For many people, working from home is a dream. You can say goodbye to the days of long commutes, catty coworkers, (and heck, even wearing pants). Now, you’re able to work a somewhat flexible schedule that works with your life….and not the other way around. You assimilated to your schedule and overall, life was good. Until the Coronavirus came along and effed it all up. Now your kids are at one end of your desk asking for snacks and help with fractions, while you’re stuck trying to figure out how to balance it all. If you’re like so many parents wondering how to work from home while homeschooling without losing your mind, you’re not alone.
“Parents, particularly moms, are feeling overwhelmed with trying to manage working from home, household, marital and parenting chores, along with now having become homeschooling teachers during the era of COVID-19,” says Dr. Fran Walfish, a family and relationship psychotherapist in Beverly Hills, CA. But even though you might feel like you can’t do it all, you totally can. These tips can help you learn how to work from home while homeschooling.
1. Use A Sign
Who would have thought something as simple as a sign could help keep your kids from crashing into your office? “Hang a sign on your home workspace door that reads, ‘WORK TIME’”, says Dr. Walfish. “Establish and keep boundary lines clear…when Mommy is working she cannot be accessed (except in urgent situations like illness or injury). Everything else must wait until Mom is either finished with work or she takes a break and is available.” The tough part, as Dr. Walfish points out, is that your child might have a difficult time not getting an immediate response from you. “This is a golden teachable opportunity,” she says. “This is a boundary issue that is generally more challenging for parents than the kids.”
2. Set Up Your Spaces
Now that you will be working from home while your child is studying, you’re going to absolutely need to have dedicated spaces for learning—and earning. But if you thought that it was going to be the kitchen counter, think again. “You need somewhere you can go and close the door, and allows you to use at least 2 monitors,” says Sarah Kimmel of Organized Mom. “This will help you be able to separate your home life from your work life.”
3. Create A Schedule
Unless you’re planning to unschool, your days need to have a structure in order for you to not just survive, but thrive. “One of the biggest distractions will be your kids coming in and asking you what to do, or what is going on,” says Kimmel. “If each child has a set schedule that is written down or printed up, they can move on to the next thing without the need to find out what to do from you.” For example, if you need to go on a Zoom call, you can always assign your child something to study while you work. Then, after your call, you can reconvene and answer any questions or review their work.
4. Be Prepared
You should always have an idea of what the next day’s plans will be. It will not only help you stay organized, but help you stick to a schedule. And if you know that you’re going to have a heavier work day, you can prepare accordingly. “Make sure the kids have easily accessible snacks, toys, activities, and more so they don’t need to come to you to slice their apple,” says Kimmel. “The more you can get everything ready before you start your day, the better.”
5. Communicate With Your Kids
Part of the success of working from home and homeschooling will greatly depend on communicating with your kids about what works—and what doesn’t. So take some time each week (or even each day at the beginning) to determine what went well that day, and what could be improved upon. That way, you can build a foundation of success with proven methods of what works for your specific family’s needs.
6. Get Your Kids Familiar With Tech
Sure, sometimes it seems like your kids are more tech-savvy than you, but there still might be a learning curve when it comes to homeschooling and working remotely. That’s why you should do a walk-through on the programs that your kids will be using so that they can use them independently. “Figure out if your kids know how to get on Zoom by themselves, or if they know how to print,” says Alexis Haselberger, a productivity, time management and leadership coach. And speaking of printing, make sure that your printer is in an easy-to-access location, so that you don’t have constant requests to print worksheets and the like.
7. Plan For Afterschool
Even though your kiddos are done with their classes in the early afternoon, you still have a few hours of work left to grind through. So what’s a WFH mom to do? Make sure that you have kid care covered by scheduling activities that will keep your kiddos occupied. It might be anything from letting them have free play time, watch TV, or even finishing their homework. Point is, make sure that you have a plan for those extra hours, so that they don’t incessantly interrupt you.
8. Show Some Love For Screens
Although the AAP has strict guidelines when it comes to how many hours your child should watch TV, the AAP never had to work from home (and homeschool, to boot). So forget about feeling guilty, and embrace the tech. But that doesn’t mean plunking your child down in front of the TV watching mindless stuff. Instead, look for programming that can be both educational and fun. “If all else fails and you are about to go into a big meeting, give them a device and don’t feel guilty about it,” Haselberger agrees. “This is about survival.”
9. Divvy The Duties
If both you and your partner are working remotely, now would be the time to figure out how to cover kid care. “If you’ve got a co-parent or another adult in the house, the best way for you both to get work done is going to be to take shifts for being the on call parent,” advises Haselberger. “You don’t need to take the same shifts daily, but essentially, you’ll split the day so that one person gets to pretend like they are not home and gets a few hours of undivided attention towards their work while the other parents is on duty with the kids. And then you switch.” It allows one parent to homeschool while the other one works, and then vice versa.
10. Change Your Perspective
Listen, no one is denying that working from home and homeschooling your child is a lot. It really is. But it’s all about the attitude that will determine how successful working remotely and teaching will go. “When you change your thinking from ‘UGH I didn’t sign up to be a teacher,’ to ‘I am so lucky that I have the job that allows me to work from home and take care of my kids needs,’ you will shift your mindset and ultimately your mood,” says Sam Adler, a food blogger and mom of two kids. “In turn, this will allow you to not want to pull your hair out in front of your kids.” Essentially, adopting an attitude of gratitude will make life a lot easier for all of you.
11. Manage Your Expectations
Although it would be ideal if you could complete everything on your to-do list work-wise, it’s just not going to happen when you add on homeschooling, too. To avoid frustration at only accomplishing a few tasks, be realistic about how much you can really do, advises Adler. “Make a list of one thing that has to get done today, and then add on three items that you would like to do,” she says. “As long as you get that one task accomplished, you’re golden.”
12. Be Flexible
Forget about 9-5. When you’re homeschooling and working from home, you’re going to have to view work hours differently. You might find that there are days when work has to be, well, worked around your child’s school schedule, and that’s okay. If you’re a morning person, try getting up an extra hour earlier (and conversely, if you’re a night owl, you can burn the midnight oil while your kiddo is sleeping). Even an extra uninterrupted 30 minutes can mean so much towards accomplishing goals—and helping you to stay sane.
13. Be Kind To Yourself
When you work from home, you’re bound to notice all the household tasks that need your attention. But even if that pile of dishes is calling your name, try to put it on the backburner while you work or teach your child how to multiply. There are truly only so many hours in the day, and worrying about the wash (or the clothes piled on your child’s bedroom floor) are a battle for another day.
14. Get Some Help
Try as you might, there will be times when you just need to blast through a work project — and not have time to teach your child about digraphs. When that happens, it might be time to call in reinforcements. It might be a babysitter, a tutor, or even the grandparents. Not only can this help you complete your project, but it can also give you and your child the opportunity to interact with other people as well.
15. Batch Assignments
If you’re homeschooling more than one child, you’ll need to establish some order. One way to achieve this is by grouping similar assignments. For example, if your kids need to read a book as part of their class work (and you need to get work done), you can have them sit together and read quietly while you focus solely on your work, advises Ashley Buffa, an author and mom of 10. “During this independent work time, I focus on my most difficult work tasks that need my full attention,” she says. “I make sure that I am focusing solely on work and not chatting virtually with co-workers or friends, scrolling through social media, or day-dreaming. I’ve found that when I use laser focus, I can knock out hours and hours of work in half the time.”
Although it can be challenging, homeschooling and working remotely don’t have to be a one-or-the-other option. With planning, practice (and yes, patience), you can homeschool your child while working from home. And for that, your child (and you) should get an A.