How to work from home and homeschool
If you are working from home during the coronavirus pandemic, you may be feeling anxious about your children being at school, or if not, the possibility of them being sent home. Can you do your job and homeschool at the same time? If you are a single parent, it will be harder of course, and you may need to enlist help from grandparents or relatives. If you are a two-parent family, then both parents will need to support each other to make homeschooling work for your family.
It will take some thought and planning, but it is possible – I’ve done it (I homeschooled five children and by the time I only had two left to teach, I was working 30 hours a week at home, plus running this website). In the case of an emergency, your outlook will differ from a long-term situation. Here are my tips for working from home and homeschooling.
You won’t need 6 hours in a day to devote to homeschooling. Remember, a lot of time is wasted in school – lining up, waiting for the teacher, among other non-teaching situations. You will need to think about what subjects are important for your child in the event they go back to school. But most importantly:
This homeschooling stint is a great opportunity to focus on the things your child has been struggling with at school and provide one-on-one help.
Tips for working at home and homeschooling
This is crucial now that you have the kids at home with you. Maintaining your regular work-away-from-home routine and using the time you would normally have been travelling to work or taking the kids to school to get some of your work tasks done is a good idea if your job allows this. You may need to get up a little earlier, but if you can get a good chunk done before the family day starts, you’ll reduce everyone’s stress levels. Stay in bed for this time if that works for you.
Use your breaks to keep your kids working on their tasks. Take a breakfast break, lunch break and 5-minutes-every-hour breaks throughout the day. (This is just a guide as your particular job will dictate how you can divide your time.) Just be prepared for your regime to not go as smoothly as you imagined; realise that you will need to be flexible.
When you take these breaks, turn off your notifications and make sure you are focussed on your children. Go to a different room from where you work, maintain eye contact with them, listen carefully and respond accordingly.
Write up a schedule and share responsibilites
Sharing the load and getting everyone in the family to help out is essential while you are working from home. One thing that works really well is to break housework up into 5-minute tasks. For example, take a 5-minute break and scrub the shower walls, another break to scrub the shower screen and then another for the base. It gets you moving and the kids have fun racing the clock. The best part – you won’t have to do it on the weekend!
Having a schedule will keep you on track and help the kids know what they have to do. This will reduce them bothering you – they may take a little while to get used to this, but perseverence will pay off.
Use the table of contents in your child’s textbook to calculate how many lessons you can manage in a week (divide the total by 40 weeks).
Check our grade level planning guides here.
You can use the books your child has been using at school or you can take the opportunity to try something different. School texts may not work as well in a home/parent teaching situation; often they are teacher reliant. The best resources for homeschooling are those written for homeschooling, or school resources that have teacher guides.
Check our article on unexpected homeschooling for more tips.
Khan Academy is great for free maths and science courses. Udemy has a plethora of courses, especially for older kids. And there is always Lynda for older kids as well. Maths Online is an Australian resource. You probably know of more, so utilise these platforms as much as you can. But don’t rely on them fully – you have your child at home with you.
You don’t need a heap of books
Books are great, but if you’re homeschooling only for a season, then use some of your time to get outdoors if you can. Petrol is cheap right now and school traffic reduced, so get into wide open spaces and just play, go for nature walks and get all those isolation cobwebs out!
Then again, books are great! So keep your kids reading. To hold them accountable, ask them to narrate to you what they have learned. Oral narration need only take 5 minutes, so it’s well worth a go when you are limited for time. We have an article on how to implement narration.
Buy good curriculum
Workbooks often work well when you are starting homeschooling or are strapped for time. They have everything set out for you and you don’t have to think about what your child needs to do that day. Just turn the page.
We have some great stuff! So check out our shop.
I only recommend this in normal circumstances, and in the situation of a pandemic, you will need to consider if this is a good idea. If you go ahead, it will make a huge difference to keeping up with everything. Most grandparents are delighted to pass on their knowledge to their grandchildren.
Some traps to avoid
Being at home all the time may cause some cabin fever, so get out of the house at least every second day.
Don’t place your expectations too high for what you think you can achieve. Apply the same principle as “under promise, and over deliver”. That is, have minimal expectations and everything above that is a bonus.
Make sure you exercise.
Schedule and limit screen time and don’t use videos to fall back on too much. Documentaries are great for homeschooling, but try to limit them to 3 a week if you have to.
Don’t “ape the system”. Don’t compare yourself to others. These are your kids, it’s your “school”, do it your way.