How to Homeschool while Working during the Coronavirus School Closings. 10 Tips to Save your Sanity!
Updated: May 18
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Parents, don't freak out! You can do this! With many schools closed due to the Coronavirus outbreak, parents are being forced to temporarily homeschool their children. Many working parents are now faced with the real struggle of having to juggle working from home while homeschooling their children. Maybe that's you. As a former teacher turned homeschool mom and business owner, I'm here to calm your fears and tell you it can be done and even be enjoyable! I know what some of you are thinking, "Yeah right! You don't know MY kids or we butt heads." I had some of the same anxieties when I started homeschooling and it wasn't always roses! In fact some days it was complete chaos and I wanted to pull my hair out until I finally learned a few tricks to save my sanity. Here are my top ten tips for homeschooling while working.
1. Have a designated work area. It's important to have a designated work area free from distractions (as much as possible) for your child. The kitchen table works great for this. Use a small shower caddy, bucket or shoe box to keep all needed supplies (scissors, tape, colored pencils, glue stick, ruler, etc.) close by. This way you can cut down on work interruptions for both you and your child because they won't need to ask you where to find something.
2. Set up expectations right away. Let your children know what you expect them to accomplish each day. What time should they be up and ready to start homeschooling? When do you expect them to be done? We typically say they should be done with their work before dinner. Some children will need more structure and you may need to tell them to have their math work done by 10am, their reading done by 11, and so on. Some children may also benefit from having a timer to keep them on track. Let them know what time you will be available to help them and what to do if they get stuck on something before that (skip it and go on to the next problem or subject).
3. Get the brain moving early. Many teachers have something called morning work which are short assignments to get the brain warmed up and moving first thing in the morning. I love using these short reading passages that practice seven skills (reading fluency, reading comprehension, sight word review, inferencing, goal setting, graphing, and interpreting data) in just 15 minutes a day! There are monthly themed sets too. Once the brain is warmed-up have your kids start with the subjects that cause the most mental fatigue like math. That way they have the most brain energy to power through the hardest subjects first. If reading is harder for your child you may want to start with that.
4. Build in breaks. Let your child know at 10am they can take a 20 minute break to play outside and have a snack (or whatever you choose for them to do during their break). Then at noon they can break for lunch and have another short "recess" time. If your child struggles to keep going on their school work you may want to build in a few more "brain breaks". For example, you could give them a five minute break after each subject to get up and run 3 laps around the kitchen or do 10 jumping jacks or something similar.
5. Use checklists. This one was the KEY to saving my sanity and will be especially helpful to the working parent. Give your child a checklist (download my free editable checklists / chore charts and lots of other goodies in my Free Resource Library) with all the tasks they need to accomplish that day. Then your child will know exactly what is expected and can work more independently. It is also motivating to check things off the list and see your progress as the day goes on. You can further motivate your children with an incentive for finishing their checklist each day.
6. Give rewards. My kids are still pretty young (the oldest are 2nd/3rd grade) so they earn a quarter when they finish their checklists each day. You may have to get creative with other rewards (time on the iPad, a special treat, etc.) for older children. No screen time until your work is done is another great motivator! My kids get up in the morning and get right to work on their checklists because they want to earn their quarter. They do everything on their checklist that they don't need help with first, then I help them with the rest.
7. Limit screen time and make it educational. As I said before, screen time can be a reward for completing school work. Do NOT give in on this one! It can be tempting to let your kids watch one show while you get some work done but that will just lead to another show and before you know it they won't have enough time to finish their school work for the day. Plus this can be one of your greatest motivators for getting the work done! When they do get time for screen time or if you just can't avoid it because you have an important work call and need the kids to be quiet, put on something educational for them to watch. There are lots of great science and social studies videos on YouTube. We love these Wilderness Discoveries video series and these Creation Proclaims videos. Check out my blog post on virtual field trips to watch live webcams and learn about historic landmarks or animals.
Oh and don't forget you can mute yourself (when you're not talking) on video conference calls if you are using Google Hangouts, Zoom, Microsoft Teams, or the like. That way no one will hear your kids in the background if they are noisy.
8. Build in some fun. Make sure to include some fun "school" activities into your day too like these logic puzzles. Audio books are another fun way to engage your child in quietly learning while you sneak in a few phone calls or work sessions. We love these Lamplighters audio books but you can also find some free ones on Amazon and similar sites. Read more about a website that offers free animated audio books.
9. Prep the night before. Lay out everything your child will need for the day. Their checklist (see #5), any books they will need, papers, supplies, etc. so they can get right to work in the morning. You may want to plan breakfast the night before as well. It can be as simple as a granola bar, muffin, fruit, or cereal. Eggs are also a quick and easy breakfast that can help boost thinking skills. You could even cook up some hard boiled eggs the night before. I recommend giving your kids some protein in the morning.
10. Use digital teaching resources. Digital resources are a fun way to incorporate learning and a nice break from the paper and pencil method. These are activities your kids can do on an iPad or Chromebook. I have several digital resources available in my TpT store. Here's a free Mystery Pictures Boom Cards for you to try.
I hope you found these tips helpful! With a little structure you can balance work with homeschooling and you might just find that you love homeschooling! Instead of looking at it as an obstacle, consider it an adventure and soak up some quality time with your kids while you can! If you have any other tips for homeschooling while working I'd love to hear about them. Please share them in the comments below.
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