5 tips on How to Work From Home while Home Educating Your Child
One of the biggest things I am seeing talked about at the moment is whether or not to send your child back to school, and if you choose not to, how on earth are you able to work from home and home educate at the same time, how it can work long term, how can you stay sane, fit everything in and keep going without completely messing up your kids’ chances and future…
Well, firstly, I just want you to know that I don’t know any home educating mum (I say mum, because I actually know very few home educating dads, or dads who are mainly in charge of the home education, but I am sure they think like this too) that hasn’t had, at one time or another, a complete lack of confidence in what they are doing is the right thing for their children. Even if they know 110% that it is most definitely the right thing to do, we all go through that at some stage (and many have actually thought about or threatened the ‘S’ word on occasion/daily too!)
So… what is the secret to success in working from home and home educating your children, while keeping on top of everything else and still being a wife, mother, friend and everything else?
I can’t give you that answer.
Every child and every home is different BUT what I can give you is 5 tips that have made all the difference to us and other families I know.
1. Know what you want
Why have you decided to home educate? Is it because your child is struggling at school? Or because you have discovered they learn better at home? Or maybe it is because you want them to have a different experience than the one offered in the school system? Or maybe you aren’t feeling like you want to send them back right now because of the covid situation. There are many, many different reasons parents decide to home educate.
For me, our children have never been to school and I don’t ever want to send them. I will if they ask, but they have been quite adamant up til now that they are not going to school, ever!
What I wanted for my children, actually, was a Montessori education (with me being a Montessori teacher, it was my dream for them to have that). The things I actually wanted was for me to be able to introduce concepts to my children, and have them explore, investigate and learn about whatever grabbed their attention. I loved the hands-on approach of Montessori materials (and I happened to have a full set of them, as you do!) and also wanted to incorporate these. I wanted them, by the time they were secondary age, to be avid learners and have a thirst for a wide range of knowledge. I also wanted to travel with them too.
It is important to have a good think about what you want your home education to look like, and where you want to end up. That is the foundation I started with, and I highly recommend it for you.
You may decide that you want to follow an unschooling approach, where the child completely directs their learning, or you want to be fully structured and lead that along maybe the National Curriculum, or some other plan. This is your journey – you can choose your own adventure!
2. It’s ok to change it up
You know the saying “The best laid plans…”? Well, I have to tell you that I had all these plans, actually for years, and a lot of them went out the window when I actually started home educating my children, because they had their own idea too! We actually started out doing full on Montessori, and I got too stressed out with my rigid plans. We then tried unschooling for a bit, but honestly, that did not go well for us. We gave it a good year and a bit, but my children were unsettled and although I did trust them to follow their path, I could see that we needed something different. Now I want to say here, that a lot of unschoolers will say that following what the child needs is unschooling in itself, that you can be structured or semi-structured as long as the child has chosen that… But I made the decision to return to some form of structure in our home education and it was the right decision for all of us.
We now loosely follow an approach called the Charlotte Mason approach. I will write more about that another time, but it is characterised by short lessons, with a wide variety of topics, and takes us approximately 2-3 hours a day to complete. Although there are a few great frameworks you can work with, such as Ambleside Online, the Wildwood Curriculum or Simply Charlotte Mason, I decided to make our education completely bespoke to us, and our needs and interests.
But here is the difference. I do big planning, so I will plan that this year we are studying Ancient Egypt, but I have no lesson plans, I just have resources and books to read from, and from those we follow our own paths. Actually, this year I had planned to do Ancient Egypt, Ancient Greece and Romans, but the beauty of home education is that we have loads of time, and while we will possibly get to Ancient Greece this year, Romans can wait until next year so we can have a lot more fun with them than trying to rush and cram it all in.
Instead of getting too stressed out and spending hours and hours planning, I spend a few hours at the beginning of the year and then periodically throughout the year I will review them. And then make adjustments for next year if we need to.
3. Time management is key
This is what has made the biggest difference to us. I am an early riser, my children are not, which helps, but even if they weren’t time management is what has saved my sanity!
Every day I have set work hours, and I stick to them. I also have set home ed hours, and I stick to them. So my work hours are 7am-10am. The kids get up and get themselves ready for 10am (unless it is the summer when they don’t go to sleep until 10pm or later because we are all doing things well into the evening outside). And then we start our home ed time and work until lunch time. Some days are purposely shorter than others for me, and we are lucky that Martin also works from home and he will do some science or experiments with them (this is so that I don’t have to plan anything on a regular basis which stresses me out!).
Remember when I said that it’s ok to change it up? Well, that is what we do somedays if one of the children (normally Bear) is not very willing to do what we normally would. I have other things on hand like our Kiwi, Atlas and Tinker boxes which always go down well on days like that, or we will take our learning outside (and I might disguise something educational as play!).
After lunch, which we will have together, the kids can then choose what they do (no screens) for the afternoon. Charlotte Mason built this in to the school day so that children had space to let their brains catch up with things they had learned, and my children do some amazing things in their afternoons, such as art or bug hunting or making up a dance routine, or reading or writing a book or whatever that looks like. Nerf battles and time in the pool also happen when possible, or we might go out to a home ed club or the park or beach either on our own or with friends (when the world isn’t on lockdown of course!).
I actually then work from 4-6pm, have dinner and 3 nights a week I will work an hour or two if I need to, but the rest of the time is with the family and I feel this is a good balance for us. Again, remember that you are in control of this lifestyle, so you do what is right for you and your children.
4. Don’t overdo it
There is a tendency when you start home education to try to recreate school at home, spend hours printing stuff from Twinkl and preparing loads of lessons for your children. We do use Twinkl by the way, but trying to fill all day every day with lessons that involve worksheets and textbooks is just plain boring – there I said it! You will completely knock the joy of learning out of your children, and so don’t overdo it, offer these things in moderation. In fact, what I have done some times, especially when I know I have a lot on with work and maybe we won’t get our learning time that day, I have prepared some worksheets that they have loved completing, but if I try to do them too often there is resistance big style!
One of the times I did this was when I was attending a networking meeting (aimed at mums and children are welcome). I sat my children at a table nearby, gave them a learning folder and they just got on with some sums, writing, science and reading (2 poems and books about Ancient Egypt – 3 birds with one stone there!). Some home edders like to frequent coffee shops with their children and do this, by the way, so they aren’t at home, and enjoying a trip out too!
5. Enjoy the journey
This is a lifestyle for you. And you want life to be enjoyed, right? If it is not fun, then take a break, take a day or a week off (because you can). Go out for the day (I equipped myself with a tablet and external keyboard and went to a theme park one day and sat at a picnic table to work while the kids played in the park!). Change it up, don’t stress about it. Often if you aren’t enjoying it, it is because something is not working for you or the children or both. Reach out to home ed communities and meet up with other home edders.. Oh and try to go on some of the fun trips too if you can, because that is one of the big perks for us – home ed trip to Legoland at a fraction of the cost because we went as a huge school group, in term time when it was quiet, and had access to so many more things there because it wasn’t busy at all. And after each trip a flurry of lego building and engineering happened at our house for a good few weeks (you can do a lot of learning with Lego!
So, if you are thinking about home educating and working from home, it can be done and it can be fun!
Are you starting your home ed journey this year? Let me know in the comments!