As a homeschooling mom who works full time, I (Jenna) cannot help but feel for each of you who are suddenly finding out home school is in your near future. You’re feeling overwhelmed, doubting if you have the ability to teach your child(ren), and fearing what’s to come. Homeschooling and working from home due to COVID-19? Your questions answered…
- “I have multiple children, how do I teach them all?”
- “I need to work. How do I teach and work?”
- “How do I teach while having a baby?”
- “Where do I even start?”
Homeschooling & Working from Home?
Your Questions Answered
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Q: What should our daily schedule look like?
Honestly, this is going to look different for every family. There are many factors that come into place when designing a daily schedule that includes school and work. The one thing that should remain the same for every family is the ability to play! There is so much learning that happens through the act of play no matter how old your child is. It’s important to include free play in their schedule. We call these Brain Breaks. Our children, 1st and 3rd grade, get the opportunity to play outside, Magnatiles, explore our craft box, etc. while I work with the other child. This allows me to give them one-on-one attention while giving the other child (or children in your case) the time to play and unwind.
Over the years, I have learned to focus on the task at hand rather than trying to multi-task. In other words, I do not try to work WHILE homeschooling. I created a block schedule and boundaries so I can focus intently on what I’m working on in that moment, whether it’s teaching my children (emails can wait) or writing for work (the kids can play). The kids will need your attention, especially with this being a new experience for you both. By giving them your full and undivided attention, they’ll realize you’re invested in them and in return, they’ll be invested in what you have to say. This is an opportunity to connect with your children, and by setting boundaries, I can assure you beautiful things will happen during school hours – and it most likely won’t be the actual learning.
How to Build a Schedule:
Again, most of our schedules will look different. I have three children (one being a baby), and I can create my own work schedule. You may have five children, and your boss is expecting you to answer phone calls all day. Whatever your circumstance may be, know there’s room to change things up and this season will be all about grace (for you, your boss, and your children).
When building a daily schedule, write out a list of tasks that need to get done. Start with your top 3 for work and school. These top 3 are the most important things you need to accomplish in that day. I know most schools are expecting parents to teach exactly how the students spend their days at school. I’m afraid this is an expectation that is not fair to you or your children, seeing how they’re choosing the amount of hours your child will be learning, throwing you into this reality without mentally preparing you for it, and choosing the curriculum for you – all things us homeschooling parents have had months and years to process. Making it a point to focus on 3 tasks at a time, will set your family up for success by removing the pressure to do it all.
For us, I’ve learned a structured schedule works best. My children and I strive with routines set in place. They thrive by knowing what to expect. Also, we are big believers in teaching our children life skills. This may be a great time to teach your children how to make their own breakfast or pick out their clothes the night before so you can have a few more minutes to focus on work or any daily to do’s you must accomplish.
Every schedule, no matter how different they look, should include the following: brain breaks, one-on-one time for each child, breakfast/lunch/dinner at specific times and snacks in between, outdoor play, free play, and hands on activities.
Q: How do you keep kids focused on “school work” when they are not used to learning from home?
This is an uncertain season for all of us. First, ask yourself how focused you feel in this season. Me? I’m having a hard time focusing as I’m trying to stay up to date with the news and new realities. If we’re feeling unfocused and unsure during this season, imagine how our children are feeling. The reality is most children will have a hard time focusing on their school work because they’re not used to doing school work at home. They will get distracted, they will fight back. It will be a learning curve for both you and them. The ability to keep our kids focused takes practice and routine. This is a season of transition, and it takes time to instill new habits and routines. With that, do not lose hope! As parents, we need to be the constant in a season that is ever-changing. Try not to get frustrated and place unrealistic expectations on you or your children during this transition.
What helps us keep our kids focused? We set goals in the morning. I ask the kids what their goal is for each day. Usually their goals include a specific time they want to finish school or an activity they want to do with their friends after school. By giving them the opportunity to set their own goals, they feel motivated and ready to tackle their work. It’s the difference between setting goals they want to achieve versus feeling forced to achieve the goals I’ve set for them. With this method, we all win.
Be sure to include LOTS of time for free play. This will help their brains have a moment to rest and recharge. I cannot stress the importance of brain breaks enough. It’s not only important for them, it’s equally as important for YOU.
Freedom to Roam
Finally, we don’t force our children to do school work at the table. When we first started homeschooling, I purchased a desk for Cohban and quickly learned he focused better on the floor or outside. Each of our children learn differently. Let them have the freedom to roam. Don’t be surprised if their location changes daily. Sometimes we learn on the living room floor while other days one child is on the back porch and another is at the dining room table. Again, give them some options to choose from and remind them you’re in this together.
Q: How do I teach while having a baby?
Prepare lessons on the weekends. This is important to a successful week and will help you stay organized. Also, take advantage of nap times! We teach when the baby sleeps. Try not to get so wrapped up in a normal school schedule and work with what you have. Remind your older children it’s important to stay focused during nap times because they get one-on-one time with you and you’re so excited for that special time together. I promise you, they’ll love the quality time with you and will soak up every moment they get!
Q: How do I keep little ones entertained while teaching my older children?
Most children 3rd grade and above are able to do most of their school work alone. Of course, they will have questions or may need more help in certain subjects. Try to encourage them to work through the easier problems on their own while you tend to your younger children. While you are helping them through certain problems, block off an area of the room you’re teaching in and let your little ones play. I always set up a play area for Charley (our 11 month old) prior to teaching so I don’t get too distracted as I am being asked questions.
Q: I have multiple children in different grade levels, HELP!
Did you know a lot of learning happens through the act of teaching? Let your older students help with the younger ones! On the days I let my 3rd grader teach my 1st grader, he not only feels trusted by gaining this responsibility, he is able to freshen up on math facts or basic reading skills. Also, I love the days when I tell Madison she is THE teacher and allow her to teach the lesson to me. She lights up and immediately thinks she’s playing school. In the long run, it removes any pressures placed on her and allows school to be fun for the both of us!
Q: What do I teach? And for how long?
The difference between home school and teaching at home because of COVID-19 is the ability to teach what you want. For homeschooling families, we get the opportunity to choose the curriculum we teach our children. On the other hand, schools will begin sharing resources and curriculum with parents to teach their students while the schools are closed. Some schools have begun sharing lesson plans and expectations with parents, while others are still sorting out those details. Either way, no one is going to leave you in the dark! You are very capable of teaching your children, and I encourage you to have fun with it.
As for how long, again, I’m not sure what each school’s expectations will be when it comes to daily tasks. As for our family, we are teaching anywhere from 2-4 hours a day. Monday/Wednesday – we focus on Math and Language Arts, Tuesday – Math, Spelling, & Handwriting, Thursday – Math (my children go to hybrid home school and are in class on Thursday), and Friday – Math, Language Arts & Science.
Remember, the length of school doesn’t determine how much a child is learning. If you’re finding your children are getting distracted, frustrated, or tired, stop what you’re doing and give them a break.
Q: When do I work?
Homeschooling and working from home? Again, every schedule will look different for every family. For me, I teach in the morning and work in the afternoon. I like this schedule because our children get my undivided attention first thing in the morning (when they are most alert), and I focus on my work while they play outside in the afternoon.
Q: How do I stay organized?
This will depend on how your school handles curriculum. If school will be virtual, writing in a daily planner with lesson plans and daily tasks will keep everyone organized and focused on what needs to be accomplished by the end of the week.
HURRY! Simplified is currently selling their Teacher Planners for only $10! This is their way of giving back during this time to help you simplify homeschooling and working from home by keeping you organized!
If schools are handing out physical workbooks and paperwork, I suggest you organize by subject and by child. This can be as simple as folders and books placed inside their backpacks, creating a drawer system with labels, or using clear storage boxes for each subject.
Personally, we use the clear storage boxes for each child because they are easily transported for learning on the go. While we may not be able to go anywhere at this time, these boxes make it easy to set up school in the backyard and simple to clean up at the end of the day.
All in all, I’m here to reassure you – YOU CAN DO THIS. We were created to be the BEST teachers for our children, and whether it be home school, public school or crisis school (basically what this new reality is for most of you), at the end of the day it’s not so much about what they learn from their books as it is about what they learn from us, their parents. We get the opportunity to teach them how to handle a crisis by becoming the helpers, how organization simplifies transition, and life skills that will set them up for success as adults. One day, they’ll look back on the time their parents became their teachers, and it is my hope they’ll remember the quality time spent with mom on the back porch reading their favorite book, the way dad taught them to cook dinner in the kitchen, and how good it felt to let go of the daily pressures and simply be kids and have fun in their own homes.
If you have any specific questions about homeschooling and/or working from home, please ask in the comments below, and I’d love to connect with you personally. I would love to provide a list of resources and/or advice we’ve learned over the years.