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Monday, April 6, 2020

Suddenly Homeschool: parenting through online learning

I've officially completed my first full week of distance schooling as a parent and teacher simultaneously, and it definitely wasn't easy. I'm juggling zoom meetings, google classroom notifications, emails, phone calls, and text messages from work while trouble shooting tech problems, assisting with time management, and interacting with my daughters as they navigate online independent learning for the first time. As we all navigate this new normal as working parents from home, here are my tips for helping our children with their distance learning while managing our own remote work schedules as well.

When schools first closed, many of us parents did what we could to keep our children's minds, bodies, and imaginations engaged at home without much guidance from schools, while districts scrambled to completely redesign how we do school without physically being in school buildings. If you are still in this position and looking for free resources for children to explore at home in different subject areas, or tips for creating routines/ schedules for them, head to this previous post on parenting through closures.

Now that most districts are up and running with some form of distance learning plan that allows teachers to give more direct instruction/ assignments, we're faced with a whole new set of challenges trying to help our children manage their learning independently. Here is what is working for us so far.


I've found that specific schedules of when to do what no longer work for us with online learning. I'm not the one deciding what subjects they do each day and for how long anymore- their teachers are giving more guidance with that now- and since I am less involved in directly teaching/ leading their activities I can't predict how long each one will take, and there's no reason for them to sit around waiting for the imaginary bell to ring if they're done, or to feel like they have to rush to finish if they're taking longer.

Still, my daughters need support with making sure they complete everything, and they also need some structure to make sure they're taking regular breaks throughout the day instead of staring at a computer screen for hours on end. To help them do that, we came up with the idea of 2 to-do lists: one for their school subjects, and one for other important activities that we want to make sure they're doing each day.

The idea is that they pick something from list #1, then from #2, and alternate between lists until they're done. The subject areas in list 1 are based on what the girls are being assigned by their teachers- they have one weekly assignment from art, library, music, PE, social studies, science, and health, so the girls pick one from each of the 2 groups to do each day. For the music time on list 2 my daughters are practicing the instruments that they study privately, but if that's not something your children do it could be a dance break!


One of the biggest struggles we encountered when we first started this online learning model was making sure my children weren't spending too much time on one assignment- specifically, spending too long on their online math games, and getting engrossed in an online reading assignment. I don't want them staring at a screen longer than they need to, and neither do their teachers! But even with reminders from both of us on how much time to spend on each of those things, it was hard for them to keep track of time on their own (and I am so often tied up in virtual meetings etc that I can't stay on top of them myself). Timers have been very helpful for this. I got each of them one of these timers, and any time they're doing something that is timed, they set the timers themselves. This has helped so much with their independent time management!

Family Lunch

With all three of us involved in our separate online classrooms during the day we're not interacting as much even though we're in the same house. Taking a little time to all sit down together for lunch and turn off the computers has been wonderful! I'm still "on the clock" when we take our lunch so I keep my phone with me to answer student questions and respond to assignments, but even the short time to touch base with each other and get away from the computer has been really helpful for making it through the rest of the "school day".


Outside of the things on their lists, we're still cooking and cleaning. Each child makes dinner once a week, and we do one cleaning session in the morning before we get to our schoolwork, and another in the afternoon when we're done. Usually in the morning the girls wipe down the doorknobs, tables, and handrails with disinfectant, and in the afternoon they clean up the various messes they've made around the house. With the amount of time that we're spending in it, it's important for all of us to be contributing to keeping the house clean!

Get Outside

We've been pretty fortunate with the nice weather days we've had since schools closed! Whenever we can, we get outside. We've mostly been getting out the jump ropes, roller skates, and bikes, but sometimes we just pull out the picnic blanket and sit in the grass, or go for a walk around the neighborhood. Fresh air and sunshine make a world of difference!

I hope these suggestions are helpful as you figure out how to teach and parent from home. Have other questions about distance learning from a teacher or parent perspective? Leave a comment below! And don't forget to check out my page dedicated to school closure- related posts here:


  1. Timers are such an awesome tool. We use the timexx timer cubes when my nephews visit. They also struggle with managing time, and it's so nice to see them take control using the timer cubes. It's to the point now that they seek them out not long after they arrive :)

    1. They have definitely been awesome for us! I love that your nephews are looking for them when they come over :)