OH my goodness, the last week has been a whirlwind. I’m thinking of all of you and your families as we are hunkered down in this new season of quarantine.

I’ve had several family members and friends reach out to say, “Help! We have to work, but the kids need to get their online schooling done every day, and we’re all going crazy!”

So today I thought I’d share what I told them:

You do – maybe not the first week, but eventually – need a schedule

Without any kind of expectations about what the day will look like, kids get a little insecure/antsy/crazy-making. We help them and ourselves when they know what to expect in the coming day.

That being said, please please please don’t carve a schedule in stone and expect it to run precisely to the minute. These are children we’re dealing with, after all!

Schedule some one-on-one time with each kid in the morning 

There are a few reasons I recommend this. 

First, most kids (before hitting puberty, anyway) have the best ability to focus in the morning. If we can use that time to sit with them and teach or go over their schoolwork for the day, we’ll get much better results. 

Second, for me and my kids, there’s something about filling up their “Mom cup” that sets the tone for the rest of the day. Whether it feels true or not, YOU are your kids’ first person, the one who matters the most. 

I find that when I tackle the one-on-one homeschooling time in the morning – which includes a lot of encouragement, planning together, and trying new things – they are just more settled and know what to expect for the rest of the day. 

Pull together as a team 

When you’re making this schedule for kids older than 6 or 7 (this varies by kid, of course), let them be a part of it. Ask your 10-year-old: “What time do you think it would be best to read? Do your chores? Exercise?” You might be surprised by how well she knows herself!

(The beauty of this, too, is that we’re secretly tapping into all kinds of great skills for the kids here. If you’re not already familiar with executive functioning skills, maybe google that when you have a chance.)

When or if the schedule isn’t working, go back to the drawing board together. If he planned on reading right after lunch, but instead is constantly interrupting you while you’re trying to work, assume it’s a system failure and not a kid failure. See what happens if you say, “Hey honey, our reading after lunch plan doesn’t seem to be working for you. How can we change our plan so that you can move more right after lunch AND I can get the work done that I need to?”

As a part of the team, expect your children to:

    • Have at least a few chores every day. We clean half of our house every week, and I break that down into three days of chores for my kids per week, which is totally manageable. In addition, they take turns doing dishes after lunch (taking care of the breakfast and lunch dishes) and have their “morning chores” every day, which is simply to get dressed, brush their teeth, and make their beds. (As a homeschooler, you actually have to SAY that, or it’s not happening, friends.)
    • Spend some time alone every day. We started this when my kids were little, as the afternoon naps disappeared. They had “quiet time” every day after lunch. I used to let them pick which room of the house they wanted to be in, but most of the time – since they each have their own rooms now – they just go to their own room. I would encourage you to make this at least an hour, but your mileage may vary per child. 
    • Give you time to work on your job, managing the household, or whatever you need to get done. Build this into your schedule, along with whatever they need to be doing during these work times. If you’re an early bird, you may build in a few hours before they get up, an hour late in the morning after you teach them, and after lunch while they have their quiet time. 

Surprise them!

Surprise your kids every now and then after the schedule is established. Throw them in the car for a drive and a hike on a beautiful day (“we’re skipping school!”), bake a cake together to celebrate the birthday of a stuffed animal, or anything else you can think of that’s fun, creative, and surprising to your kids. 

This builds a sense of teamwork and will help the entire family get through some monotonous days ahead.

Several times, I’ve written all of my kids’ school subjects on individual slips of paper and put them in one basket, and different places in our house on individual slips of paper to put in another basket. The kids get to pick one slip of paper from each basket, and then we all head off to do our work in that subject in that room of the house. Social Studies in the closet! Math on the swingset! So much fun and entertainment as we all huddle together and get schoolwork done.

Aim to stay on schedule about 80% of the time 

I know, I know, 100% would be better, but these humans you’re dealing with are immature, demanding, and self-centered, even the best of them!

If you can expect that the day is NOT going to go perfectly according to schedule, then your stress level won’t escalate and your expectations will remain realistic. (I don’t know about you, but my stress level is directly related to my expectations!)

Go forward with courage

I know these weeks are tough, whether you’ve been homeschooling a long time or have just started homeschooling out of necessity. 

Remember: you know your children better than anyone. 

You are uniquely qualified to lead them in their education, with or without a teaching degree. 

There’s nothing you can mess up that can’t be fixed in terms of their day-to-day academic education.

Lean in with them, rally your little team, and we’ll all get through this just fine.