In 2019, after an extremely distressing school year filled with my son’s academic needs not being met, bullying against him by other students, and constant fear and stress on my part, I decided I was going to take my son’s education into my own hands and homeschool him. This would be in conjunction with working from home as a freelance writer and editor.
To say that I was overwhelmed at the thought is an understatement.
While I won’t lie to you and say that every day was super easy, most days went without a hitch. Putting in prior planning into what our days would look like went a long way towards helping us both accomplish our work and not devolve into tears — his and mine. Here are some of the ways in which I managed to carve out a rhythm for us so that we both got what we needed:
Highly Structured Days
It’s fairly common knowledge that most children need structured, stable environments within which to grow, and the homeschooling environment is no different. For families that have a stay-at-home parent, homeschooling tends to have a more relaxed, “go with the flow” kind of feel to it, which can be great for learning in a low-pressure environment. While I was certainly open to making changes as needed, having a highly structured day in which all of the day’s educational activities were plotted out and scheduled beforehand helped us both to paradoxically relax into what was needed for the day. Create a schedule for your week, month, or even school year and post it to the wall in front of your child’s work station so that you can avoid constant, “So what’s next?” questions.
Center Your Child But Honor Yourself
This can be a difficult one for parents for whom their child is the center of their worlds. I get it: my son is my everything. If you aren’t honest with yourself about what your needs are, though — both in work and emotionally — you’ll find that you neglect yourself and fail to meet your work standards. Failing to meet your own needs can lead to drops in work productivity, intense feelings of sadness and/or failure, or worst of all, feelings of resentment towards your child. When my son interrupts me while I am working and I don’t want to lose my flow, I ask him to give me five or ten minutes to finish what I am doing so that I am able to focus on him completely. This in turn teaches him how to handle interruptions in the future when he is an adult in a professional setting. I’ve also asked, “Does this question have to do with your schoolwork?” If it doesn’t (it never ceases to amaze me how math class seems to be the time during which my kid needs to tell me all about the newest character in his current favorite video game), I ask him to write down what he was going to say so that he doesn’t forget, and so that we can talk about it later after school and work hours.
Outsource Whenever Possible
Do you have a friend who is a math whiz? A cousin who plays piano beautifully? Enlist the people in your village to assist in your child’s homeschooling process whenever possible. Parents often think that the entirety of the homeschooling process will fall solely on their shoulders, but that doesn’t have to be the case. Reach out to the people who love you and ask if there is a skill they excel at that they would be happy to lead your child in learning. You may be surprised at how many of your people would be more than happy to help.
Cut Yourself Some Slack
Even superstar teachers don’t have stellar days each and every day. Some days you’ll feel like you have every single thing under control, and then the very next day everything is a mess and you’ll want to run away under a pseudonym to Tahiti. Expecting perfection from yourself is as pointless as expecting it from your child. If their academic day was filled with interruptions and missed goals, know that they are likely receiving far more out of even the worst days at home with you than they were in a class of 25 children and one teacher. Use the time you have with them later in the day when you’re unwinding for the evening to discuss where things may have gone awry, and include your child in a plan to have the day afterwards be a far more productive one.
To be honest, there is very little about parenting that is “easy,” and homeschooling is no different. There is, however, a huge difference between “easy” and “impossible.” Homeschooling can be a richly rewarding experience both academically and emotionally for both you and your child, and working from home while homeschooling is nowhere near impossible. Have faith in yourself, your child, and your community, and watch how far your child is able to soar.