How to Homeschool Your Kids While Working From Home
You're not a trained teacher. But you have no choice. You have to work from home and teach your kids at the same time.
It's not easy to manage your household, complete your own assignments and make sure your students are continuing to learn outside of their traditional classrooms. But it possible to navigate being a professional and an educator.
These expert homeschooling tips will lead to success for your whole family and help you maintain some level of sanity.
1. Create a Predictable Schedule
For your work productivity and the productivity of your students, a schedule is important.
You can make it color-coded and minute-by-minute or loose and lax, but it should exist, and it should be posted somewhere where your child can see it.
That way, they can know what to expect in the coming day or hours in relation to what they will have to do and what tasks you need to do for work as well.
2. Designate a Specific School Area
Just as it may be harder for us to get a project finished while sitting in front of the TV, there are spaces that are more conducive to your child’s learning experience.
To benefit both of you, set up your office and your student’s school space so they have a place free from distraction to focus on assignments.
3. Give Yourself Grace
We should give ourselves grace every day, and remember that we are doing the best we can with what we have, and that is enough.
Few homeschooling parents are trained educators, but our kids are smart and resilient, so don’t worry so much about what or how you are teaching them.
Focus more on connection and play. These can be done during your breaks from work.
4. Give Grace to Your Student
It is important for us to respect that our children have fear and anxiety as well, especially if the choice to homeschool was not up to them.
We should do our best to be patient and encourage them to talk about how they are feeling while giving them the space they need to process the transition.
Doing so will empower them, free their mental space for learning, and help to alleviate pressing stresses so they can work more independently and allow time for you to work on your career projects.
5. Be Prepared for a Steep Learning Curve
Learning to be a teacher is hard. Learning to teach your own kids — with whom you have to live after the final bell rings — is next-level intensity.
Understand that no matter how prepared you might feel, things will likely come up that you didn’t expect, and that’s OK.
Figure out what does and doesn’t work, and allow yourself the space to be flexible to accommodate needs.
6. Be Sure You are Playing Plenty
No matter the age of your student, play is an important part of social skills. This is the space where kids learn to converse, problem solve, think critically, and even develop coping skills.
Allow and encourage your kids to play games, interact with younger siblings, and play age-appropriate imaginative activities with you as well.
7. Build in Transition Times
A lot of kids struggle with transitioning from one activity to another, especially when it is something they enjoy less.
As an adult, we struggle with this change as well, so it is important to build in transition activities and honestly express to our kids that it's OK to dislike certain things, but we need to model good choices as we navigate transitions as well.
When going from recess to a math lesson, have your kids act like their favorite animal or have a dance party. Getting them moving may help them to transition instead of having a meltdown.
8. Designate a Tap-Out Person
If you have a spouse or someone at home to help you, it is important to know when you need to tap out.
Your kids may be trying your patience, or you may have an important deadline to meet or work call to take.
Either way, you will need support, so enlist someone who can take over, even for short periods of time, to help keep things running while you take a breath.
9. Remember to Keep School Punishment Separate
This won’t be easy, but it is crucial. Keep in mind that we only hear about a portion of what our children may experience while at school.
Most classroom teachers handle small offenses hundreds of times a day, and it never crosses their parents’ email.
So while we are working from home and homeschooling our kids, we need to make every effort to keep our expectations for school separate from those at home.
10. Avoid Social Media During Certain Hours
We all need breaks from social media overwhelm.
It is most helpful for our own work progress and that of our students to avoid the distraction that can come from social media during working hours.
11. Capitalize on Your (and Your Student’s) Strengths
What subject does your student enjoy most, and where do your strengths align? Can you help them write a story for English or solve equations in math?
When you can cross those paths of learning and strengths, your student gains confidence in you as a facilitator, and you are able to show them how you use your abilities in your own work.
12. Get the Least Favorite Work Done First
This is no different from cleaning the toilet first during chores. If you finish what you enjoy the least first, then it gives you something to look forward to when you are done.
Show your student that you are doing the same with your work to-do list for the day and even consider making a race out of it to see who can finish their least favorite task first or most accurately.
13. Take Lunch Together
While working simultaneously at home with your child doing independent learning, it is important to reconnect and not talk about work.
Decide on a lunchtime or snack break and take them together. Ask how they are doing with their assignments and then no more talk about it until the break ends.
Being able to unplug from the mundane and reconnect on a relational level is as important as your student’s breaks with friends in the hallways between classes.
14. Plan Reasonable Field Trips
Virtual field trips are available and make for really fun ways to feel like you’re getting out.
Check out digital museum tours, online live cams and feedings from your local zoo, and even Disney offers digital rides while the parks are closed.
This can be a fun way to "check-out" together on a work break or to make education fun for your student who has been suddenly made to work entirely online.
15. Get Outside for Work and Play
Any size yard or sidewalks offer room to walk, jump rope, or do a basic cardio activity to get your blood pumping. That is great news for both students and parents.
The American Heart Association recommends a five-minute break for every hour of being sedentary, so take your breaks together and get moving and breathing fresh air.
16. Build in Alone Time
It is important for all people — even extroverts — have some solo time.
Whether you and your student decide to work separately or side-by-side, be sure you are building alone time into your schedule.
This time away can be for relaxing, napping, reading, or even work time, just be sure you build it in and make it happen.
17. Sleep Extra, But Don’t Overdo It
High levels of stress and anxiety can cause our bodies to seek out more sleep.
Operating on a relaxed schedule is totally acceptable.
Just be sure that you have a mandatory awake time and designated work hours for both parents and children.
18. Designate Calming Zones
Students of all ages struggle with abrupt adjustments to learning at home and the absence of social interaction with friends and peers. Because of that and parents transitioning to working from home or even loss of some income, the stress levels are intense.
It is important — no matter the size of your house — to choose a space that is only yours, for each person in your home.
When anxiety is high and tension builds, go to your calming area and take a breath to ground yourself in the present moment.
19. Talk Honestly About Anxieties
It is important, even as we are working from home alongside our homeschoolers, to talk to them about our fears or concerns and give them space to know it is OK to feel whatever it is they are feeling.
If necessary, help them to identify the emotions they are feeling, so they might more easily move past them and be able to be less distracted while learning.
20. Plan Virtual Recesses
Whether you allow screen time or you go outside and write encouraging messages in sidewalk chalk for the mailman or your neighbors out for a walk, allow space for your kids to shake out their brains and take a break from constant assignments.
Parents who prefer to stay inside can opt for popular apps such as GoNoodle or others like it to get your kids moving indoors in fun and exciting ways.
21. Incorporate Your Work into Lessons
No matter your occupation, chances are it can be incorporated into your child’s lessons in some way. If you’re an architect, have your student try to build your current design from Legos.
If you are a writer, have your student edit one of your articles or write an age-appropriate essay about a trending topic you might address.
The more you can show your kids that what you are doing is as relevant as their work, the more doors will open to connect as you are both adjusting to a "new normal."
22. Teach Life Skills
Many in education would argue that teaching life skills is an art that was lost with the institution of standardized testing. This is the perfect time to revive it.
Have your kids — of any age — do what they can to help with dinner. This can incorporate measuring math skills, temperatures, and even instructional writing or speaking.
The same can be done with doing laundry, balancing a checkbook, and any other household task you like.
23. Read to Each Other
No matter what work is online or on paper, reading to your child is beneficial at any age.
You can choose to incorporate your own work by reading what you are doing to your students, or have special times during the day where you read aloud, read to each other, or read independently.
24. Create a Safe Space for Questions
It is important to tell your children what you can, within the boundaries of what is age-appropriate, about why you are homeschooling and encourage them to ask any questions they may have about what is happening.
Make sure they feel safe to ask anything, so there aren’t hidden anxieties that become distractions for learning later.
25. Take Time Off
One of the greatest benefits of homeschooling is the fact that you make the schedule. If your child or you are struggling one day, you can simply take time off.
Take the day and choose to enjoy time together and reconnect — ground yourselves in what is important and then get back to business the next day.
The days of the week or times of day no longer have you locked into working or learning. Do what best suits your household.
26. Do P.E. Class Together
Get moving, no matter where you live.
It is recommended to start your day with 30 minutes of cardio exercise to get your blood pumping and your brain activated to make both you and your child motivated to be productive.
It is great to consider what activities you and your child love and try new things together.
27. Try Team-Building Activities
There are millions of online resources for short activities you can do with your students to learn more about each other and to break up the monotony of sitting at a desk or staring at a computer.
This is a great idea, especially if stress is high. Building skills together help you to reconnect and to break up the monotony of a day and distract from any stress.
28. Build in Multiple Learning Styles by Modeling with Your Work
Everyone works and learns differently.
While one person may thrive with music on in the background, others need complete silence. One student may best learn from lectures while another needs to engage their hands for their minds to fully participate.
Do your best to incorporate as many different learning styles as you can while working at home and teaching your child from home for the most benefit for each of you.
29. Make Learning the Least Favorite Subjects Fun
This is a challenge for any teacher, but we need to think, as parents, what chores or tasks do we do at work and home first?
Usually, we tend to complete the worst tasks first so it is out of the way and we can look forward to things we enjoy. We might do the dishes while we sing our favorite songs or dance with the mop in the kitchen.
Implementing this idea with our kids is a great way to get them motivated to push through their least favorite subjects.
30. Practice Skills in Unconventional Ways
Instead of dreading subjects and work assignments you dislike, think of approaching them from a different angle. Maybe you and your student take the assignment you like the least and do a race to complete it.
Perhaps, instead of a worksheet, you make their assignment (and yours) into a game or competition.
This small perspective shift can change the game as far as motivation to be productive.
31. Encourage Those Still Working
An easy way to take a break from work or incorporate art and writing is to do something that can ease anxiety by tapping into the creative.
Sew masks for local health-care workers, make cards to send to a nursing home where the elderly live, send care packages to soldiers overseas.
Think of an activity with your student, and do it together, or assign it to them and allow them to show off their work when they finish.
32. Make Regular Tasks Work for You
As a parent, we need to get our own work done from home, make sure our child’s schoolwork gets finished, and manage our household.
Believe it or not, you can incorporate those things into one by taking things like dishes and having your student take a learning break and contribute to household needs.
This teaches them responsibility and life skills while helping to relieve some of the household duties on your shoulders.
33. Abandon the Typical Classroom Environment
Parents shouldn't think that they need to recreate the classroom at home in order for proper learning to occur. Most children, in fact, learn best outside of rows of desks.
So try allowing them to read outside on a blanket, set up a sheet fort around your kitchen table and lay underneath to finish math, or even stand next to your desk and work while standing.
Changing up their physical place and posture can encourage learning and memory.
34. Allow Time to Socialize
While we might not be able to see our coworkers in person, remember that our kiddos cannot see their friends face-to-face, either. So online apps can be a critical component of connection.
Schedule a time once or twice a week (or more if your student can handle it) to connect online with their peers. They can chat about schoolwork or nothing pertaining to learning, but transition to homeschooling can be hard on them so the connection is important.
For us, too, we can do an online conference call to connect with our coworkers, ask questions, and check in.
35. See Yourself as a Facilitator, Not the Teacher
It is important to cut ourselves some slack and recognize that we are not their teacher. We are simply a facilitator of their learning.
As we complete our own work assignments alongside our students, we are meant to simply guide them, keep them on track, and be available should they have questions.
That is it. No more, no less.
36. Stay Connected
It is also important to stay connected to factual news sources. This can be used to allow your kids to see what is going on in the world.
You can work their research into independent schoolwork such as writing a response journal or opinion paper in response to reading an article or watching a news story.
37. Use, But Don’t Depend on Technology
Your student may have a computer or tablet to complete assignments, but many households are without internet access or with only enough screens for one person to work at a time.
So while utilizing their devices where appropriate is certainly acceptable, be sure to incorporate other forms of learning as well.
Many kids can do math with manipulatives like Legos or blocks and can do art with paints or clay, and those assignments will keep them busy long enough for you to complete your work projects.
38. If Something Doesn’t Work, Move Forward
If you talk to any classroom teacher or seasoned homeschool parent, they would all tell you that not every tactic you try will be successful, and that’s OK.
What is most important is that you remember to try something, and if it fails, give yourself the freedom to move on to try something else.
This is a time of trial and error in most circumstances, especially when it comes to most adults working from home and kids learning there as well.
39. Try One Subject at a Time
As previously noted, trying to recreate the traditional classroom is not the goal of homeschooling in this or any situation.
As you adjust to a schedule to try and be productive while ensuring your child stays motivated as well, try to take things one step (or subject) at a time.
It may help to start with what they like best and let them set the pace of their work so you know what to work your own schedule around.
40. Take Advantage of the Control You Have Over Your Classroom
From the scheduling to the subjects you teach and the approach you take to your lessons, you now have control.
When you remove the structure and boundaries of a classroom and bells, school calendar and holiday schedules, your children are free to learn at their own pace.
And you are free to mix things up to see what works best for your family, your household, and your own work schedule.
41. You Need to Manage Your Classroom/Work Space
Much like a teacher must manage students who learn at different levels or require different learning styles, if you are parenting while working from home and being expected to homeschool more than one student, you will need to be organized in both your workspace and in your children's school area.
Keep things neat and tidy, have the next day’s work ready, make sure their schedule is visible so they know what to expect, and be certain they have plenty to do during the times when you will need to work independently on your own career assignments.
42. Set Daily Goals
No matter how inclined you might be to procrastinate, a to-do list can keep the least engaged student (or coworker) on track. So start with a schedule and a daily list of goals you’d like to accomplish.
Allow your student time to give input on their daily goals the night before so they will know what to expect the next day.
This is a simple way to empower their learning.
43. Less Can Be More
Everyone is attempting to balance so much already that adding in a new way to work or learn can seem like too much and overwhelm some students.
To prevent this, remind yourself and your student(s) that you don’t have to accomplish a certain amount of assignments or tasks each day.
If you’ve made a schedule and set daily goals, those are just that — goals, not strict rules or expectations.
44. Make Mental Health Check-Ins a Priority
This is especially important for tweens and teens as well as anyone already battling mental health disorders such as anxiety, depression and behavior disorders.
When tension is thick around us, we need to be sure we are doing check-ins for our mental health so we know our kids and ourselves are safe when we cannot control our surroundings.
45. Include Your Student in the Scheduling
When you are creating your school and work schedule, involve your student(s) as much as is age-appropriate. Ask them what subjects they like and which are their least favorites. Do a check-in on what activities they anticipate missing most.
This is a great way to help your child feel in control of their learning and for you, as their parent, to gauge how they are doing and make sure to incorporate independent work time for yourself during subjects they enjoy.
You also can make yourself available for more assistance during those least favorite subjects.
46. Work with Incentives
Most teachers in any type of classroom for any age work with incentives.
Their student ages may be motivated by candy or tokens, while older kids may prefer to work for an extra percentage on their grade or bonus points toward a test.
These incentives are all great to work for at home as well. If you have an important work call, have your kids work toward a special prize they’d like if they are working quietly and respectfully during that time.
47. Try New Tactics for Focus
Keeping in mind that everybody learns differently, it is important to recognize that our kids may not need the same environment that we do in order to focus.
While most classroom teachers wouldn’t permit a TV to be on in the background, many encourage allowing students to use headphones to listen to music or to play music in the background of their room while they work.
This will not only allow some students to focus but also may encourage them to stay on task while you work from home. Ask your student if they prefer white noise, music, or silence, and be willing to try new tactics to see what is the best fit.
48. Incorporate Multi-Level Homeschooling Where Appropriate
Many veteran homeschool parents would encourage newcomers to put their older kids to work. It isn’t until recent decades that kids have been separated by ages and sat in rows of desks.
For years, there were mixed ages in classrooms, and some approaches, such as Montessori schools, still use these strategies as the younger ones can learn a lot from older students from play to practicing skills.
49. Work Backward
In teaching, this method is called "understanding by design."
As previously mentioned, you should start each day with a list of goals. From those goals for both school and work, you should work backward to create "mile markers" that need to be completed on the road to meeting the goals you’ve set.
So if your child is supposed to build a volcano for a science project, what steps will have to happen first? Have them help you map those out and work toward crossing off each daily goal.
50. Capitalize on Nap/Quiet Time
If you have younger kids, be sure you are making the most of their nap times or your elementary kids' quiet time.
Schedule screen time for the middle-aged kiddos while the youngest kids are napping, and sync that with a webinar or call for your work so you can have the quiet you need to focus.
You Got This
No matter how you or your children are managing their transition to homeschooling, we can all use helpful tips to improve how we handle things at home.
Whether we are working from home, homeschooling our children, or worried about how to run our household with everyone home all the time, there is anxiety and stress.
We are all doing the best that we can, and that is enough. Give grace to others and to yourself.