How to Homeschool while Working from HomeJul 15, 2020
As school districts and government officials make decisions about how to proceed with school this year, it looks like many of us will be helping our kids to complete schoolwork from home whether part time or every day of the week.
For those already working from home, adding our children’s assignments and meeting their needs during school hours seems like an impossible situation. While the internet memes and humorous remarks we make with friends to ease our stress and overwhelm are completely valid, the truth is, we are all about to prove that it’s not impossible because 6 months from now we will be looking back and seeing that we did in fact do both work and school at home. Will it be perfect? No. But the sooner we embrace the challenge, the better chance we have of experiencing the silver linings in this storm.
As a mother of 5, a credentialed teacher and a 17-year homeschool veteran I have a few strategies I learned over the years that can make this school year doable for those willing to accept the adventure of a new normal.
1) Schedule in detail.
Make a schedule that considers the needs of each person in the family. Start with yourself. Sleep, exercise, a moment to yourself. Then crucial work tasks that happen at specific times of your workday. Now each child, one by one… Does the baby nap at a certain time? When do your children focus best? (Probably morning.) When can you devote an uninterrupted block of time to homeschooling? (This means no answering emails or the phone - business or personal.) Schedule that one block (9am-noon?) of time to give your children your full attention. Maybe in your family it will be two blocks of time - one in the morning, one in the afternoon. Perhaps you can tag team with a spouse. The key is to schedule school hours and make yourself completely available, no multitasking allowed. Will you meet everyone’s needs perfectly? No. But when we plan with a goal of accommodating each family member, our days will feel more productive and peaceful.
2) Create a Strategy for Each Subject
If you are homeschooling multiple children with your own curriculum, teach some subjects to everyone at once and some individually. History and Science work well as a group. Everyone gets the same lesson and each child responds at their own level. Math and Language Arts work best at grade level. Work with one child at a time while the others do independent work or play together, then switch.
DISTANCE LEARNING VS. HOMESCHOOLING
If your school is providing a robust curriculum and regular instruction, you may want to stay enrolled. Add Zoom classes and work time to your family schedule and supplement as needed. If the instruction is minimal, assignments are confusing for you to implement, or your children don’t work well with online classes, you should consider choosing your own curriculum and running your own homeschool this year. With some guidance on how to do it and where to find materials, you will be able to provide more customized instruction to your child that will help them learn more and grow in their skills and confidence than they would have in school this year. 3 hours a day of focused, individualized learning is going to teach them more than 6 hours in a classroom ever did.
3) Work as a Team
Just as parents will need to adjust their expectations to meet their children’s needs, our kids will need to become team players more than ever. Once the focused learning is done, school-aged kids can learn to play and creatively entertain themselves the rest of the day with minimal supervision depending on their age. if your children are not used to doing this, they will learn. Stock your home with art supplies, books, and educational games. Allow time for outdoor play and exploration. Give children chores around the house or let them help you cook dinner. These are rich opportunities for learning and conversation that count towards their education if you make the most of them.
4) Streamline your own work.
Make up that lost work time by being more efficient in your work whenever possible - time blocking, cutting back on non essential tasks and chats with co-workers, etc… This may not be the year to build relationships and expand your network and that’s okay. Finish up work you missed during the school hours in the evening. This time may create new habits that actually benefit your career as you learn to work smarter.
BUSINESSES HAVE A RESPONSIBILITY:
In the past, employees had to solve for childcare issues themselves, making sure they were available for the normal work hours that their employer set. Now, companies are going to have to accommodate parents who must be home with their children. The companies that are flexible, supportive and helpful will go a long way in creating a positive culture. Just as our schools are not going to expect normal levels of achievement this year, employers are going to have to make exceptions and provide encouragement to their employees while finding ways to accomplish business goals as a team.
Sometimes the best way to deal with a tough situation is to step back and look at history. Humans have endured much bigger challenges than this. Parents have been educating their children at home since the dawn of civilization, usually while farming, hunting, working at a trade, or running a local business. We can remind ourselves and our children of this truth by choosing literature that can be read as a family. Stories of bravery and perseverance, of courage and hard work builds character in our kids and puts our trials in perspective. Work and school will look different this year, but we can do this.