Work and Homeschool Tips for Busy Parents

by Kimberley McGee
Working and homeschooling

A homeschool schedule for working moms and dads is a must. But, first, you got this. So many parents work from home and homeschool their children. It can be done. And it can be a lot of fun. There is a large support network online. Find a good group for those hours when you just can’t. Gather resources, online and in person. Author, business owner and veteran homeschool mom Heidi Totten has written a FREE e-book for busy parents, Homeschool on Fire. She offers a plan and a boot camp that will inspire and organize your homeschooling efforts.

More parents are working from home AND schooling at-home (the version of public school at home is not homeschooling). I went into homeschooling with a few months to get used to the idea and prepare. If you’re new to homeschooling or having to school at home while also working at home, it can feel overwhelming. My best advice, get a schedule! And then be prepared to ditch the schedule and build a new one based on what actually works.

Critics will say a schedule is too rigid. Depends on the kid and the family. For me, a schedule helps me to realize what my priorities are and what I can actually get done. There are only 24 hours in a day! I forget that. A lot. We also have a 4-day work/school week, which works for us. You may be able to do a 3-day work sked and 4-day homeschool or vice versa. Homeschool is not a mirror of public school. It took me a few months to really understand that. You can do all that needs to be done in a few days or over an entire week. Give yourself permission to just let all the rules go and do what works for your family.

Homeschool hours by grade.

Getting Started with a Schedule

Figure out what you expect from homeschool and working from home. Your homeschool style will save you time and money on workbooks and programs that won’t work for you and your kids. It can depend on your style, but if you can work in hours before the kids rise or after they go to bed, that seems to be a basic survival tool for most working parents.

Questions to ask:

  • What time of day are you most productive?
  • What is your child’s learning style?
  • Are you doing an online, structured homeschool K-12 program?
  • How flexible is your work schedule?
  • How flexible are your kids to change?

Know what you need and try not to overschedule your day.

What Didn’t Work

I tried to sneak in work while the kids were online in a class or finishing worksheets. My kids are independent learners. They don’t require much from me once they know what is expected that day. Still, it can be hard to stop or concentrate on work knowing that, at any minute, a little voice may rise above the din of my typing and plead for my attention.

I also thought I could just give them free time and get my work done. Nah. I put pink headphones on to signal mommy was “invisible” and not to be disturbed. Apparently, those shiny metallic pink headphones were invisible. Kids check in, they want to play with you. Don’t miss that opportunity.

tips to homeschool

What Worked for Homeschool Schedule

The best thing that works for me is to build in buffer zones. If I get busy, I can use the buffer zones to either do homeschool, get back to work, take care of chores or errands or sit and do absolutely nothing and stare into space (Bahahaha. Heh. It’s good to laugh).

Aside from the buffer slots within each day, buffer days make everything better. I build in a buffer day to give myself permission to not answer that email right away, let kids lose themselves in computer and play with their friends (after chores, teeth and b-fast). It’s free time all day on buffer day. It’s also a catch-up day. So, if the dog had to be rushed to the vets on Wednesday and no work was done by anyone in our pet-centric home, then we can roll our work into the buffer day. But don’t drill down on a buffer day. Make it fun. Kids realize this was supposed to be a free day, so give those hardworking students a break.

I try to make it fun, for me and for them. I put a snack out that they loooooove (thank you Nabisco), and break the catch-up work into chunks. We take snack breaks between the worksheets or units. I’ve also found if we have worksheets or other basic units, I’ll have them do it out loud rather than write it out This has two benefits. We have a chance to talk about what they may be struggling with or you realize they get this and you can leave the 12 times tables in the dust. And they get a break from having to write. Why do kids hate writing so much?! I loooooved writing much more than talking in a group, which you can see in the homeschool roundtable recordings. Public speaking is not my thing.

Little Things That Count (I.E. The Good Tips)

The kids have busy baskets they have helped create since they were little. Now that they are 10, the busy basket is a cupboard. It contains a programmable robot (thank you Amazon Deal!) and other STEAM activities that they can do without any interference from me. Have some worksheets handy if they run out of things to do and you’re on a call or otherwise not available.

I have them write the days schedule and what they are expected to accomplish and when. Critics, hear me out. Executive function skills are important. Taking the time to write out the day’s goals gives them a reminder first thing in the morning. It’s then a portable to-do list if they can’t remember what’s next.

Kids in school have to clean up after a task and move along to the schedule. This works for my kids. They want to know what to expect, how much to do, what to do if they get done early and when it’s time to blow off steam. When we were in public school, they had schedules from morning until night with a few hours of TV or family time after dinner, if that.

And! Having them write their schedule down from the chore board is a skill. When their little heads are bobbing up and down as they look up to the dry erase board and down to their paper schedule, they are learning visual memory, visual closure and visual spatial relations. It’s a good thing! And it gives you time for another cuppa and some quiet.

This may seem small, but it makes a big difference. I have the kids make coffee the night before. Yup. I put them to work. It’s a small thing that makes a big difference in my morning and gets the kids involved in running working-at-home-homeschool machine. Honestly, that cup of coffee made by the kids is a sweet way to start the day. What small tasks that kids can do will make your day run smoother? Kids want to be involved. It’s also great life-skills. And knowing how to make a good cup o’ joe is a good, actually essential, skill to have!

Take those moments when they are struggling and enjoy them. Don’t fight against it, just go with it. They’ll get it. Maybe not today, but they will. They need to know that, too. And when they do get it, you’ll be there to see that look! That look is the biggest pay off.

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