Does homeschooling and working full time from home seem completely overwhelming? As a mom who has worked from home for the past seven years, I’m happy to share that – yes, you can homeschool your kids and still have a job.
It’s not always easy, but once you get your routine (and a few of these tips) down, you might find it to be one of the best decisions of your parenting journey.
When you ask a parent about homeschooling, most will respond, “Oh, I never planned to homeschool,” and they go on to explain the unique circumstances that whispered (or shouted) that traditional school wasn’t for their child.
That’s what happened for my family. An out-of-state move showed us just how irreplaceable our former Montessori school (on 6 acres of land with horses, chickens, sheep, a major focus on critical thinking and logical consequences, and an outstanding staff and group of families) was.
We truly gave the new school a fair chance—even though each day of that first week was more disappointing than the day before. My kids still refer to it as “the fake Montessori school” or “the one with all the worksheets”.
After five months of red flags, we looked at all of the options and decided to try homeschooling. I honestly didn’t think we’d stick with it, but once we helped cultivate a local homeschool co-op that focuses on creative learning, critical thinking, and local field trips (and got a retired school teacher/grandparent to move down), it was definitely the right choice for our kids.
9 WAYS TO MAKE HOMESCHOOLING AND WORKING FULL TIME EASIER
There are so many options for homeschooling and working from home. And whether you’re full-fledged homeschooling or a working parent who is supporting your child’s distance learning program, I hope these tips inspire you to carve out a routine that works for your family.
Set your priorities up front. In this season of life, what is essential to your child’s education and what are the non-negotiables of your business? Just as you have a business plan for your job, you can create a family mission statement or a goal of what your child will accomplish this school year.
2. START WITH GOOD HABITS
While it’s not necessary to wear dress clothes and shoes every day, your mental state will benefit from you taking a shower, brushing your teeth, and putting on something other than what you slept in.
People and situations are always living up—or down—to our expectations. When you approach your job and your “teacher” role seriously (with an added dose of humor and grace) both your business and your kids will respond accordingly.
3. CREATE A (SET OR FLUID) SCHEDULE
I need organization and a to-do list. But my life is one consistent failure when I try to make an hourly schedule like many experts recommend. As soon as I write down, “10:00 – 11:15 Write editor’s letter for upcoming issue,” you can bet someone needs help getting into a Zoom, an unexpected but necessary phone call comes through, or the cat chokes on a rubber band he’s already swallowed 7/10 of.
The good news is that a homeschool day requires about half (or less) of the time needed for an in-person school day. So while small children still need supervision, you won’t be actively instructing for your entire work day.
“Save less critical tasks for times when distraction is likely, and reserve more high-stakes assignments for when you are distraction-free,” encourages Oak Meadow, one of the resources we use for homeschool curriculum. “If you share parenting and homeschooling responsibilities with a spouse, divide and conquer—one works while the other parents, and vice versa.”
4. BE FLEXIBLE
There will be crazy days. Expect them. Embrace them. Laugh at them… whatever it takes to keep everyone’s mental health intact. You’re homeschooling and working full time, from home, it’s going to get crazy at times.
“My reframe/realization for this year is that it is possible to work with my family at home rather than in spite of my family being at home, and I know when that extra space opens up it will be that much more powerful, explains mother and entrepreneur Melissa B. “Mental and physical health come first. it’s okay to have a low-key day because my kids are having a hard time or I didn’t sleep well, or shift assignments so we can do more outside time.”
Build in extra time for your work projects just in case a crazy week happens. And if you’re going to miss a deadline, be upfront with your client or colleagues about what’s happening. Most people will give you a little grace while homeschooling and working—especially during a pandemic.
5. GET OUTSIDE
Normally, homeschoolers have several options for getting out of the house, but when everything is shut down, you can start to lose it a little. Our physical and mental health need nature now, as much as ever.
“When studying astronomy recently, I was teaching Draco how people used to think the Sun revolved around the Earth,” explains actor and homeschooling mom, Danica McKellar. “I took him to the backyard and told him he was the Earth and I was the Sun. We had fun running around each other, comparing what people used to think to what we know now.”
Take a daily walk together. Start a garden so there’s always a project to work on outside (especially one with as many benefits as gardening). Make nature crafts or move all of your lessons outside on a beautiful day.
6. SCHEDULE DAILY QUIET TIME
Depending on the ages of your children, set a time each day for naps or quiet activities. Help your small children get into a sleepy state by reading a guided relaxation script. After lunch is usually a great time for everyone to unwind. You can use this time to power through some work or treat yourself to a brief meditation or nap.
“When my guys were ages 3-6, I did structured learning 2 hours in the morning with creative, outdoor, and free play in the afternoon. They napped until they were 5 so that gave me extra quiet to focus, explains mother Sheila B. “When naps stopped, it turned into room time so they could use their imaginations in creative free play in the sanctuary of their rooms. They LOVED it and would actually tell me, ‘go do your own thing, Mommy,’ when I’d look in on them.”
7. CLARIFY WHAT WARRANTS AN INTERRUPTION
You can minimize distractions by laying the groundwork with your child. “For older children, a spiral notebook can be turned into an Ask Me Later book, where questions and thoughts can be written and kept safe until work time is over and you are able to address them,” Oak Meadow explains on their blog.
“Teach them your parameters for urgent vs. non-urgent situations, and give them a helpful way to remember when it is okay to interrupt you during a focused work period. Remind everyone of how you would prefer they get your attention if it is unavoidable.”
Creating a yes space for kids in your home is another great way to minimize interruptions. When kids have ownership of an area and everything is intentionally available to them, even small children can operate independently for longer periods of time.
Of course, in a true emergency, they’ll need to get to you immediately. Help your children understand how to tell when it really is a true emergency.
8. SHARE DAILY RESPONSIBILITIES
When everyone is home all day, there’s no reason for Mom to bear the entire load for work, schooling, housework, and meals. Assign chores for your kids based on their ages. Life skills are a worthwhile part of their education.
Once kids are old enough to prepare some of their own food, keep options for simple and healthy breakfast, lunch, and snack food on hand.
Keep all school supplies organized and within reach of the appropriate child. Put systems in place so kids can feed pets, clean up their own areas, and handle the little situations that cause the people in your house to yell, “Mom!” Encourage siblings to help each other first before calling for your help. Simply, if you are homeschooling and working full time, don’t let everything fall on your shoulders.
9. MAKE TIME FOR SELF-CARE
Your wellbeing is worthy of a spot on that priority list. Homeschooling and working full time from home requires a great deal of mental and physical energy. If time is in short supply, go for simple self-care by finding out what replenishes you. And be sure you’re getting enough sleep, drinking plenty of water, and moving your body each day.
Take an inventory of what you need to thrive. “This is a great opportunity for you to model self-awareness to your children,” explains Laura Ritson of Peaceful Learning. “In this way, you show them how important it is to love yourself and meet your own needs, so they feel they can do that for themselves.”
BONUS TIP – ASK FOR HELP
When the pandemic is over, we’ll add this as a permanent tip. For now, if you have a parent, friend, or retired family member who can be part of your quarantine bubble and help out with school, don’t hesitate to get them involved!