Homeschooling while working is, for many people, already part of their ordinary routine.
But for families new to home education—especially during the COVID-19 pandemic, it can be hard to know what to do, where to begin and how to get organized.
There’s a lot of advice flying around right now—some good, some… well, not good. Not good at all.
That’s because what works for one family might not work for another. And goodness knows many a seasoned homeschooler knows that the pricier curricula isn’t always the best option.
To provide gentle guidance, we’ve got some dos and don’ts to guide you sensibly through working while homeschooling.
Don’t feel like you have to re-create school at home.
Whether you decide to purchase curricula for your family, use what the local district provides or embrace unschooling, the reality is that it’s the rare homeschool family who spends a full eight hours hunkered down “schooling” every day.
Follow their lead to develop a sensible time to teach your kids at the same time daily during the week. Then fill the rest of your hours doing things you enjoy: watching documentaries, playing games, making art or creating projects.
You’ll be less stressed out—and so will your kids.
Do keep your sense of humor.
The ability to step back and see the humor in life is a critical skill.
By modeling it for your children, you’re preparing them for whatever the future holds. Sharing funny memes, watching a favorite film or television show or playing (harmless) practical jokes on one another can bond your family together while releasing frustrations.
Honestly, this is as true for your kids as it is for you.
Many families are experimenting with schedules and adapting to new routines, from where and when they get food to where work and school take place. It may be tempting to schedule every minute, but no one likes to be micromanaged.
Allow free time to play, stare at the wall or take a walk. Breathe a little.
Make space to give grace. And then . . .
Do give grace.
This pandemic stuff is hard.
But so is work, school and being cooped up with people we love. Factor in the fact that some folks may be dealing with illness and grief, and, well, there’s just a lot happening at once.
Give grace where and when you can - including to yourself.
Don’t fear a new normal.
Let’s face it, no one knows how long this COVID-19 pandemic is gonna last. Or how long kids will be out of school and parents will have workplace disruptions.
Children and teens (and moms and dads) need to mourn the loss of routines, vacations, special events and other things we’ve come to rely upon or anticipate. Give space (and grace!) to allow that to happen.
And then work to create daily and weekly rhythms of life that reflect your family’s unique culture. Over time they’ll come to be reassuring.
Do plan your meals.
Veteran working homeschoolers will tell you that meal planning helps them stay on top of things.
In light of the food supply issues some communities are (or will be) encountering, you may take comfort in planning meals to stretch what’s in your freezer and pantry. In fact, if you’ve got older kids and teens around, now is a good time to teach this kind of essential life skill.
Don’t assume you’ll suck at teaching your kids.
There’s a lot to be admired about teachers. It’s a noble profession, and there are many excellent educators out there.
But that doesn’t mean that you can’t do a good (or even great) job teaching your kids, for however this pandemic lasts. The things that make a teacher great - thoughtfulness, patience, a willingness to listen, the ability to get excited about a topic - can be cultivated and practiced.
Have a subject that just doesn’t thrill you - and fear that’ll rub off on you? Find an alternate way of teaching it, perhaps through online learning, videos or documentaries.
Or ask your partner, a friend or a relative to help—even if that means using Skype, Face Time or Zoom to have your kids meet with them.
Do find someone to listen.
Talking through everything that is happening is a good stress reliever. Give a friend a call or send a text. Arrange to have a Zoom chat. Or just invite your neighbor out back for a chat over the fence.
Fun fact: One of my closest friends is a homeschool mom, author Pamela Humphrey, who helped me write this post!
Don’t compare yourself to everyone else.
Just because your college roommate is on Facebook sharing amazing art projects her children are making daily while she Skypes with the home office in London doesn’t mean you’re a failure.
Far from it.
Your kids need you right now. Just you.
So, don’t try to keep up with the homeschooling Joneses right now. There’s a lot of people slinging advice right now, especially about home education.
And, frankly, it’s not all accurate or relevant to other family’s unique needs.
But there’s a hidden beauty to be found in homeschooling - which is why so many people were doing it before the pandemic. See, once you know what’s required for you to do in your own state, you can get down to the business of cobbling together a satisfying homeschool plan that fits you and your family of learners.
To get started yourself, develop daily and weekly routines that work for you and your brood. Use whatever your school district sends home to use—or find some curriculum online to use. This journey is definitely one for which you get to chart a custom roadmap.
Do take care of yourself.
You may feel spent and exhausted, but there’s no reason to be a total martyr. Pump the brakes. Find some time to pursue a passion project or put in a garden. Curl up for an hour with your favorite Netflix movie and a nice beverage. Do a little yoga or take up tai chi with YouTube.
Just try to squeeze in a few minutes to be good to yourself, if only so that you can feel better about taking care of all you have to do.
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 Facebook.com/HowtoWorkandHomeschool.