Homeschool Iowa team members, Jenn and Julie, offer more sanity-saving tips to help you navigate through the challenges of working at home while homeschooling.
Did you miss Part 1? If so, click here.
Our previous tips included:
- Design Your Homeschooling Plan
- Prioritize Time & Subjects
- Embrace a "New Normal"
- Explore Creative Alternatives
- Consider Surroundings
- Designate Realistic Boundaries
- Set Clear Expectations
- Provide Ground Rules
Let's dive into some more tips!
Thrive on Routine & Structure
Spontaneity has its place, but it’s impractical for the day in and day out of everyday life, especially when combining work at home and homeschooling. A daily routine brings structure and security, even if it needs to flex a bit to adapt to unexpected inevitabilities.
Real-Life Insights from Jenn
Our routine looks like this:
- Wake up, get dressed, quickly straighten the bedroom
- Kids take care of the pets and Mom starts a load of laundry
- Breakfast, brush teeth, fix hair, family devotions
- Morning work time block (school for the kids, work for Mom)
- Lunch, straighten the kitchen, play, run another load of laundry
- Afternoon work time block (school for the kids, work for Mom)
- Dinner, daily chores (clean kitchen, vacuum, sweep, mop, dust, clean bathrooms, etc.)
- No-phone family time
- Bedtime for the kids
- Relax or work time for Mom and Dad
- Bedtime for the parents
I usually get up around 5:30am, and the kids get up around 7:00am. We try to start school by 9:00am, lunch is usually around 12:30pm, and dinner preparations usually start around 5:00pm. Kids go to bed around 8:30pm, and I try to be in bed by 11:00pm.
My phone is set to “Do Not Disturb” at 5:00pm every night. The only calls and notifications that ring are from family or a client who has an event happening within the next 14 days. My family loves knowing that I won’t be interrupted by work in the evenings.
I will usually check emails and respond to messages before I go to bed, but I make sure that is after the kids are in bed and I’ve spent some time with my husband. My clients respect that I have this boundary, and it’s empowered some of them to set similar boundaries for their clients too.
Use Screen Time Wisely
Videos, online apps, and digital games can be effective educational tools that can also turn your kids into quiet little people so you can focus on your work.
Make sure, however, that you’re not relying too heavily on screen time for your children.
Real-Life Insights from Jenn
In our family, I've often noticed that after too much screen time, our delightful children can become bickering, hyperactive whiners.
I counteract that by trying to immediately be available at the end of the screen time. Going outside is also a good antidote to the post-screen-time grumpiness.
Make Friends with Your Timer
If you don't already have a timer, you'll want to get one. It's certain to become one of your favorite tools.
Has your son earned some screen time? Awesome! Set a timer for 15 minutes and let him have that tablet to play a game for 15 minutes. When the timer goes off, the screen time is over.
Is your daughter seriously overwhelmed with the thought of having to clean her room? Easy fix! “You need to work on this for 15 minutes. Let’s see how big of a difference you can make before your timer goes off!”
Is your child seriously craving some undivided attention from Mom, but you have three tasks that you must finish ASAP? Your response: “Let me work for 30 minutes, and then we will set the timer for me to spend 30 minutes playing with you.”
The timer helps to teach your kids to wait patiently and that the world doesn’t revolve around them. It also teaches them that they are still important to you, even if you have other obligations and responsibilities that are also important.
Kids love to learn. They have questions about everything! Why can't penguins fly? What flowers attract butterflies? Which birds are singing in the yard? How are monster trucks balanced so they can do the cool tricks they do?
Be intentional about stopping to talk to your kids, finding out what they are inquisitive or passionate about, and helping them learn more about those things.
When your children express curiosity about something, harness that excitement by encouraging them to seek the means to find out more. This can lead to independent learning and self-generated projects, important steps toward maturity that can be helpful supplements as you juggle homeschooling and working from home.
Build Fun into Your Day
There are so many easy ways to do this! Here are a few suggestions:
• Do a scavenger hunt in your house or in your yard. You can find lots of ideas online, like here.
• Have a Joke Day at your house. Look online for lunchbox jokes to print and stash around the house.
• Exercise with your kids. Find a workout video to do together. Even if the result is a gale of giggles as you watch each other attempting to replicate the moves, it will help dispel the wiggles, and you can count it as physical education!
Real-Life Insights from Julie
When my kids and I needed a quick break, we’d head into the room with the piano, where I would play their favorite dance-along songs, including The Pink Panther theme. After a few minutes of general joviality, we could head back to our work with renewed attitudes.
Taking periodic breaks has been shown to increase productivity, and I've experienced it repeatedly. I try to get up and move around every 20-30 minutes, even when I'm in the middle of a big project for work. Almost every day during good weather, I head out the door for a quick walk to get a breath of fresh air and to clear my head. It does wonders for my work quality and output.
That brings us to the importance of your children spending time in the great out-of-doors.
They'll focus more clearly on their schoolwork and they'll sleep better at night when they've had time to romp and play outside.
Are your kids getting grouchy with each other? Send them outside! Do you have children who won’t stop fidgeting? Send them outside to run a lap around the house. Is your introverted child overstimulated by all the activity in the house? Send that one outside alone for a 15-minute sunshine reset in a spot you can see from the house.
Roll with the Messes
It’s okay if your house gets a little cluttered or messy from time to time. It’s also essential that you teach your kids to not make a bigger mess than they are capable of cleaning up.
Keep an eye on the mess level and on your planned routine for the day so that you can stop the mess-making in time for cleanup.
A perpetually messy house is a stress-inducing house. Peace in your home is essential, and keeping your house generally tidy contributes to that peace. But being a perfectionist about having a spotlessly clean house causes more stress than peace.
Here are a few suggestions to help in this area:
1. Designate a particular space as an art or project station where the kids can explore and create. Keep changing the available materials to encourage continued interest.
2. Contain LEGOs, train sets, building blocks and other bulky play materials in a special spot in the house. Use baskets or crates for stuffed animals and toy sets with multiple pieces. Make it a part of your routine to have the kids clean up any random play items before bedtime.
3. Remember to make household cleaning chores a family concern. Check the tips we offered in the "Set Clear Expectations" section of Part 1 of this series.
4. Let your kids have opportunities in the kitchen, even if it means a few failed attempts and charred disasters.
Real-Life Insights from Julie
We've seen our share of kitchen failures over the years. Our kids still laugh about several instances of young bakers forgetting the last sheet of cookies in the oven or the lopsided cake that resulted from a wrongly positioned oven rack.
However, all nine of our grown children know how to cook tasty meals from scratch.
We've regularly enjoyed full family meals prepared by our children, so all of that kitchen experimentation (and occasional messes) paid off deliciously in the long run.
Working homeschoolers, especially entrepreneurial homeschoolers, don't always fit the traditional homeschool mold.
As a homeschooling parent who is working from home, you might find that your routines and time frames don't match opportunities for organized homeschool activities or co-ops.
You might need to look for alternatives.
Real-Life Insights from Jenn
I've followed Jen Mackinnon with Working Homeschool Mom Club on Facebook for quite a while now. She reaches out to working homeschool moms and has a pretty good following. There are other bloggers/coaches out there who offer content to this demographic too, but I think Jen was one of the first.
Give Yourself Grace
Often the stress you might feel from having your kids around you 24/7 – especially while you're trying to work from home – is due to unrealistic expectations of what time with your kids should look and be like.
Sometimes we just need a break. We just need to disconnect from the pressing demands of home and work and school for a whole day and know that we’ll play catch-up the rest of the week.
It might seem counterintuitive, but it can be worth the subsequent catch-up effort. Don’t be afraid to take a brief break and move everything on your to-do list to tomorrow.
Spending a whole day together with your kids with no expectations other than giving them your undivided attention can be a game changer.
If you see the need for a day off from daily responsibilities and expectations, take it, but plan for it, and look for something fun you would enjoy doing together. Schedule a meet-up with a friend and her kids, find a museum to explore, or pack a picnic lunch and head out for a hike.
You really don't even have to leave home if a "staycation" day with board games and some special snacks will do.
But turn off the phone, close the laptop, and just be together.
what about You?
Are you a single mom working from home while homeschooling? Check out this video on our YouTube channel.
Do you have tips for homeschooling while working from home? Share them with us in the comments section below.
Homeschool Iowa Magazine Editor, Jenn Warren, is a crazy-busy work-at-home entrepreneur, wife of over 20 years to David, and homeschooling mom of two, who thrives on coffee and God’s amazing grace.
Jenn also serves as our Homeschool Iowa Marketing Coordinator.