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Homeschooling and virtual schooling are especially difficult if you work from home full- or part-time. But rest assured that it can be done! I manage my husband’s 5-person therapy practice; I am the administrator for our large non-profit homeschool co-op; and I homeschool my two children. And that’s in addition to running two blogs. It can definitely be overwhelming at times, but it’s not impossible. It helps that my work schedule can be somewhat flexible. I have some bits of advice for those of you in similar situations.
Don’t try to replicate school at home. Schools are designed so that teachers can manage and teach large classrooms full of children. When you are homeschooling, you only have to manage your own children. And your children will learn better when they feel loved, comfortable and at home. You don’t need to set up a dedicated learning space, but if you do, have fun with it. Try a tent indoors with fairy lights or cozy nooks full of pillows. For more ideas, see my post on One Part Sunshine about At-Home Learning Tools.
You don’t have to devote a full 50-60 minutes to each subject. Much of that time in school is spent on classroom management and busy work. A normal attention span is roughly 2-3 minutes per year of a child’s age. In other words, a 5-year-old can concentrate on a single subject for 10-15 minutes. When you see your child’s attention wavering, take a break or move on to something else. I can easily get through all of my children’s subjects in less than two hours per day.
Homeschooling doesn’t have to happen every day or even during the day. If you work full time, you can save the sit-down learning for the evenings or weekends. Most families I know do not teach five days a week. I usually teach between 1-3 days per week. We also homeschool throughout the whole year so that we can take it slow and work in plenty of breaks when we want to travel or are feeling overwhelmed. And I schedule in outside learning such as co-ops and online classes so that I don’t feel guilty when I have a busy week.
Children learn in unexpected ways. There are more ways to learn than by sitting at a desk with a worksheet. In fact, most learning comes from hands-on, real-life experiences instead of from workbooks. My daughter is learning to read from playing a quest-based game called Star Stable. My son has learned all about percentages and maps from games like Minecraft and Roblox. Baking teaches them about fractions. Making a sign for their lemonade stand teaches them how to write and to think about business. If in doubt, start writing down everything your child does throughout the day, with special attention to the educational value of each thing. You will be shocked how much they are actually learning when left to their own devices.
You don’t need to reinvent the wheel. While it can be fun to surf Pinterest and Google for learning ideas, there is a curriculum for everything. If you love the idea of basing learning on read alouds, you can try a curriculum like Five in a Row. If you want a comic book format for math, try Beast Academy. Our world has become homeschool friendly, and the curriculum options are endless. It is easy to find something that works with your child’s learning style and interests.
Come up with a plan ahead of time. Take a day or even a week to look for curriculum and come up with a homeschool plan. I don’t like to use strict schedules. Instead, I set aside a block of time (e.g. between 2-4pm) that I plan to use for homeschooling, and I decide which days I would like to devote to which subjects. We have routines such as read-aloud time every night and free time every morning. Some days, when I am super busy with work, I will just fit learning in where I can or I have my kids do online learning games such as Dreambox, Prodigy Math, and Reading Eggs.
Work while kids play outside. Bring your laptop to co-op or playgroup and work while your child plays with friends. Or sit outside in your yard or at a playground.
Move learning to new places. Take your work and the kids’ schoolwork to a coffee shop or on a blanket at a park. Sit outside in your backyard. Sometimes it is easier to keep kids focused (freeing up time for your own work) if you move to a new location.
Get help from others to teach your child. Hire a tutor if you can afford it or sign your child up for online classes through a place like Outschool.com or Khan Academy. Trade off with another parent – they teach your child math and you teach their child writing. Encourage your older child to “play school” and teach the younger ones (and even consider paying them for their time).
Get help from others to entertain your child. Hire a mother’s helper for your younger children. Drop your child off at a friend’s house once a week and then return the favor. I have even resorted to paying my older child to “babysit” my younger child.
Don’t be afraid to use technology. In addition to the online games I mentioned above, there are a lot of great learning apps for tablets and smartphones. I also make heavy use of documentaries and historical movies and TV shows (like Liberty’s Kids). A create “Educational” profiles on streaming services such as Netflix, Prime, YouTube and Hulu, and then tell the kids they can watch whatever they want on those profiles. I also really like Curiosity Stream. Audiobooks and podcasts are also great options. Some of my favorite podcasts include Young Ben Franklin, Homeschool History and Stuff You Should Know. After your child watches or listens to something, you can ask them to tell you about it or even write a summary about it. You can use movies as free writing prompts by asking your child to come up with an alternate ending or to write some fan fiction.
Provide your child with art and STEM activities to keep them busy. I keep an entire room stocked with art and craft supplies. I also purchase subscription boxes such as Tinker Crate and Atlas Crate. It’s helpful to keep those things set aside and then bring them out when you need a block of time to get your work done. Board and card games are another useful tool. They can teach skills ranging from math to reading, and you can find games for every subject. My Little Poppies has a great gameschooling resource. There are also plenty of one-player games if you have an only child or children that don’t play well together.
When all else fails, if you have a ton of work to do, there’s always this option!
I hope I have reassured you that you can work and homeschool. If you have any questions, concerns or ideas, please comment below!