Updated: Nov 3, 2020
There are many questions parents get when they decide to share their homeschool journey. Questions around socialization, curriculum, activities, co-ops, and more! One of the most frequent questions that is always hard to answer is: "how do you work from home AND homeschool?" I wish I could say there's a "one size fits all" solution for this problem - there's not. It all comes down to your family's capabilities, resources, and preferences. BUT YOU CAN MAKE IT WORK!
Find your homeschool rhythm
Do your kids learn best in the morning or the afternoon? This is important to know when you're trying to find time to schedule in work.
If you have set hours, then you have to create the rhythm for your family. If you have to be online from 9-3, then consider independent work in the morning and more direct instruction in the afternoons.
If you have little ones who nap, try to squeeze in some reading, writing, or even art during these times. Anything your schooler can do quietly is optimal!
If you have flexible hours, consider YOUR rhythm! When do you work best? Make that a priority, because your work is important AND it allows you to homeschool.
Once you've figured out a bit of a rhythm, you can create a schedule or follow the flow of your family's natural rhythm. Here's what my day looks like! All times are flexible:
7:30: Wake up before the kids - read, play on my phone, or get work started
8:30: Feed the kids breakfast when my daughter wakes up (she's usually last) - I usually spend some time talking with them, then continue what I was doing
9:00 - 10:00: The kids play for about an hour - I work on what I know I can tackle in an hour. I don't start anything that will have to be stopped.
10:00: The kids and I work on lessons - usually reading/writing, math, and science
1:00: Lunch - the kids and I eat together
1:30: Rest/Nap - both of my kids usually nap, so I work through the time.
3:30: Wake up, snack, play - they're pretty self-sufficient with this once I wake them up
4:00: Social studies, art, and PE - sometimes I can mix a few into morning lessons
5:00: Chores - both kids have a list of tasks to be done while I clean beside them
5:30: My wife finishes her work & we close our day - she has strict hours, so she works in the room while we go about our day, but when she's off, we're off
6:00: Dinner/Family time - we play games, watch a movie/TV show, paint, or read
7:00: Kids play/I work - the kids play until bedtime and I work while my wife is on kid duty; both of my kids still require a lot of attention throughout their playing, so one of us usually needs to be ready to give the "oh, I love your work" and "thank you for the play dough cake."
9:00: Bedtime routine - the kids clean their mess, get dressed for bed, brush teeth, and then we talk about our highs/lows before a read aloud
Rest of the night: Work/Play/Spouse time - my wife and I usually sit on the couch watching TV while I continue to work if I need to or I'll spend time working on a hobby
Prepare your kids for work hours
My family is a big believer in spending time together. However, we also believe in teaching our children the value of diligent work. When it's time for my wife and I to work, the kids know we're available if it's an emergency, but they should save all the "Mommy, look" for later. Prepare your kids for this time, if you're able to!
Set a timer for five/ten minutes (depending on their age) and explain that you will be busy until the timer goes off. They cannot interrupt you unless they're bleeding, broken, or throwing up (our rules). Once the timer goes off, go to them and ask all about what they did! Let them share every little detail. Keep doing this every day, slowly extending the time. If you have visual children, a visual timer works wonders!
Show them what you're working on! If they stumble into your workspace, it's usually because they want attention. Take a minute to include them if you can! Show them what you're working on, talking aloud about the process and goal. Tell them how long it takes you and whether or not it's hard for you. This is also a good time to explain how hard it is to focus with constant interruptions - but don't call them out as being the interruptions.
Give them a task to work on during your work hours. Give them a painting project, or an independent science experiment, or a play dough creation task, or a workbook, etc. Tell them they can work beside you, but challenge them to do it as quietly as they can.
Find time to truly connect with your homeschooler
Our kids only want to connect with us when we're unavailable. Some call this "needy," and it's true! There's a need! Think of your child's need for attention as a bucket - you have to fill it up as much as you can. If you don't, they'll come searching for ways to beg for it. This includes positive and negative attention-seeking behavior. Try to prevent it by making time to fill their bucket.
Spend an hour (or whatever you can) with your undivided attention on your kids. No school work or lessons. Talk with them, read to them, watch a movie, play a game, imagine with them, whatever they enjoy! Put the phone away and give them 100% of your attention. Explain that this time if just for you guys, and you can set a timer if it's needed. Tell them when the time is up, you need to spend time working.
When you're together with your schooler, don't try to multi-task it with working. Kids can tell when you're not genuinely invested in them, and some will act out. When it's school time, devote it to them and their work. This can be tricky, I know. The phone beckons for our attention! To-do lists aren't getting done! Chores are staring you in the face! But believe me: they can all wait. You only get this time with your children once, then POOF! They're grown and gone.
Provide options to your homeschooler
Boredom creates endless options for our kids - we know that! But boredom also creates endless interruptions.
Create a visual or written checklist for your kids of things they CAN do while you're busy working. Be sure to include things they CAN do and things they CANNOT do. My kids will bug me 1000x a day just to ask me about activities they know they can't do while I'm working. My daughter's looks like this:
Be sure they can access their options easily. If they can play dress-up, but can't reach it in their closet, then "MOOOOM! Can you please..." Put toys and activities in low spaces. Place books on a reachable shelf. When children can be self-sufficient, they often will rise to the occasion. Some are actually enthralled by the idea of not needing Mom. Allow them to try! It may take some training and practice, but they'll get there!
The ultimate snack question beckons every parent in the world. "Mom, can I have a snack?" Create a snack bucket or drawer - snacks they can have whenever AND can reach! In my house, I have pre-portioned containers of fruit they can access easily. My two kids each have four containers per day they can have. I don't care when they choose to eat them, but once their four are gone - that's it. We also have dry snacks in a low drawer for right after nap. Granola bars or goldfish work great! Again, they know the limit - one dry snack after nap, the rest is fruit. The only reason I pre-portioned the fruit was because they'd eat the entire contents of fruit in one sitting without guidance. However, my kids come from hard places, so food insecurity is a major problem we're still working on.
Find homeschool resources
Consider outsourcing some of your homeschool needs! We can do everything - we're parents! However, you don't have to! It takes a village....
Find a co-op that provides teachers or special classes. Normally, they require some commitment or volunteer exchange, but it's worth it! Your child can take a biology class with a former science teacher, or a class on Minecraft by a gaming Dad. All of these can prove to be beneficial in terms of socialization and giving you time to work!
Tutors are amazing! Maybe your child is struggling in math, and it's taking up a lot of your work time to get her where she needs to be. Consider finding a tutor who can take this off of your plate! They're usually trained or experienced teachers who can provide help! One less thing on your to-do list. Plus, it's beneficial to have your child learn from different people!
Find your village! Search out other homeschooling families. Trade off time with another parent - one day the kids are at her house, another day they're at yours. Share the duty of being "teacher" and "guide." Again, this provides the amazing chance of socialization and learning from others/different environments!
Working from home can be hard. Working from home AND homeschooling can even harder! It's important to find a way to make it realistic for your family. But my biggest tip? Remember why you're doing this!
When things get tough and you're ready to throw in the towel - remember why you chose to homeschool. Think of the time spent with your children and the safe environment they get to be in. Consider how much more your children can learn and explore without the confinement of traditional school walls. It's worth it.