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Making it Work:
Homeschooling while Working at Home

by Natalie Thomas
Author of the Serena Wilcox Mysteries

1999 by Natalie Thomas

Homeschooling is a wonderful lifestyle choice for us. I can give my kids the learning environment and curriculum that they thrive on. But how can I do this as a work at home Mom?

It's not easy. Sometimes I get completely frazzled trying to balance work and family. But I've come to realize that I really wouldn't have it any other way. I've stumbled upon a few things that make life a little easier for me. I'll share my small success stories here, hoping that one or more of these ideas are helpful to you.

Ideas for Making it Work

The List

Create a list for your older children. Use pictures for kids who can't read yet. Number the list up to 6. On the odd numbers write chores for the kids to do, simple things that don't require your help. On the even numbers write fun things for the kids to do. Again, make sure you won't be needed.

My daughter loves following the list, sort of like doing a treasure hunt. She is gleefully busy doing constructive things that I have chosen for her to do, and I am free to work in peace.

An example of one of her lists:

  1. Pick 10 items from your bedroom floor to put away.
  2. Do a dot-to-dot puzzle.
  3. Put your clothes in the laundry basket.
  4. Play a game on the computer.
  5. Put the video tapes back in their cases.
  6. Do page 67 in your math book.

It really works for us. Some more thoughts about the list idea:

  1. Check on your child's progress and praise him/her throughout the experience.
  2. Make several lists in advance.
  3. Make the lists in interesting shapes (like in a cartoon thought bubble for example). Using a program like The Print Shop or Create-a-Card is a quick and fun way to make creative lists featuring cartoon characters or other designs to appeal to your child's tastes.
  4. Include homeschooling or homework in the "fun" even numbers. Don't send a message that learning is in the "chore" category.
  5. Before your child starts on the list, make sure the dot-to-dot, school work, laundry basket, drawing paper, etc., are ready to be used.
  6. Remember to include things that would really help you out, like the simple chores your child can do, and the homework that you don't need to supervise. The list will save you time by
    1. Keeping your child busy so you can get work done and
    2. Encouraging your child to be more self sufficient.
  7. If your child gets tired of the daily list, try new things ... like putting the lists in a box for your child to draw a mystery list from. Or allow the child to have imput about what fun things go on the list. Hide the lists, like a treasure hunt. Include small prizes at chore locations. You can make the lists fun for your child.
  8. Because your child is helping out while you work, you can spend your free time together doing fun things like baking cookies or going on a walk. And your homeschooling time can be spent enjoying the "meat" of the learning.

The Event

Create a homeschooling event. Use weekend or evening family time to have fun in a way that benefits homeschooling goals.

For example, last summer we entered our town's Fourth of July parade. In the weeks leading up to the event, my 5 year old learned a patriotic song to sing in the parade, we designed and crafted a float (using her wagon) and we discussed historical events relating to American history. Our family was excited about the parade and gladly spent the weekend devoted to the event.

In another small example, my daughter read "The Secret Garden". The movie was on TV that weekend. After the show we discussed the differences and similarities between the book and the movie.

My point is, one of the perks of homeschooling is that learning happens all the time. If I have trouble getting the interactive teaching accomplished during the day, sometimes the weekend or the evening is a better time. I try to relax and know that I have time for my children if I am willing to be flexible and creative.

It sure isn't easy. When the days feel hectic, I remind myself that a nurturing and rich learning environment will benefit our family for a lifetime. There is great joy in knowing that we are doing what we love. Best wishes to all homeschooling parents.


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