to attend meetings for the business.

"When we bought the kinder four years ago, the idea was that I'd teach one day a week as relief for my staff, but it didn't work out that way. So with support from family we manage to juggle two parents working and home-school," Matchan says.

"Dion also wanted the opportunity to be home with his children while they were young so we figured out a way to do it."

Matchan attributes building a community of support, teaching children independence and claiming pockets of "me time" when the kids don't need her as the keys to balancing the roles.

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