Are you in the process of figuring out how to juggle working from home and homeschooling?
As active homeschooling moms who have also been working from home for the last 9 or 10 years, we (Wendy and Trish) know that it is not always easy! Being able to do it all from home can sound – to some – like the ultimate lifestyle (and honestly, in a lot of ways, it is). But it’s also amazing how things can go from lovely to chaotic in the the blink of an eye. We know how just one aspect of the school/work/home balancing act can throw off everything else; all it takes is a fussy toddler (or teenager), a broken Crockpot that you’d counted on for dinner, or a list of assignments that require more focus than is possible that particular day. We know.
Still, the ability to teach your kids at home while also maintaining a professional life is a special, valuable, and wonderful opportunity. And if you have this opportunity, we want to help you rock it! Here are 8 things that have helped us successfully homeschool while working from home.
1. Set goals/priorities each day for work.
It may sound obvious, but it really does help. Before you get into the walk-the-dog, feed-the-kids, call-the-people, check-the-emails, morning “mode” that we all tend to wake up in the midst of, check in with yourself on your biggest professional priorities for the day. I sometimes write my list the night before, so I can read it as soon as I get up! As you make your list, you may want to come up with a little code for yourself to designate what the most important things are and/or which things are going to take you the longest. That way, you’ll be able to get those more focus-heavy tasks completed at times when your children are likewise independently occupied, while managing less intensive items at times when the household is busier.
TIP: First, think about what absolutely must get done. Then list those things according to the amount of time and focus they will take. Then think about what would be good to get done but isn’t necessary. Then list things that need to get done eventually but don’t have to be done right away. (Or possibly keep a separate list for these things.)
2. Set personal and academic goals for the day.
Just as work-related items can get pushed aside when we don’t make a list of priorities and goals, so can important personal and homeschooling tasks! When I’m making my professional/work-related list, I’ll place those priorities in one column, and create another column for homeschooling tasks, and another one for “personal/household/ other stuff.” Why personal? When you are working from home and homeschooling, there will be many days when you could get away with not treating yourself to a nice shower. Do yourself (and everyone else) a favor: take that shower. You also don’t want to forget to, you know, pay bills, exercise, get groceries. All of that stuff is list-worthy. The most important things when making a multi-faceted, “master” list like this are:
- Draw attention to the top priorities in each category.
- Keep a good balance.
- Keep it realistic.
3. Create routines and habits to help household tasks go smoothly.
Speaking of keeping it realistic, it’s important to have realistic expectations about household tasks and figure out ways to relieve some of that burden. Mom can’t do it all! Therefore, another habit that is important to successful work-from-home, homeschooling juggling is delegation.
Talk with your spouse about working out a chore schedule and make sure the kids are all participating in keeping the home running (and yes, home economics can count as part of their school day!). Use grocery pickup when you can, and if you can pay to hire someone to help clean your house, mow your lawn, or watch your little ones sometimes, do it! You get the idea. Find ways to help the household run smoothly without you having to do everything all the time.
We have a wonderful article with 6 Tips to Conquer Feeling Overwhelmed that may help you if you start to feel overwhelmed and discouraged. Take a few minutes to read it and to think about how this advice applies to your own family and your own work and homeschool.
4. Create constructive options for independent activities for your kids.
If you work from home, you’re going to need some time when you can trust your kids do something educational and fun while you work. These activities should be things that they can do without much assistance and that they’ll really enjoy doing, too. These options also need to be safe, easy, and not messy. For a young child, maybe this would be listening to a special audio book and playing blocks while you work or coloring with a special coloring book. Or maybe your older child has a special-interest subject that he or she takes online courses for or self-studies, such as art or a foreign language. Or you could just have a set, fun-reading time for everyone! (If your children are taking any online classes, you’ll want to read 5 Ways to Help Your Kids Succeed in Online Classes. This article gives practical suggestions for helping your kids make the most of their online learning!)
The point of having an educational/constructive activity time is two-fold: it encourages/demonstrates to kids they can have successful, independent, enjoyable school time, and it also gives enough structure to maintain order while you work. Regularly scheduled independent “funschool” activities can also put everyone in a good mood and give you a solid chunk of focused time in your day.
5. Don’t compare.
Comparison will never make you happy. No matter what lifestyle you choose ( or, in this case, working from home and homeschooling), it’s always easy to wonder if you’ve made the right decision or if your life looks “the way it should.” The fact is that no one’s life is perfect; we’re all just trying to figure out what works best for us. So fight the urge to compare your job to other people’s jobs and your child’s performance to theirs. Instead, just do your best. If working from home works for you, and if teaching your kids works for your kids, then you are doing an amazing job. If you are doing what’s best for your family, you are doing it right!
6. Don’t neglect self-care!
What does self-care mean to a busy, work-from-home, homeschooling mom? Well, for starters, take some breaks for real-life fun, make memories as a family, eat healthy food, go to bed at a regular time, hydrate. We all have these basic physical and emotional needs. Then there are things that are uniquely renewing to you. Do you love a good run? A long bath? Do you like creating or crafting? Honestly, sometimes even just a little bit of quiet time can work wonders on a tired brain. Nothing will run smoothly if your mental and emotional health are on the brink of fizzling out, so make time to take care of yourself.
For me (Wendy) personally, some of the most important things I do for self-care are eating healthy (most of the time!), getting enough sleep, and exercising 4 or 5 days a week. If I eat too much junk and sugar, I know I’ll feel tired and draggy. If I don’t get enough sleep, I’ll feel tired and I’ll have brain fog! If I don’t exercise on week days, I have trouble focusing, don’t sleep as well, and have more trouble with feeling anxious and depressed. I used to feel selfish when I took the time to exercise every day and to get plenty of sleep because there is always work to be done! But then I realized that, if I take the time to do these things, I actually get more work done and feel better, so it’s actually better to take the time.
7. Let people know what you’re doing.
This one may seem kind of funny, but it is so important to let friends, family, and neighbors know (in a nice way) that your work-from-home job is a real job and that homeschooling your children is also a real effort for everyone involved. Sometimes when people know you are home a lot, they simply think you aren’t doing anything (even if you’re very busy). This can lead to a lot of unexpected drop-ins and last-minute invitations (which you may feel obligated to accept) that can throw everything off kilter.
You can avoid a lot of awkwardness at the beginning by developing a loose schedule (more of a flow for your day than a schedule with certain times to get things done) that others will understand and then sharing that with them. For instance: instead of just saying “yes” to an activity at 10 a.m., you could say, “We do school every day until noon, but maybe we could do it after that?” Of course, sometimes it is okay to say “yes” to spontaneous adventures, but you just want to make sure and set those initial boundaries so that people understand and respect them.
8. Remember to enjoy the time you have at home with your children!
This one is so important! If you have opted to work from home and homeschool, you obviously had “spending time with kids” towards the top of your priority list at some point, right? But even when you are in the same house all day, quantity of time does not equal quality time. So don’t forget to enjoy the flexibility of your unique lifestyle by taking a little bit of time every day to do something fun with your children! If not, you and your family will look back on this time together at home as a miserable time that you lived through instead of a special time that you enjoyed together at home. The combination of working at home and homeschooling can be a wonderful opportunity for many reasons, and the biggest reason is that it allows to you cultivate more meaningful quality time with your kids.
Yes, we know that some days just won’t be enjoyable. Some days things will go wrong. Some days you’ll need a do-over. We’re all human, and unfortunately that means we’re imperfect. But no amount of wishing and dreaming and will stop those days from happening. What you can control, though, is how you respond to those days when they happen. We hope you’ll read Seven Tips for Days When Homeschooling Is NOT Working so you’ll know you’re not alone and so you’ll have some tips for dealing with those days when they occasionally happen.
More Tips and Helpful Information
For lots more tips and ideas, read our article The Ultimate Guide to Working While Homeschooling. You’ll find information and ideas related to scheduling, prioritizing, choosing curriculum, taking time for self-care, getting help, working through challenges, and even homeschooling and working during the holidays!