Over the years of our homeschooling journey, I have worked both from home and outside the home. It is a balancing act, and I don’t always feel like I am succeeding. But as so many parents are now struggling with the reality of needing to do both, I thought I’d share what I know about how to make this work.
First off, you need to respect your own needs and patterns. Most of us have a time of day when we work best. A time that you can really focus and get things done. A few hours in the day that lend themselves best to mental work. You need to recognize when that is for you and block it out for yourself. For me, this time of day is first thing in the morning. I like to get up, get my cup of coffee, and settle in to work on writing, responding to email, and spending quality time on my laptop. My kids are older, so they tend to sleep through this part of my day now. When they were younger, I allowed screen time in the morning when I was working. They knew what they were allowed to watch and what time the TV would be getting turned off in favor of other things.
Once your kids know what your pattern is, they can learn to work with it. It is impossible for children to wait all day to see you when you are right there. However, if you establish a rhythm of having just a couple of hours you aren’t available, they can learn to deal with that. One of my friends has found her best time of day to get work done, is after dinner. If that is your best work time, you may be able to work while your partner helps the kids get baths and ready for bedtime. Or, you may be able to establish a movie time in the evening that they do while you work. The important thing is to figure out both what you are going to do, and what your kids can do while you work.
Some of us have flexible work hours, so we can work at night while our kids sleep. But what if you don’t? It is important to remember that you can homeschool at any time. There is no reason for you to tie yourself to the typical school day hours. You can homeschool evenings and weekends instead. Lately, I often find myself homeschooling between the hours of 5 and 7 pm. For my teens, this seems to be a good time of day to focus on school work. We also regularly plan for homeschooling and science projects to take place on the weekend. I especially love having my husband around to help with those weekend projects. He doesn’t lead much of our homeschooling, but he’s happy to jump in and discuss chemical reactions and physics as we go.
One of the biggest challenges for us is fitting in time for meals. The best thing you can do for your sanity is to do meal planning that works for your work schedule. For some, that means throwing food in the crockpot in the morning, so you can teach right up to dinner time. For others, it means planning for your significant other to cook while you teach. It can also be that you plan certain nights of the week for your teen or tween to cook dinner. A few years ago, I worked out of the home for two evenings a week. I was gone at dinner time Tuesdays and Thursdays. We created a plan for my teen to cook those nights. My husband and I gained weight because the teen chose carb-heavy meals to make, but we all got fed. And my teenager developed life skills that are worth having.
I also recommend planning for breakfasts and lunches that work for your family and your work schedule. Even little ones can learn to make themselves cereal, get yogurt from the fridge, or find an apple for breakfast. The first step towards not having to spend too much time cooking these meals is planning. Make sure easy foods that you want the kids to eat are in the house. Some families even find it helpful to post a meal schedule of what to eat when. Technically, you are now the lunch lady, so you can post that plan! Monday can be peanut butter and jelly sandwiches with apple slices while Friday is frozen pizza day. If it reduces your stress in the moment, it is worth planning out ahead of time.
Schedules and Chores
Posting a schedule for yourself and each child can be helpful. It is also a great idea to have a chore chart or Kanban board for your kids. Letting them know what your expectations are beyond schoolwork can help your family have a healthy routine that keeps you from feeling overwhelmed. Be sure to celebrate your child’s’ successes as they happen, too. Did they do all the chores today? Recognize that achievement! Did the whole week go great? Get ice cream for dessert on Friday, or plan a special family time like a movie. Make sure your child knows you appreciate that they are working hard. And if it isn’t going great? Just regroup and adjust. It happens.
I hope this helps some of you! Working and homeschooling at the same time is complicated. Not all solutions work for all jobs, but I hope there is something here that you find helpful. Hang in there and keep adjusting your schedule until you find something you can live with.
About the Author
Laura Sowdon, OTR/L is an occupational therapist, writer, speaker, educator and creator of the Five Senses Literature Lessons homeschool curriculum. She has worked as an occupational therapist with children in public and private schools, as well as private practice. Laura has taught and managed homeschool co-ops as well as homeschooling her own three children. Laura is dedicated to the idea of educating children at a pace that aligns with brain and physical development milestones and respects neurodiversity in all its forms.