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Working from Home with Children Learning from Home: Building a Schedule That Works

Working from Home with Children Learning from Home: Building a Schedule That Works

Right now, I’m living the new reality many parents across the world are facing—working from home while my children are learning from home. I must admit that I didn’t think it would be too difficult; I have worked mostly from home for the past several years, and I have five years of classroom teaching experience under my belt. Could adding an eight-year-old and a five-year-old to the mix really be that hard? The answer, as I’m sure you’ve realized from your own experience, is yes. Yes, it can.

What I’ve learned through my own experience, as well as from reading multiple online articles about working from home and homeschooling, is that having a schedule is key to making this situation work. Through trial and error, I’ve devised a schedule that works for my family, and I hope that this post helps you build one that works for you.

As you build your children’s schedule, keep in mind that it needs to help you achieve two goals:

  • You are able to get your work done.
  • Your children are able to get their schoolwork done.

Keep in mind that you may not be able to achieve both goals every single day. Most likely your number one priority could shift day to day; make sure that your schedule reflects that.

Considerations for building your schedule

Work Style

One thing to take into account when building your work-from-home/learn-from-home schedule is the way that you work. Are you more productive in the mornings, the afternoons, or the evenings? Do you have a job that requires long periods of focus, or do you work better with short bursts of productivity? What regularly scheduled meetings do you have to attend?

As best as you can, build your children’s schedule around yours. For instance, I’m a morning person, and my job requires a lot of writing, so I need a combination of blocks of continuous time to power through projects and then small bursts of time to take care of other tasks. So, to give myself a block of uninterrupted work time in the morning, I built the children’s schedule with a late start. I start my day at 6:00 AM, but they don’t get up until 8:30 AM, and they don’t start schoolwork until 9:30 AM. That way, I get two and a half hours of focused time with no interruptions before they even start their day.

Learning Activities

The types of learning activities that your children will be engaged in also have a big impact on your schedule. Asynchronous activities that can be completed at any point of the day or week allow more flexibility. Synchronous activities such as live online classes or meetings will need to be incorporated into the schedule.

Ages of Children

The ages of your children will be an important factor to consider when building a daily learning schedule because younger children will need more support from you to complete activities. If you have children in early elementary grades, consider building your schedule so that academics requiring your support are scheduled when it will be easier for you to break away from work. Younger children also have shorter attention spans and will need more frequent breaks, so be sure to factor those into the schedule as well.

For older children, consider giving them a few guidelines and parameters, and then allow them to build their own schedules. This will help children develop their time management skills and personal responsibility, and they’ll be more likely to comply with the schedule and complete their work if they have ownership in the process.

Tips for success

Keep Your Schedule Simple

If you perform a Google search for homeschool sample schedules, you’ll find a variety of schedules that are very thorough with details, and they may include lots of hands-on home-learning activities. Remember that most of those schedules are created and carried out by parents who have chosen to homeschool their children full-time. There are some really great ideas and even some activities you may want to try when you have extra time, but don’t feel as if you need to replicate that type of schedule on a daily basis. Build and implement a schedule that is simple enough for your children to follow with little oversight.

Set Expectations and Practice

The day before implementing the schedule, run through it with your children, make sure that they know how to access all assignments and activities, and review the daily expectations. Take time the first few days to guide your children through the process, and supervise, to see what works and what tweaks need to be made.

You should also discuss when it’s OK for your children to come into your workspace and when you need to be alone to focus. Consider using a sign or another type of visual signal so that they can easily tell when it’s a good time to approach your workspace. My children know that if the green hair tie is on the doorknob, they can enter. If the red one is on the doorknob, they need to come back later unless it’s an emergency.

Be Flexible

Don’t be afraid to adjust your schedule when something unexpected comes up or when you or your children just need a temporary change in your routine. Your schedule is meant to be a framework to make this time easier, not something that restricts you. If you have to give your children a day off from schoolwork so that you can prep for a big meeting, do it. If you have an open afternoon and want to take your children for a walk during their scheduled math time, do it. It’s OK to make adjustments to the routine when you need to.

Share the Workload

If there is another working parent in the house, look for ways to share the workload. Because my work is more flexible and I enjoy teaching, I manage our children’s learning and their schedule, while my husband has a mostly uninterrupted, traditional workday. Once his workday ends, he takes the lead with the children, giving me additional focused time to finish my workday.

Don’t Overdo the Academics

Your kids’ traditional school day was probably around 7 hours long, so you may think that your students need 7 hours of academic time at home. This is not the case. Students don’t spend the entire school day engaged in learning in core subjects. They have lunch, recess, and specials (P.E., music, art). The school day schedule also consists of procedural activities such as lining up, transitioning, cleanup, and restroom breaks that take up a lot of time at school but either don’t exist or take very little time with just a few children at home. Experts recommend about 2.5 – 3 hours of academic learning for younger students up to about 6 hours for high-school students.


Schedule Examples

Below is the schedule that my two children (kindergarten and 2nd grade) follow. We tweaked it several times during the first week, and now we have something that works for us. After the first few days, we adjusted the schedule to alternating math and ELA and science and social studies every other day instead of trying to fit all four core subjects in each day. It works better for us because it gives the children longer blocks of focused time with fewer transitions.

A schedule for children to follow while learning from home

Below is the schedule that my colleague Sarika Simpson built for her nine-year-old son.

A second example of a schedule for children while learning from home

Below is an example of a schedule for a middle or high school student.

An example of a schedule for middle or high school students learning from home

Don’t be too hard on yourself or your children

We are in the midst of a global pandemic; this situation is new for all of us. It’s scary. It’s stressful. Our lives have been turned upside down. You won’t be a perfect teacher, your children won’t be perfect students, and that’s OK.  If you or someone you know has a schedule suggestion you'd like to share with other parents and/or educators, share it with us on our Instagram @edmentum!

Parents and other caregivers can offer some of the most important guidance that students need to find the right online learning approaches, to hold themselves accountable for their work, and to get extra help when needed. Read up on five things parents and caregivers can do to help their child be successful when learning online.