7 Tips for Homeschooling While Working from Home (and Keeping Your Sanity in Check)
It used to be the threat of a snow day that would send working parents into a panic. Not because they didn’t love the idea of a day off with their kids, but because accommodating a day off meant rearranging schedules, canceling meetings, taking sick leave, and trying to do as much work as they could from home while being interrupted every 30 seconds. Remember when that single day was the trapped-at-home scenario you dreaded?
Most parents in the United States have now been stuck at home with their kids for several weeks, enduring a prolonged snow day with restrictions on where you can go and who you can see, courtesy of COVID-19. Because there is no end in sight, many teachers and schools have scrambled to put together distance learning programs meant to keep kids busy and provide some semblance of structure and normalcy to their days.
But as the parent, it still falls on you to ensure that work gets done. Never before have so many parents been expected to be full-time employees, full-time parents, and full-time educators, all without ever leaving the house. None of us are going to do this perfectly—it’s impossible to get it all right. Ahead, we have seven tips for making the new normal work, while still keeping your sanity in check.
Create a schedule
If you have to work and homeschool, a schedule is the way to survive. Break your day up into small chunks—spend an hour teaching and then an hour working. Designate times you need to be available for work (zoom meetings, calls with clients, slack channel commitments) and set your kids up with screen time or art projects. When you can be free, block out half-hour to hour-long chunks to help with their schoolwork or play outside. Break school lessons up as much as possible—you wi’ll all be happier with a few 30-minute sessions as opposed to one long multi-hour session.
Don’t be afraid to ditch the schedule
The schedule is key to your survival, but it is also just a guideline. There will be days when you have to throw the schedule out and focus on the more important tasks. Take it day by day and recognize that some days will be easier than others. Do the best you can! Take solace in this: these first couple weeks of homeschooling are the hardest. As your kids get used to the new setup, they will be able to do more work on their own.
This is the one item on your schedule you need to lock into place and never skip! As of now, the CDC says it is safe to be outside so long as you maintain 6 feet of distance from anyone not living in your home. Being trapped inside, with little-to-no social interaction, has the potential to push us into a depressive and anxious spiral. You and your kids need that time outdoors. Getting up, moving around outside, and soaking up some vitamin D protects us against the mental distress that social distancing can stir up. So prioritize that time!
Throw out the screen time rules
Remember when you swore you would never use screens as a babysitter? Yeah, that was when you were still allowed to have real babysitters come over. Now that you can’t? Desperate times call for desperate measures. There will be times when you have to set your kids in front of a screen so that you can do the work that will keep a roof over their heads. Don’t beat yourself up for that! Try downloading some educational apps like Epic for reading, and Spelling City for spelling practice. Your child’s teacher may have some recommendations as well.
Teach the kids about teamwork
Now more than ever, families need to function as a team. We need to help each other out. Whether that means big sister helping little brother with his math homework, or older kids taking turns starting dinner. It is time everybody recognizes the role they can play as part of the team. Talk to your kids and explain how you all need to work together to get through this trying time. They may surprise you with how well they step up to the challenge.
Find your hours
Let’s be honest: working from home with kids isn’t easy! Add having to educate them into that mix, and the interruptions alone may make it seem impossible to get anything done. That is why you need to find your hours. Two to three hours, every day, that are yours—without interruption or distraction. You may have to get up early, stay up late, or trade responsibilities with your spouse to get that time you need. This way, you can focus entirely on work without the stress of everything else.
Remember, we’re all in this together
You are not the only parent being pushed to the brink right now. Teachers and administrators know different families are facing various challenges, and they are open to helping you as best they can, so long as you let them know what you are up against. You also need to lean on your support system in whatever ways you can. Set up weekly happy hour Zoom calls with your best friends so that you can see each other and remember you are not alone. Nothing about what is happening right now is easy, but for the first time, it’s something everyone in the world is going through at once. So don’t be too hard on yourself on the days when it feels like you’re failing. You’re not! Remind yourself of that by reaching out to the people who can commiserate—and maybe even offer up some tips and ideas for making tomorrow run a little bit smoother.