Balancing Work and Homeschool: Scheduling Tips

Mastering the art of balancing work alongside homeschool responsibilities takes time and practice. 

But where does a new-to-homeschooling parent or guardian begin? And what’s a poor grown up to do if they’ve got to ramp up fast—like, say, during a pandemic? 

They start by experimenting with schedules.

The key word in that sentence? Experimenting

Finding what fits for a family involves a fair amount of trial and error over time. In other words, homeschoolers are always tweaking their plans. Sometimes what works one year doesn’t work the next. And sometimes what works with one child (or household) doesn’t work for another. 

So, feel free to regard the following fundamentals as prompts to help you begin the experimentation process.

Getting Started

Even though I love my computer and apps, I strongly suggest that you go analog and sketch out your plans with  paper and pencil (or, even better, colored pencils). At least in the beginning, there’s something about the tactile experience that really helps parents wrap their heads around what they need to do (and get done).

Next, crack open a calendar or print out a blank weekly schedule. You can print something out either from a computer app or by using a free schedule maker

Ideally, the calendar should be broken down by the hour, so that you can schedule things with some measure of precision.

Now, on a separate sheet of paper, sketch out how many hours per each week you need to cover the things on this list that reflect what your family gets done every week:

  • Work
    • Remember: In two-parent households, there’s no rule that one parent has to shoulder all the teaching. Or the childcare or chores. In fact, many families find that, by dividing up the workload, the experience of working while homeschooling is less stressful for everyone.
    • If home instruction is to be shared, then be sure to assess how many hours each person has to work each week.
  • School (2 - 4 hours per day, per child)
    • Wondering why so few hours are allotted for school? Because it’s the rare homeschool family that teaches a kid (or kids) 8 hours a day, Monday through Friday.
  • Afterschool or formal enrichment activities (1 - 2 hours per day, per child)
    • During a natural disaster or pandemic, these will likely be informal.
  • Additional childcare supervision (typically only for younger children or kids with special needs)
  • Commuting time
  • Daily health and hygiene 
  • Physical activity (30 min. per day, per person)
  • Personal hobbies
  • Church and/or self-care time (daily, weekly)
  • Household chores
  • Meal prep and time
  • Scheduled family time (daily and/or weekly)
  • Planning time (for lessons, meal planning, etcetera)
  • Sleep

Now that you know what you need, you can begin to budget those hours over the course of the week to fashion a basic calendar.

First things first

Your success as a homeschool family—whether you do it for a few weeks or a few years—is gonna hinge on everyone learning to take care of themselves. 

And that includes parents.

This means blocking off hours for meals, sleep, health and hygiene, and physical activity first. Wellness is, after all, a cornerstone of success in life. 

Making time for work 

Now, if you have set full- or part-time working hours—and are expected to be on call or away from home during that time, start blocking off those hours on your calendar.

More often than not, work-at-home parents have a little more wiggle room in their schedules than parents who must commute. For instance, you may have a standing call at 9 a.m. but have some degree of flexibility during other hours where you might be available to help kids with lessons. 

In two-parent households, it’s helpful to code (either with colored pencils or initials) who most needs to be available to the outside world (a.k.a “work”) when. 

  • Staggered work schedules can be a big help, especially when working with younger kids. 
  • Sometimes it may be essential that one parent be the primary adult “on call” during certain hours. This may vary from week to week, as work duties change. Either way, good communication is critical to keep things running smoothly.

Once you’ve factored in work and any required school obligations, it’s time to add necessary schooltime. 

A word about childcare

When people find themselves contemplating homeschooling for the first time, they frequently struggle with the idea of how to keep kids busy all day.

Yet, it’s vital to remember that this issue isn’t really about school per se as it is about childcare. Even when kids are in school, they’re not working on lessons non-stop. 

And that’s why most homeschool parents allocate just a few hours every day to having their kids study.

So, if you’ve got young kids or high-needs children, then make an effort to tease out those two pieces and tackle them for the separate issues that they are. That may mean parents staggering schedules or relying upon another family member (like an older child or relative) to help. 

Obviously, when there’s a pandemic going on—or if you’ve got no one close by who can help, there are limitations on that approach.

So, don’t hesitate to rely upon documentaries, quality television programming, board games, art, gardening, reading and other things to occupy days. If it helps, try treating those non-school hours much like you would during summer or winter vacation.

Making time for school

It may feel funny at first, but one need not restrict home education to standard school hours. In fact, many working homeschool parents — especially single parents or shift workers — find freedom by teaching in the evenings or on weekends.

Other things to keep in mind:
  • When children are close together in age (within 2-3 years of one another), you may be able to teach the bulk of their lessons in tandem. This is especially true when teaching the humanities and science. It can be trickier with math, when teaching children how to read, or when you have a child who has a learning disability and needs more guidance.
  • When there’s a wide difference in age or ability, some (or all) lessons may be better addressed separately.
    • In households with a range of ages, time to work with older kids on more complicated topics may be found after younger children go to bed or on weekends when another adult can help.
  • When using web-based or computer services, keep in mind that you may need to stagger lessons to allow everyone time to get their digital tasks done.
    • For digital classes offered through online providers (or school districts) and homeschool co-ops, kids and teens may have to participate at the set time. Plan accordingly by treating those obligations as “work” time and adding them first, before more fluid obligations.

Making time for everything else

Once you’ve sketched out work and school, it’s important to go back and sprinkle other things to round out your schedule. Physical activity, self-care time, etcetera — these things bring richness to our days. 

Don’t feel wedded to that list above, however. Think about what you need and plan accordingly.

For example, one busy mom shared recently that she and her husband have a “do not disturb hour” where everyone retreats to a corner of the house for a set time daily. This lets everyone (especially parents) take a break.

What’s next

After you’ve got your schedule sketched out, implement it for at least a week before changing it too drastically.

Big shifts in how households are run can bring unease and discomfort (as much for parents as kids!), so give yourself plenty of grace.

And, if you don’t like your plan, don’t hesitate to make modifications so that your home education experience reflects your family’s values, culture and needs.

Pamela Price wrote How to Work and Homeschool, which is no longer in print, and homeschooled for almost a decade. Now, like many parents, she's juggling a full-time job (in corporate marketing) while helping her public school teenager adjust to digital learning. She's also sharing practical tips and pragmatic advice with a team of seasoned homeschool moms at

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