Need to Focus on Work? We Asked a Middle School Special Ed Teacher and Mother of Four (!) How to Ace Homeschooling Your Kids. 

Forward by Drew Koloski

On Thursday of last week we just got word that our school district is closing “indefinitely.” We picked up our kids’ Chromebooks on Friday and work will be sent home beginning Monday. 

However, our school age kids (ten, eight and five) already had assigned work, given to them by my wife - it’s a short Q&A assignment to learn about the Coronavirus (via a great comic provided by NPR). Not only was it designed to make sure they stay relaxed with the right information, it was a beta test and tone-setter for homeschooling starting this week. My wife is a middle school special education teacher and on a daily-hourly-sometimes-by-the-minute basis she has me totally swooning over her masterful control of our crazy big-little family containing four kids under the age of ten.

With many of us working parents suddenly having to juggle working from home and home schooling, I couldn’t think of a better person to give some advice on how to get started. Without further ado, I offer you the master, at work… (love you honey!)

 

How to Avoid Homeschool Hell 

Written by Kara Koloski

Full disclosure: I am a middle school special education teacher. I will also inevitably have to “work from home,” planning online lessons and offering “office hours” to assist my students. My husband will also be working from home, but he will have less flexibility than I have. Still, I know it’s essential that I set up a system where I can get his help when I really need it. 

I am, admittingly, obsessed with being organized and therefore have been thinking about this for several weeks: How will I deal with four kids at home while also having to work? I know that many working parents are thinking the same exact thing and are wondering, “Where do I start?”  

Here are three things I recommend to get you and your kids off to a positive start amongst all the change: 

  1. Create a schedule. The first and most important thing is to create a schedule with them.  I already have a draft built in partnership with my husband. Be sure to add in non-school related activities and exercise, play, etc...

  2. Have a family meeting and allow the kids to contribute to planning the schedule (even though we already pretty much know what it will be). This way they will buy into the schedule more easily.  This works, trust me!

  3. Dangle a daily reward. We don’t work for free, so why make our kids do it?!  Make your life easy and set up a system that rewards good home schooling behaviors early.  For us, it will be video game time.

 

This may be a lot for some, but for us the schedule includes every hour roughly planned out. This helps our oldest who has ADHD and struggles when our routine changes. It includes set time in the morning for “work” and set time after lunch for “work.” Of course this is new territory so we will see how that plays out exactly. We’ve included meals and snacks in the schedule too.  

We’ve also set parameters for video game time to use as a rewards system. In our house, under normal circumstances we do not allow any video games during the week. Obviously we have to be flexible and this serves as a good motivator for the kids to complete their work without too much hassle. As a bonus, it will allow me and my husband to get more, legit uninterrupted work done because our youngest (one year old) will be taking a nice long afternoon nap while the three older ones are glued to their devices. 

As an educator, I have never had to work from home, let alone homeschool my kids, but I have spent many summers creating a schedule for us that balances all of our needs. Therefore, my best advice is to create a schedule with the kids on board and be consistent with it. Use video game / device time or something they love as a reward for their school work completed. Yes, you may have a day or two where you will have to potentially take the reward away, but eventually most kids figure out we mean business and give in to the new schedule. Finally, don’t forget about you! As you are building your schedule be sure to understand when you can take a break from it all. You’ll need it to stay sane, and kids will need a break from parents too!

Getting off to a good start with structure they can participate in building, paired with a reward and positivity will help get you through the long days ahead. Good luck, I know we’ll need some ourselves!

 

Written by Kara and Drew Koloski