One of the questions I've gotten amidst this current pandemic and subsequent school closures is, "How do I balance my children's education and working from home?" It's hard to carve out uninterrupted time, but with a little practice, it's possible. One thing to remember is that most homeschoolers literally prepare for months or years. It will take awhile for a new schedule to go smoothly.
I know that I work fewer hours than many of you do (max four hours a day) but I do manage to find regular time for writing and making homeschool resources. So, take a deep breath and know that it is possible, even if your children are young, like mine!
1. Create a routine
This is, I think, the most important thing that you can do. It helps young children for multiple reasons, one being that they feel more secure in insecure times. It also aids in forming good habits.
It's important to note that a routine is not the same as a schedule. It's simply a "what comes next" mindset instead of a "we're late!" mindset. If you aren't sure how to develop a routine, make sure to read this post.
2. But not a school routine
You don't have to replicate a school schedule. Do what works for you. Personally, I've found that having school finished in the morning frees up our afternoons for what we want to do, including what I need to do. You will probably find that you can do at home what a school can do in less than half the time, because you have about 95% fewer students 🙂
3. Find one-hour blocks of time to work
I've found that shorter blocks of time work better than trying to do four hour blocks at the same time. Kids will inevitably need you when you're away for larger blocks of time, and your absence will make them feel ignored and cling to you tighter. Here are my one-hour blocks:
- Before my kids wake up in the morning. (6:00-7:00)
- During my toddler's nap time (my older two play quietly outside, or watch a one-hour tv show while he naps and I work). (2:00-3:00)
- After my kids go to bed (8:30-9:30)
If I needed to find more time to work, I'd include a quiet reading time after lunch.
4. Teach kids how to play on their own
Independent play is so good for young children, but if they aren't used to it, it will take a little practice. Schedule in 15 minutes of independent play time. Increase this every few days or so, until you can schedule an hour of independent play. This is a great time for you to work.
5. Spend focused one-on-one time with each child
This one gets more challenging the more children you have, but it is so helpful in our homeschool and for working at home. By giving each child 10 or 15 minutes of individual attention each morning, they tend to need me less the rest of the day.
A Sample Work-at-Home Mom Homeschooling Routine
6:00 Mom works.
7:00 Kids wake up and eat breakfast. Read books and do morning basket time during breakfast.
8:00 Clean up breakfast, go upstairs, and clean rooms. Get dressed while mom takes a shower. (Getting dressed is a great way to start your days off with a little structure!)
8:30 Start homeschool lessons
11:30 Finish homeschool lessons
12:00 Play in backyard or inside. Mom spends time with each child.
2:00 Nap time. Nappers rest, and older children read books, play independently (inside or out!), or watch TV when desperate times call for desperate measures 🙂 Mom works.
3:00 Read aloud time. Mom reads to kids.
4:00 Crafts or imaginary play time. If older kids have independent work, they can do it now.
5:00 Kids play independently while mom makes dinner.
6:00 Dinner time.
7:00 Begin bedtime routine
8:00 Last child goes to bed. Mom cleans up from the day.
8:30-9:30 Mom works.
9:30 Mom gets ready for bed, reads, gets ready to do it all over again tomorrow.
This is pretty much what our schedule looks like right now, but on rainy or cold days, we'll adapt. Also, the time frames are just rough estimates. I hope this will help you structure your days so that you can focus on what's most important!