I work about 8 hours a day, homeschool 4 kids (and manage tornado toddler), *try* to keep a home and make meals and still have a few seconds to myself each day (oh wait, there’s a husband somewhere in there)! How do I do it? Check out my top 5 tips to manage homeschooling and working from home and pin this image so you can refer to this article in the future!
Homeschooling and Working (with a dash of homemaking and husband keeping on the side)
Before you hit the panic button, take a breath, grab your coffee or tea, and have a seat… it IS do-able! It is also a lot of work and if you want it to be a long term solution, without the ever-looming threat of “burn out”, you are going to have to put in the time and effort to prevent that. Take a look at how I have (so far) managed homeschooling and working.
Step 1: Plan
If you are not a planner, you are going to have to be! In order to fit everything in, you have to be smart and specific with your time. Each minute counts in your day! The only way to effectively do this (at least for 90% of people) is to plan. You could make a spreadsheet, find an online planner or a scheduling app, whatever works for you. Here’s a few options that I have used and are fantastic:
I use these to plan my day, make a daily schedule, set out what my kids should accomplish in school each day (especially if someone else is going to be helping them), my meals, cleaning tasks, work tasks and more! This is ESSENTIAL to do each week.
I usually do my prep on Sunday:
-clean and organize the school room for the week
-plan the kids’ lessons for school
-plan my meals for the week/grocery list
-plan my work for the week (what needs to be done and when I’ll do it)
-figure out a simple cleaning schedule and include it
-take a look at any upcoming events and adjust my weekly schedule around them
This seems like a lot of work, and I’m not going to lie, it is! It takes me a good 2 hours if not more to go through everything. However, it literally SAVES me during the week! I wake up each day knowing exactly what I need to do. As long as I follow the plan, nothing gets left behind. Kids are doing school, I have what I need for meals in the fridge, my work is getting done!
Step 2: Prioritize
If your list is a mile long and you feel like crying, stop! You need to go through your list again, and again and again until it is something you feel you can manage and handle. You may need to readjust it each week as you do your planning to see if it was working for you or you feel like it needs to be tweaked. The way to do this is to write out ALL your goals for the week (I mean, everything!). Once you have this all on paper, you can start prioritizing.
As a blogger, I may have it on my list for Monday to write 2 posts, work on web design, schedule my posts for the week, respond to emails, etc. But realistically, when I try it out I find that I accomplished less than half that list. Or maybe it is a doable list but I also have Lego club and a friend coming over.
I need to re-evaluate for the day! On weeks that are crazy, I do the BARE minimum for work so that I can still manage all the other things going on in my life. If all I HAVE to do is 1 blog post per day, then that is all I do! The extra stuff that isn’t time sensitive I postpone until life slows down a bit and I can fit it in without sacrificing family or home life.
This way you know throughout your week that the requirements are getting met, you can then have a little list of “if I have time” that you plug in in a spare minute rather than spending your time on the extras and not getting done what has to be finished in the day.
Step 3: Boundaries
When you are homeschooling and working from home, you have to establish clear and concrete boundaries for your work and family time. Somehow in our heads we nod and smile and say “of course” without realizing this is a specific step in the process. Simply acknowledging we need boundaries doesn’t quite cut it. We need to specify exactly what those are!
To break it down, you need to give yourself work hours. Working from home can be a time vortex if you aren’t careful. Ask yourself how many hours a day you need to complete your work. 2, 4, 6, 8? When can you do that? Are mornings more feasible or evenings? Maybe you can squeeze in a few hours during nap or quiet time. Perhaps you need to adjust your schedule and wake up at 5 to have some time before the mayhem of the day.
When you aren’t “working”, turn off notifications on your phone, log off of the computer. This is family time, homeschool time, housework time. This is a painful process! Your work is always there, and there is ALWAYS something you can be doing. However, if you aren’t really strict with this policy and you don’t create clear boundaries between work and family, you WILL find it overtaking everything and things will start to fall.
**THIS IS THE MOST IMPORTANT STEP!!!!! And the one that is easiest to let slide. If you don’t know how many hours you need, guess and try it out for a week. The next week adjust it on your schedule if you need to add or cut time. The more focused you are with your work, the faster you will accomplish it and the more time you’ll have for your kids!
Step 4: Choose your Curriculum Carefully
The more kids you are homeschooling and the more dynamics you have in your day (ie. working from home), the more you will want to start looking at independent work. This is somewhat dependent on your child(ren)s age. If you have a preschooler or K/1 child, you will need to be more hands on with them. But as soon as they hit grade 2, they should be starting to read their own instructions, have a basic foundation of reading and writing and ready to do some of their work on their own.
*Enter sigh of relief*
This past year I have hit this stage with my eldest. We are starting to do more online programs such as A+ Interactive Math for math (something he does start to end with no help, no marking from me, etc). We are finding curriculum and resources that he can do independently without one on one instruction. Although this is a bit bittersweet for me, I miss working so closely for him, it is a necessity for our lifestyle.
Even if I were not working, I have three other students who ALL need 1 on 1 attention from me all the time. My grade 1 student is completely distracted and needs help reading each instruction. My Kindergarten student obviously needs help in each and every subject. And although normally I haven’t done a whole lot for preschool, I happen to have stumbled upon a little learning addict. I can’t boot her out of the schoolroom once, she wants to be doing bookwork one on one for hours and is incessant in her desire to learn. Something I can’t bring myself to deny her just because of her age!
So here I am, with three kids needing all my attention and a toddler hanging on my legs and working 8 hours a day! Um, hello independent work! Find some programs that your children love, that they can do with less instruction and are comfortable with. I never thought we would do our studies online but because all the instruction is included, I have found so much freedom in it and my son loves it! You may have to get creative, but the key here is working with your child to find what they love and what clicks with them so that they WANT to do it and need you less and less.
So now you have your week planned, you have prioritized what you need to do and when, you have set clear boundaries for your work and even found curriculum that your child loves and is doing more independently. The final step is organization. To keep this up, you need to stay on top of not just your home, but your work, and your school area.
Some practical examples of this are:
1. Schoolroom: For the schoolroom, I go in each night and prepare what we need for the next day. This saves me a ton of time and stress when life is going a million miles an hour. I use workboxes and you can see our system here. I lay out their books and even materials in their workboxes. I put their lesson plans in the top for them to see what is planned and even bookmark their pages so that they don’t have to ask me where to start.
At that point they literally can go into the school room and just start working through their workboxes. If they need help or are unsure of something, they can set it aside and move on to the next subject. If time is tight or I am working with another child, they know to just keep going and we go back to that problem later on.
2. Work: Depending on what kind of work you do, this will look a bit different for everyone. For me, organizing my work means keeping a blog planner up to date and filled in. Having my papers filed and easy to find so they aren’t the next cutting project for my preschooler. If you do this each day, it saves a lot of time and stress so that you can focus on your work instead of trying to get organized.
3. Meals: I hate to put this in there, but it is the crux of the problem of homeschooling and working. I’m telling you, if you don’t plan your meals, you’ll be eating cereal for dinner… again! This is on top of your weekly planning. Whereas weekly planning means a general meal plan and grocery shop, your meal organization should be a daily ritual of pulling out your meat for the next day, pre-dicing your veggies and a few simple snacks. It honestly takes about 10 minutes but it makes the next day go 10 times smoother when you have a clear plan in place and everything set to go!