I hear this question all the time – how on earth do you homeschool and work from home?
And to be honest, I rarely have a good answer off the top of my head.
There is so much that goes into making it work that I cannot give a succinct answer in under 30 seconds. Plus, these questions rarely come from people who actually want to homeschool and work from home. They’re just curious.
I’d happily spend my time helping any parent figure out how to make homeschooling work for their family. And that’s why I’m writing this article.
How to Homeschool and Work From Home
Can we talk about homeschool and work expectations for a minute?
Before I get into tips, we need to have a honest discussion about expectations.
We all have 24 hours in a day and we all have to sleep at least part of that time.
Homeschooling takes time.
Work takes time.
There are many ways to lessen the time that homeschooling takes (and we will get into that shortly) but you need to he honest with yourself when it comes to how much time homeschooling will take.
Plus, if you’re homeschooling, your kids are probably going to be home with you. Even if you have older kids – they’re going to be there and they will be distracting. I don’t mean that in a negative way. I find any extra people in the house to be distracting.
I’m not trying to discourage here – I’m really not. But going into this with proper expectations is going to make the entire thing much smoother.
Now onto the tips!
Tip #1: Batch Work
Batch as much as you can. What I mean by that is pick similar things you need to do (or something you need to do multiple times) and do it all at once.
Instead of making lunch every day of the week, make lunches for the whole week on Sunday.
Instead of answering your work emails one at a time, pick one time of the day to answer all of them.
Instead of answering all of your kids school questions throughout the day, take the last 5 minutes of each hour to answer all of the questions.
When we batch work we save a lot of time. Transitioning between tasks eats away at the time we have and we often don’t even realize it.
Tip #2: Hire a babysitter/tutor/high school kid
This is a tough one in a time where we’re distancing from each other. But if you can find a safe person for your family – hire them to come be with your kids!
If they can help with the homeschooling – even better!
You need some distraction-proof time to work and other people are there to help. High school kids are great for this during the summer (or during quarantine, depending on your relationship with the teen).
There are also many people that just want to work part time who would be thrilled to sit and play with your kids.
Tip #3: Prioritize
You have a lot of time in your day and it’s easy to squander all of it.
How often do you need to do one task but you do another task because it’s quick or easy?
I tend to get distracted by dishes that can go in the dishwasher and ignore the hand wash ones for much longer. If my goal was to get the handwash dishes done, then I haven’t moved forward at all. Even though I was busy doing something and even though that something was worth doing.
It is very important to prioritize your day.
I start every morning by picking the 3 most important things I have to get done. This includes kid things, work things, home life things, etc.
No cheating, either. Not 4, not 5 – just 3.
And then I make sure to tackle those 3 things before I let myself do anything else.
This is kind of the rock, pebble, and sand theory.
Imagine you have a jar. You want to fill it up with rocks, pebbles, and sand. You start with the sand and fill it to the top. Now there’s no room for pebbles and rocks. Even if you only fill it halfway with sand – your space for pebbles and rocks is limited.
If you start with the rocks you can fill it to the top with rocks. Then add in some pebbles and watch as they filter down into the space the rocks don’t fill. Lastly fill it with sand. The sand easily fills in all the excess space.
If you life, the most important parts are the rocks. The slightly less important are the pebbles. And the sand is everything else.
Fill your rocks (top 3 things) in first. Once those are done, add in your pebbles. And lastly, fill it up with sand.
Tip #4: Choosing Curriculum Wisely
There are many options for curriculum out there. And I’ve even gathered a list of online programs you can get started with today (i.e. don’t require waiting for a box).
But there is much more to choose a good fit curriculum for you.
First of all, there are religious, neutral, and secular curriculum options. You’ll need to know which you prefer.
Next, there are different styles of homeschooling. Literature-based, online, video-based, hands-on, project-based, unit studies, etc.
Lastly, you need to figure out a curriculum that is going to have a good amount of independent work.
Of course, this will vary a bit depending on the age of your kids.
If you have a preschooler you don’t want independent work – you just need less school work. Preschoolers should learn primarily through play. That doesn’t mean you can’t homeschool them or should never provide them with school work. But it shouldn’t be so much work that the schoolwork itself interferes with your work day.
High schoolers you’ll probably want a program that is far more independent. At this age they can handle a lot of the work on their own or with minimal help from you.
Tip #5: Routines
Routines, routines, routines.
Not schedules. I really dislike strict schedules.
What is the difference between a routine and a schedule? I feel like I’m getting into semantics here but I do find the difference important.
A schedule is something you do at certain and specific times. Breakfast at 9. Reading at 10.
Routines are less structured and more flexible. We start our day with breakfast and then move into reading time.
Routines are what allow me to let my kids sleep in to whatever time they sleep in to. Some days it’s late and some days it’s early. I never have to worry about when they actually wake up because we start our routine at that time.
Setting up your routine doesn’t have to be hard.
First, determine when you work best and when your kids do their schoolwork best.
If you can get up before you kids and work – do it! If you’d rather stay up after they’re in bed and work – do that.
Some kids do their schoolwork best first thing in the morning and others thrive more in the afternoon.
If you’re looking for a very relaxed routine for your kids – check out this schedule checklist. (Yes, I called it a schedule. But it’s really not a schedule at all).
I also suggest checking out a homeschool loop schedule as it’s generally a more flexible way to complete schoolwork.
Tip #6: Pomodoros
I started working with pomodoros consistently a few months ago and they have been life changing.
A few years ago I did a Girl Scout 5K race and about halfway through I heard one mom talking to her daughter. She said ‘Let’s run for 1 minute. You can do anything for 1 minute, right?”. And that left a real impression on me.
(To be honest, my exhausted and snarky self at the time thought ‘can’t walk through lava for a minute’ but I was just in a mood)
You see, working at a computer is very distracting for me. Facebook is right there. Email is right there.
It’s so hard to sit at my computer and think ‘I have 5 hours of work to do’ and not feel the pull of a fun distraction.
But can I work for the next 20 minutes without a fun distraction? Yes.
And that’s the beauty of pomodoros.
I usually pick a time between 20 and 40 minutes. How much time I choose is totally dependent on my attention span of the day. My motto is to work with your body, not against it. So sometimes 20 minutes is my limit. Others I can easily go 40 minutes at a time.
After your time is up, take a quick break (5 minutes or less). I use this time to check Facebook, run to the bathroom, grab water, etc. And since this time is slotted for a break, I don’t feel guilty about a quick social media check in.
I use pomodoros for everything now. Work, cleaning, schoolwork, etc.
Another great aspect to pomodoros is that the kids can benefit, too. If they know you’re going to take a break in 25 minutes, they’re much more likely to wait to disrupt you (if possible).
Pull It All Together
Now that you have these 6 tips (I hope some were helpful to your situation) it’s time to put them together!
Pick one to implement and see how it goes. Make it a part of your routine before adding another.
And remember, there is no perfection in homeschooling while working from home. Give yourself space to relax and go with the flow.
You will likely have to refresh you methods as you go so be open to change, be flexible, and do your best to enjoy it.