Well, you’ve landed in a most unwelcome situation. You’ve been forced to take care of your child’s schooling, at home!
But as a former elementary school teacher of 15 years, and currently homeschooling my own kids the past 6 years, I’m here to help!
I know how you’re feeling right now.
Out of my 15 years as an elementary school teacher in 5 different countries, I’ve lived the reality of teaching my own kids for 6 years now and they have been some of my hardest teaching years. But from all my varied experience, trust me, I know what works!
The truth is, it’s difficult to school your own children, because they know all the buttons to push, and there is no principal or assistant teacher for back up!
It’s just YOU, and your spouse if they are currently working from home too
Your kids know they can be ugly and defiant towards you and you’ll still love them. They know that they can be sassy and a no-it-all because you give them the freedom to act that way.
I’m not saying that from the perspective of you being too much of a free-range parent, but you being an unconditional lover.
You will want to walk away. But you can’t. They need you!
So with that aside, let’s see how I can help.
Since the schools started closing across America, and now in Australia, I’ve had numerous friends and other bloggers reach out.
They’ve let me know that I’m in a unique position to help people thanks to my teaching background, my homeschooling background, and our complete insanity for choosing to live and travel full time with our kids since my eldest Kalyra was born 12 years ago.
I thought I was done with homeschooling last November when we enrolled our girls in an online school based here in the US. But, here is life pulling me back into teaching mode!
To be honest, I say don’t even worry about it. Just let the kids be kids and learn from life experiences. Paint, cook, follow passion projects, read, relax, etc.
However, I realize this may NOT be what you want. You might want a little more structure and routine. You may be worried about the kids falling behind, balancing your own work needs, and your kid’s school may even have extra requirements and demands.
If you are going to unschool – just free range it — many of these tips still may help you. If you want something with a little more structure, these tips definitely will help.
Grab a wine – I know you need it – and let’s get started
This is uncharted territory we are in. I’m unsure of what to help you with because I have no idea what directive you are receiving from your schools.
Every school district in the US, and around the world could be supporting parents in different ways with different resources and different expectations.
I can’t imagine they are being too rigid and strict right now and have a lot of leeway with expectations and your circumstances. But, then again, knowing the pressures that the system puts upon teachers, it may be a different story.
Follow whatever they are telling you and do the best you can.
I’ll go over some basics to help you manage and structure more rather than what to teach your kids. There will be recommended resources at the end of this post.
Plus, a call to pay it forward.
If any of this helps you, I only ask that you share it. It’s taken me YEARS to learn all this and HOURS to create this post. I’m exhausted and need that wine at the moment too.
Essentials For Your Sanity
Be Gentle With Yourself
Yes. This is hard. No. You don’t want to do it. Yes. It is unfair. But it is what it is.
Remember this mantra: Do the best you can, with what you have, from where you are.
You will have good days and bad days, good hours and bad hours. Just when you think it’s going well, a really bad day will happen. Lock yourself in the bathroom and scream and cry. Get all of that frustration, anger and sadness out of your body.
It’s okay to feel this way. It’s okay if you lose your temper at your kids #itsagiven. Apologize once you’re calm.
It’s okay for you to tell your kids it’s difficult for you. It’s okay for you to tell them you don’t know what your doing but that doesn’t mean you can’t show up and do the best you can.
It’s okay if they see you cry #youwill. Just explain to them what’s happening and let them give you a cuddle.
It’s okay to take a day off because you’re overwhelmed or they are overwhelmed.
It’s okay to seize the opportunity to forget school and just play, or watch a movie, hug, cuddle, cry and dream together of what life will be like when this is over.
It’s okay if they spend all day on the computer while you lie on the couch so grateful you are not hearing, “Muuuum all day long.”
Go ahead and ignore them for that little bit longer. It’s okay. They’ll be okay. You won’t ruin them at all.
Turn lemons into lemonade task
Write down a list together of what this situation has taught you and how you want your lives to be different moving forward.
What can you change, what new things can you bring in. This is a perfect time to reevaluate as family and create a much better, stronger unit.
Give up Resistance
For many years, we have received many comments as to how on earth do we survive being with each other 24/7.
Here is our secret sauce for you:
We don’t resist what is
Resistance is the only thing that causes you suffering. It is what it is. We know this is hell and caused by nothing you did.
But, you can’t change this situation at the moment. Stressing about it and falling apart, only causes you unhappiness and does not solve a thing.
So when you start to feel that happening simply say.
“It is what it is. I can’t change this right now. All I can do right now is (name one simple thing) to help (who,what etc). I’m simply going to do the best with what I can from where I am and that is ENOUGH.I’m also going to extend the same grace to my spouse and my children.”
Breathe deep and let the anxiousness pass.
You really don’t have another choice right now. You can do this.
Important -Train Them To Be Responsible Learners
For however long you have your kids at home and are responsible for their learning, this is the prime time for you to teach them to be independent responsible little beings.
They don’t get the freedom to do this at school.
Think about what happens when children become adults who don’t know how to think or act unless someone tells them how.
Let them organize their own schedule and work flow.
Okay, I hear you freaking out. You want it all mapped out for the control aspect.
I get it. It may take a week, and they will need constant guidance and affirmation, but if you stick with it, in the long run, you will be so glad you made them take care of their own learning.
None of us have any idea how long this will go on for.
It’s incredible how responsible and independent my 12 year old Kalyra is now. I barely have to say anything.
She can manage and structure her day, she signs up for her own independent learning tasks and makes sure she gets her work done on time.
Savannah, being a little younger at 8 and a completely different person, is getting there and has made huge improvements and is responsible around her own personality.
She knows when she needs to take a break because she can’t stop moving and focusing. She knows what tasks suit her better – so she dives all into hands on projects.
All of this makes the difficult training to begin with worthwhile. You will see results if you stick with it and then your time spent in recovery on the couch undisturbed will be longer.
Have them write a list of all the things they can do when “school” is finished for the day. You are not responsible for their level of boredom or entertainment.
Have them refer to their list for choice when they claim they are bored.
The thing about homeschooling is, that absent of all those school distractions and a lack of one-on-one teacher instruction (at school) they will learn and finish their work at a much faster rate than they would at school.
Good news of course, unless that means they are constantly tugging at your shirt to help them fill in those extra hours.
Check out these posts from my travel blogging mom friends.
Let Them Figure It Out
If they come to you with a problem, ask them to give you a solution.
Don’t do the work for them.
Tell them, you’ve been to school and you don’t want to learn again. Help them find the resources they need to learn it. I’ll add some down below.
If they can reach out to their teacher, get them to do it. It’s about forcing them to think for themselves and figure it out.
It took me several days to train Savannah to reach out to her online school teacher. But I had to be firm in my NO boundary. Don’t feel guilty. No doesn’t mean you don’t love them. It shows you do in bucket loads because you are EMPOWERING them to figure it out themselves.
You aren’t always going to be there for them.
Savannah now even calls her teacher for video help without me knowing. Kalyra only asks me if she can’t find the answer elsewhere.
How To Help Them When They Truly Need It
If they truly can’t find the answer then you can step in and teach them. Not do it for them, but guide them:
- Walk through an example step-by-step, where it’s clearly laid out.
- Show them a second example.
- Work through the third one together, with them leading the talk, explaining to you what they are doing with each step.
- Do one more together.
- Now let them do the fifth one on their own. Stand beside and watch. Avoid saying anything. Give feedback at the end.
- If need be repeat steps above.
- If they have it. Let them do at least another 5 examples on their own.
- Practice the same skill again tomorrow. You may need to repeat these steps to ensure they really do have it.
You can get older siblings to help younger ones, especially if they have a personality suited to it. However, be careful it doesn’t become burdensome for them. It can also lead to many arguments.
Schedule and Structure
The word schedule does not go well with homeschooling – especially if you are having to work your own business alongside them.
Drop the idea of a systematic structure. They’re designed to organize the masses. You’re out in the wilds now.
Flexibility and adaptability is the KEY to survival.
Please read that last sentence again. More than three times if necessary.
Kids are thrown into the box at school, and that schedule may not suit their best learning needs at all.
Now is the perfect time to adapt and give your child some breathing room to work to their best times. You will want a little structure so you can manage this, but drop the rigid schedule.
If your child has loads of energy, and can’t stop moving and fidgeting (hello Savannah), schedule frequent breaks and times for them to run around outside and shake off that excess energy.
If your child has great focus and can sit and learn for long periods of time (hello Kalyra), let them sleep in a little and start work later. You may also need to force them out of their chair to run around outside.
It may take time to figure out how they work best. It’s okay. Let’s go back to flexibility and adaptability. Change it however you see it needs to be changed.
My girls set their own schedule now as to what they do and when. It’s hard to let go and trust them, but I’ve seen way better results when I do – only stepping in when it’s absolutely necessary.
T them, these are the things I want you to plan for today:
- Outside time
- free play
- passion projects
- whatever school requires
The above list is an example. Change it for your situation and children. Talk to your child. They may want a set snack and lunch time. Others may just want to eat when they are hungry and they can plan that out (tips below).
Give them a checklist – kids love these – to mark off once they have completed each task for the day.
Teach Them To Eat The Frog
Eat the Frog: Always do what you find the hardest, or don’t want to do first, that way you get it out of the way and the rest of the day seems easy, and perhaps even enjoyable.
Talk to your child. They may want a set snack and lunch time. Others may just want to eat when they are hungry and they can plan that out (tips below).
If your child can’t figure it out for themselves, and need help, I suggest Math and English be done at the beginning of the day (or when their energy is most focused). Basically the most essential tasks.
A lot of curriculum learning is non-essential (you did not hear me say that).
Daily Check In: List Tasks and Due Dates
If you are getting work from your child’s school (or even if you are setting it up yourself) have a list of their activities and due dates.
Thankfully, with our girls online school, they have this set up in their online school dashboard. It has been incredible for helping them stay on task and complete work without me doing anything.
Each day they check what is due, or about to be due, and get to work.
If you can set up some system like this, you will rock schooling your kids at home, and the ownership and management can move over to your kids, reducing the burden on you.
Check reward ideas down below to reinforce the incredible behavior
The value of grades or performance measurement
I NEVER liked grades as a teacher. They can be very detrimental to children so proceed with caution.
However, I have noticed a positive with my kids and their online school.
Another important thing to mention – with the grades that my kids now get from their online school they have NO IDEA what any other child of their age is achieving.
Can you imagine this blessing? Being able to see how you and only you are progressing and never having to deal with the negative effects of peer comparison.
All they can see is how they are growing from one day to the next and how their results are impacted by their actions.
This is where grading is a blessing.
It motivates my girls. I do not need to push them. They see their grades immediately, and if they don’t like them, they make the decision to retake the quiz or project to improve on them.
Sometimes I encourage them, “Maybe you could take that one again because I really think you could get better results.” I only say this if I know they haven’t done their best.
I will generally go over where they went wrong and use it as a moment to reteach note taking etc.
Can you implement some kind of system – grading or not – where they can see their progress every day. It may motivate them a lot to just do the work themselves.
Perhaps they could give themselves an effort grade for each task they do and you could do the same also. Set a grade, effort or task goal, for each day or week. I’m guessing they will work harder to reach it if the pressure of peer performance is not present.
If they are doing their best, any grade they get is fantastic.
- Block Out Parent Assistance Time – they can only ask for help during these times. If they get stuck outside these hours, and can’t figure it out themselves, they go onto something else until you can help them. Train them to respect this rule. It will take time but once they figure out your serious, they’ll abide.
- Outside Time – it’s important they have this each day. Schedule it in or block out time for it each day.
- Play Time – free choice. Let them be. They can entertain themselves here.
- Rest Time – make sure they are getting plenty of rest. It’s tempting to have late nights like you do school breaks. This is not school break. Try to be as school day normal as you can.
- Weekends – if they’ve earned it, let them own the weekends. They will appreciate them so much. Now we have a more regular weekly school routine and the kids can have weekends school free, I delight in seeing them rejoice every Friday night. We let them sleep in and play on their devices, or watch TV for as long as they like. We are strict with making them go outside though, and do encourage them to get off their devices by offering alternatives like cooking with us and playing games. Sometimes, if we feel it’s needed, we’ll block them from their devices.
- Self- – Be sure to take care of you this. When you organize schedules or routines, be sure you and your spouse work together to plan solo time out for each of you so you can get a break. You’ll need to keep up your energy and sense of peace. Tell your kids how important this is. Give them the role of custodian over your health and making sure that Mum and Dad stay strong for them. They LOVE to take care of you, if you let them.
Welcome to a teacher’s greatest challenge – yep that now includes you! God help you my friend. This is where you will need wine the most.
You’re a parent, you know this is a tough one already. You’ve already got loads of strategies and you know you’re going to have those moments. It’s all okay.
A few tips to hopefully help.
The Power of Choice
I cannot recommend enough that you consistently use the word CHOICE.
Do everything to put the power back into your child. Show them they have the power to choose at any given moment and any consequence they have bought into their life – good or bad – was their choice.
I’m not talking about consequences they can’t control. I’m talking about those that are a direct result of their actions.
So language framing:
- What was your choice here?
- What can you choose to do?
- What may have been a better choice?
- What will you choose to do net time?
- Well you chose to do this, so therefore, the consequences is this.
- When you choose to do x, usually you get x
- I’m not sure your choice here is really to your/ someone else’s benefit.
- How is this choice helping you?
Practice until it’s habit. You will end up with a child that defiantly says, “You said I could choose. It’s my choice and you can’t tell me what to do.”
Inwardly cheers to that empowered young child, and then say,
“Well, you came to me so I could take the best care of you until you’re a capable adult. We’re not there yet. You’re doing so well, but sometimes, it’s my role to step in and make the best choice for you because you can’t quite see the better way. You chose that when you chose me.”
Then inwardly laugh at their confused gaping mouths over the point you just scored. .
Rules and Goals
Come together and talk about how all of this will work. This is new to them too and they are probably freaking out and sad to be away form their school friends.
Reassure them they are safe. Explain to them why this is a necessity and no matter how difficult it is, you are all going to do the best you can.
Create rules together including consequences and rewards.
It’s best if the kids can help you create the rules. They will then feel like they own the rules. Typical school rules like putting your hand up to speak no longer need apply! Hurray.
They are more going to be rules and procedures around structure, what needs to get done each day and by when, what happens if they get stuck on a problem, how will they behave, what effort is required.
If kids are clear on what is expected of them and how they can deal with problems before they arrive, they will feel confident to deal with it themselves, rather than lean on you.
Have them write out their goals e.g.
- I will concentrate and work for 30 minutes straight before taking a break
- I will be responsible for having my materials and schedule ready each morning
- I will work each day diligently so I am free to play at 3 pm.
This can be your first task with them. Turn it into an art lesson where they can decorate it beautifully and then pin it above their desk.
Rewards and Consequences
What are their ideal rewards? List them out. How are they going to earn them?
Just like you’re going to focus on the word choice, here you will focus on the word EARN.
Rewards are not givens. They are not bribes. They are not things parents give when they feel guilty or want a break. They are not a rescue raft for our kids self-esteem. They earn them as a result of good choices.
And if they don’t earn any. “Oh well. Guess you’re not making the best choices.”
Be sure they know you love them no matter what. If they know this, they’ll get the whole earn/choice/reward/consequence thing eventually and well play along.
I’m not going to tell you the reward system to employ. Each child likes different things.
To be honest, as a former teacher, and parent, I hate the whole sticker chart thing. It’s a pain in the arse to manage and soon enough kids start realizing their doing all this stuff they don’t want to do for a darn sticker that they lose come break time.
You may like it though and your child might. Let them choose when to give themselves a sticker and which one to place on their work.
Set up a point system if you like.
But again, I find it hard from a management perspective. You’re struggling to get anything done right now. You don’t need a behavior management chart to monitor and manage.
But, basically work with them to create a point system
- X points for completing work on time
- X points for starting school by X
- X points for independent work
The harder the task, the greater the points. You want to really reward independent learning here, so ramp up your points for that. And be sure to surprise point them
“I just can not get over how hard you have worked this morning. You completed five tasks without even asking me for help once. I just have to give you 50 points for that.”
And then do a little dance. Be over enthusiastic with this. Make them feel like complete super stars.
The biggest positive effect I ever had on my students was when I did this!
I remember one student who had many behavior issues and was way behind grade level. One day I stepped outside of the classroom to speak to another teacher. When I walked back in she was sitting quietly at her desk working – a rarity.
I seized the moment,
“Oh my goodness. Look at you. You look like a college student sitting there so focused on your work and doing such a great job of it. And when I was busy outside the room. Thank you for being so responsible. I am so impressed by what I’ve just seen.”
I was even more stunned to see how her behavior and efforts improved from that day forward. She barely gave me a problem, often spoke about when she was going to go to college, did outstanding work on a special project that received glowing praise from the administration staff and other teachers, and ended up passing fifth grade – the first time she had ever passed a grade level.
This works and it’s so simple.
This is why I put such a focus on training the kids to be independent.
You HAVE to train the kids to manage it themselves. It takes time. Spend a good week training them.
You will start to see it, especially when you start putting the intrinsic reward system in place – showing them what rock stars they are for doing it themselves (more below).
I think the easiest rule/consequence to set is,
“I expect you to have all your work done by 3 pm. And it must be your best effort.”
We will have a morning meeting and go through your agenda for the day. You will tell me what you are doing and why.
We’ll decide together if it makes sense (you hopefully, have directive on this from your schools, otherwise you will have to set some stuff.)
“If you mess around and don’t have it finished, you will keep working until it’s done. If that means you stop for dinner and then work up until bed time then so be it. If it means you play catch up on the weekend. So be it. It’s your choice.
If you finish at 3, and I’m happy with how you worked, you will have free time for the rest of the day (apart from your chores).
If you work really hard and finish at 1 pm and I’m happy with how you’ve worked, then you get free time from 1 pm.”
Again, set the boundaries and let them control and manage what they do. You can set the times of work etc with them depending on their personal styles.
They have to learn how to do this themselves and this is the perfect time to teach them that.
Consequence aka Punishment
We’re raising independent empowered people. Punishment is another word to eliminate. It’s a consequence. Every action has them and we decide if it’s a good or bad one.
You’ll mostly use this in terms of negative action. Highlight it often. Well this is a negative consequence due to your choice (list it).
If you choose X, your consequence will probably be a positive one.
Let’s set them up for real world here.
Many people will tell you to focus more on positive than negative. Absolutely yes.
But do not dismiss the negative consequences. This is our reality. If you mess up in life, you experience a negative consequence.
If you cheat at school and get kicked off the football team, I will not come to your rescue because getting kicked off the football team may impact your self esteem.
You impacted your self esteem by choosing to cheat. Now you’re going to learn how to be a person of integrity, how it feels when you’re not, and what you can do to re-correct and do better. Your self esteem will improve.
Keep it as consequence so your child can see it doesn’t mean they are a bad person. They just made a choice that gave a result.
How awesome they have the power to make a different choice. This is why we use these words, to detach their self esteem from it.
It’s just a choice.
Make a new one. Acknowledge the bad, atone for it with the consequence, and then move on to a new and better one.
Have a list of consequences – ones your children agree are fair to the undesired action:
- time out in room (removal of fun things)
- loss of free time
- loss of favorite toy/device
- extra chores
You can also do things like have your child write a journal entry describing what happened, what they were thinking/feeling at the time, and what they can do better next time.
Next time when I feel so frustrated that Mom won’t help me unless I’m bleeding or dying, I won’t throw myself on the floor trying to make myself bleed and throw chairs. A better choice would be to wait patiently, find something else I can manage while I wait, and then tell her how wonderful she is when she is available to help. Maybe cook dinner for her or pour her a glass of wine!
No, don’t let them write that last bit. You get it. Got to bring some humor into this tragedy guys!
Intrinsic Rewards: You Must Feel So Proud
There is no greater reward than a child feeling good about the work they have done.
Reinforce their choices all the time. Don’t put the focus on you feeling proud of them (although say this sometimes).
Instead flip it,
“You must feel so proud of yourself that you worked so hard to complete that task on time WITHOUT help from me.”
Are you happy with your work? Do you feel proud of it? What do you think you did well? What could you improve on?
When you give feedback, avoid saying, “That’s good. OR that’s nice.”
- I love the color scheme you chose
- That is my favorite A
- The way you described the monster had me scared.
- I think you could do X to improve this. What do you think?
- Your effort is outstanding. I love how you stuck with it.
Give them a chance to glow
I have had stand offs with my girls plenty of times when they want my help, aka, really can’t be bothered and want me to do the work for them.
I am adamant that I will not help them because I know they can do it and they are being lazy. I let them know they have the time to figure it out.
Kalyra has later returned radiantly glowing to show me how she figured it out.
I jump straight into that,
“Look at what an empowered learner you are. Doesn’t that feel great? To know you didn’t get me to do it, you actually figured it out for yourself. Now you will never forget that,”
Give them the opportunity to see how clever they are. Seeing them glow with that recognition is YOUR greatest reward.
Over exaggerate your enthusiasm sometimes, especially for monumental achievements.
“Oh my God!!!! I can’t believe you nailed something so difficult. You are incredible. I especially LOVE how you tried to figure it out yourself, even reached out to ask your teacher, worked through your frustrations and then finished!!
I have even done things like dead bug dances which have turned into aeroplane flights with the girls to celebrate extraordinary achievements like finally learning (insert really difficult thing).
They will request this from you often – and it will be their favorite reward. Keep your energies high. They love silliness so be silly.
Supportive conversations work the best and get them to engage with their own feedback.
Oh and please, mistakes are always lessons in disguise. Continue to emphasize how fantastic mistakes are in helping you to see how to do sometime a better way. It’s how you learn what NOT to do. Mistakes are okay and acceptable.
Surprise Reward Them
When they are being extraordinary, surprise reward them. They’ll love it.
Simply say, “I’ve been noticing your awesomeness, and so I… bought you your favorite ice cream, or action man, or giving you the rest of the afternoon off.”
Choose something they will really love. May be harder now while you are on lock down. Sometimes their favorite reward is quality time with you.
Setting Up Your Home For School
Have the kids create their own work space. Hopefully it can be in their bedrooms or somewhere not too close to their siblings or you.
At least set up a space on the dining table for them to work.
Give each child their chair and have their resources for the day with them. Again, have your child organize this themselves. You will have to manage them to begin with, but they’ll soon get it.
If you only have one computer between two or more kids – we did for a long time – have one do book work and the other on the computer and then swap.
Remove phones from them until their work is done. If your child is a fidgeter, you will probably want to remove all the sparkly shining things that will distract them. Maybe give them one thing they can hold – a fidget spinner perhaps!!
Other basic needs:
- Headphones – especially if you are all working in the same space (tips below for that)
- Water bottle
- Pens, books, rulers, all supplies ready to go
Our girls love our Fluidstance Balance Board. It motivates them to work, keeps them focused, introduces movement, and enhances their happiness. We highly recommend one.
Food. They’ll Non-Stop Eat
Okay. They are going to want to eat all-day-long. So will you. Save putting a lock on the fridge and pantry, here are a few tips.
For one of their life skill practices, have them design and create their own snacks and lunches. Just like if they we going to school. Once they plan the meals, they wear responsibly for them.
Savannah will often head to the kitchen to make cupcakes and donuts!
It’s really annoying, because even though she promises she can do the measurements herself, I still end up beside her quickly stopping the damage of her putting in 12 tbsp of baking powder rather than 1/2 teaspoon.
But, it can be a fun bonding time and the other day we made killer gluten free donuts.
Why not have them still pack their lunch of a morning?
Give them their food box and they can work out when they are going to eat. Let them teach themselves. They may not get this freedom in school – give it to them now!
I know this is fraught with danger, when we first started this strategy when Savannah was 3 and we were road tripping around Australia, she ate all of hers in an hour’s time.
I was prepared with hidden food for when the hunger pains screamed later, but eventually she learned how to space it out.
Tips For Working Alongside You
Oh boy. This is tough. Some of you may now be working from home alongside your children and husband or wife. I’m not going to lie, it’s hard. To survive, learn to be okay with what it is.
Refer back to Tip #1 – be gentle with yourself and your kids. This is new to them too and just as hard.
A few tips for your productivity!
Get up early
I know it I know you’re exhausted from all you are managing right now. \ But you know it. Once the kids are up and you are madly juggling these balls, attending to their schooling and behavior management, you become the Yo-Yo of the world’s greatest Yo-Yo champ.
You’ll be lucky if you get a 10-minute run of focused attention on your work
This post explains our morning routine and how we reduce stress in our life!
Let it go (esp housework)
For the sake of your own sanity, you will want to let things go and quickly. Choose your battles carefully, and if it’s stealing your joy and not really a big deal in the scheme of things, let it go.
Like I had to this morning when Craig stole my particular morning coffee cup.
Leave the housework. I know it is always staring you in the face and so darn annoying. But, if you focused on cleaning all that mess, that is all you will achieve all day.
Choose a time of the day that is house time. I tend to do this in the afternoon just before I prepare dinner – or even while I prepare dinner. If you focus your attention every afternoon on that, you can have it all cleared away in less than an hour then your rest time will be in a clean place.
Give your kids special duties. Ours are responsible for cleaning their own mess, their bedrooms, the guest/play room, unpacking the dishwasher and folding the laundry.
You’re all in this together. They too play their part.
Learn to ignore the mess through the day and let stuff go. Attention only on the most important things.
Separate tasks into focus levels
List out all your tasks into focus levels. That is, what requires complete attention and what can be done with lots of distraction. e.g. writing requires more focus than say editing photos.
Now you’ll know what to do when you finally get some focused time. Only do that. You’ll be surprised with what you can achieve.
If you get up early, make that extra time you have given yourself doing your most important work. Punch it out in the still quietness of the morning.
Leave the other tasks – the ones you can maybe manage as a Yo-Yo for when the kids are awake.
Partner tag team
If you can, tag team with your spouse so you both get work (or free) time while the other attends to the kids. As mentioned above, ensure you are both getting alone time, and both of you are also getting outside.
Craig and I will often sit outside in the sun and work with our bare feet on the grass.
Separate work areas
You won’t really be this happy working together in the same space. Again be flexible.
This is always changing for us and does depending on the child. Our office space is our living room in our home in Raleigh so we’re right near the kitchen.
We get disturbed a lot. Savannah often wants to be near us so will work at the dining table. That’s when I do my best yo-yo work.
And that is why Craig and I started going to co-working spaces in downtown Raleigh on alternate days just to have 8 hours of uninterrupted work focus – of course those spaces are off limits now and we are all hunkered down again in our home!
Kalyra will stay in her room all day and we have to force her out. We only see her when she’s hungry or wants a quick cuddle. On the odd occasion she’ll need help.
They both have desks in their rooms. Savannah does need a little more checking in on when she is in her room as YouTube time seems to sneak in!! Although she has surprised me a bit lately, when I have snuck up on her and she is doing her school work.
Do the best you can.
home-schooled (and worked beside) Kalyra for 18 months in this camper trailer traveling aroundAustralia:
And we homeschooled both girls (and worked beside them) for months in this travel across theUSA:
Do Not Disturb Time
I’m sure we have all seen this BBC interview by now going around the web when the diplomat’s child burst in on his live TV interview, lol…
This is the reality of working from home with your kids. It will happen, guaranteed.
I can’t tell you the number of times Savannah would do this to me when I was being interviewed – thankfully mostly phone interviews so I could kind of shoo her away or step outside and growl at gate keeper Craig, all the while maintaining my composure with a sunny disposition while I explained how hugely satisfying traveling with your kids’ full time is.
You may have to take phone calls etc. through the day.
This is why we’re training your kids to be fine without you.
You don’t need to monitor their every minute, let them be responsible for doing it. Give them consequences if they don’t and tell them what they are before you put up the do not disturb sigh.
“I have a very important phone call to make. You know we’re doing our best to live and work together. That means I still have important things do to.
This is what I need for you to do right now. You cannot disturb me for any other reason unless you are bleeding or dying. Is that understood? If you have a problem, while I am busy, you will find a solution because I know you are clever enough to do that.
If you can’t find a solution, you are to move onto something else you can do without my help, while you patiently wait.
Then when I have finished in approximately….I can help you. If you do disturb me when you don’t need to and I have asked you not to, there will be a consequence. You will. …… (outline consequence clearly). Did you understand what I just said?”
Have them repeat it back to you. Once more, “Can you remind me once again what will happen if you do disturb me?”
“OK great. Thank you so much for respecting the importance of my work. I really love what I do.”
Now, mention the reward…
If you are able to do this for me, we can add 15 minutes bonus time to your computer this week – or whatever their fave reward is – One extra cupcake. You get it.
Finally. A Word of Encouragement.
Okay. This post is long. I’m tired. You’re tired.
For now, I want you to focus on the above – training your kids and setting up the structure. If that’s all you get done this week that is a win.
I can’t emphasize enough how much easier things will be if you train your kids to be the drivers. You’ll be stunned at how much they thrive and wish you did it earlier.
Everyone will feel less tension and greater happiness. You will love and appreciate your quality time together even more.
This is what I’ve learned through YEARS of experience with teaching kids around the world AND my own kids for six years.
Yes. I have had years to train my kids to do this. However, if I knew all of this in the beginning, it would have happened much faster and saved me many many breakdowns.
I’m handing you my lessons at the beginning.
You can do this.
Remember, it is what it is. Do the best with what you have from where you are. It is enough.
And if all fails, it’s okay. These are unprecedented times. No one knows what they are doing. Go easy on yourself. Go easy on your kids. Go easy on others.
These are the times that call for endless amounts of compassion. And wine. Loads of wine.
Resources for Homeschooling
Honestly, if your child’s teachers aren’t providing you with lessons do NOT exhaust yourself by taking care of this. You don’t need to.
Find out what your kids are learning in school – ask them. Topics etc. And then find resources online and let them work independently with them
Even if you don’t know the topics, just find on-grade level activities. It won’t hurt them. Think puzzles, games, quizzes, projects. They love being on the computer and playing games.
For more resources, check out the following:
- Homeschool resources – more tips for schooling from home
- Self isolation survival reading
- Khan Academy – great for instruction on particular concepts and activities for practice
- Prodigy Math – our girls LOVE this and can play it for hours. Great for learning
- Scholastic – free resources for school closures
- Virtual field trips
- Mystery Science
- Smarter every day on Youtube
- Testing Mom – loads of games and resources in the one paid membership site. I used this for a couple of years.
- Reading Eggs + Math Seeds – my all time favorite for reading and math. Independent learning. Kids love it. Great results. Paid program but worth it.
- PBS Learning media – loads of free interactive lessons.
- Stickers and rewards (if you want to go there!)
How to Stay Calm During Turbulent Times
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