March 30, 2020

Homeschooling for Working Parents: How to Handle At-Home Education

Prannoy Nambiar
Photo of parents working with a student with title

Homeschooling. It has had a long, ever-growing history in the education system. It has risen in popularity over the decades, partially due to the many advances in remote learning technology, as well as shifts in perspectives of public education in general. There are countless homeschooling parents who have taught successfully.

In these recent, uncertain times, however, it has come to the very forefront of a global conversation. It is one that includes teachers, parents, and other caretakers across the world who find themselves in forced homeschooling situations. This is happening at an unprecedented scale. According to recent estimates from the National Center for Education Statistics, school closures have affected nearly all 50.8 million public school students in the United States.

Homeschooling and remote learning are not the same thing. One has been practiced successfully for years, includes established resources and communities built over the years, and is a normal educational path for some students. The other recently began as a massive experiment with no time for preparation and no precedent set. But parents who want to ensure learning continuity for their school-aged children may want to lean in on homeschooling best practices

Another variable to throw into this newfound, homeschooling equation? Most of the parents of these now at-home students are pulling double duty: they are still employed and working from home while also having to serve as an educator/caretaker of their children. Homeschooling for working parents can feel like working two (or more) jobs. What can be done when this doubled workload exists?

There are many unique circumstances for districts, schools, teachers, and homeschooling parents. Some districts have the resources to provide a completely virtual experience for all of their students. Others are only able to provide certain online resources and physical materials to help tide families over until things normalize. People have had to adapt, and many are wondering where they can find homeschooling resources for parents. Whatever the case may be in terms of resources provided to households, there are a few tried-and-true, foundational elements of a proper learning environment that anyone can build in the confines of their home. Many districts are compiling homeschooling resources for parents.

Homeschooling Requirements for Parents

If you’re considering homeschooling you may be wondering what the homeschooling requirements for parents are. The simple answer is that as long as you are a parent you may homeschool your child. In the United States, the Supreme Court has established that parents have a fundamental right to direct the education of their children. The only homeschooling requirements for parents are that you be a parent!

Build a Strong Routine

Most of a student’s day is scheduled—periods of class that last from 45-90 minutes, interspersed with lunch, physical exercise, and extra-curricular periods. At-home schedules tend to be a bit more free-flowing. In the homeschooling environment, however, a structured routine and dedicated time for learning will build some much-needed guardrails for students to thrive.

Some strategies are available online, but a few key tenets of building a strong, at-home schedule: make a physical schedule, have it displayed, and model it after a student’s normal school day. It is nearly impossible to replicate the school environment at home, but it is possible to make the home environment an effective place of learning. Homeschooling parents should understand that establishing a strong schedule and routine is the foundation of this. Homeschool.com has effective strategies and examples of schedule-building available for anyone who needs it.

Keep in mind, however, that the transition to complete social distancing can be a challenge for many children who are now isolated from their peers. Have patience with the process, and allow your children the time to adapt and the flexibility to struggle with the changed learning environment. It is not “normal” for non-homeschooled kids to be away from their classmates, friends, and activities for extended periods of time. This new normal will take some adjustment for all parties involved—teachers, parents, and students.

Establish Non-Negotiables

Many households will have assignments funneled to them through the schools and teachers —online portals or physical packets that are provided by teachers with some sort of plan on what needs to get completed by a certain time. These assignments and resources are meant to keep all students geared up and focused on the same topics together, even remotely. In order for students to be on par with the learning expectations of their district and state, aspects of these resources are desperately important. Just as classwork, homework, and exams are required, portions of these school-provided or teacher-provided resources should also be treated as daily or weekly deliverables for students at home.

There are several strategies to take when understanding what the non-negotiables are, and the style and approach to homeschooling will differ based on parent personalities, family dynamic, culture, students’ learning styles, and a variety of other factors. Again, Homeschool.com offers some great resources, such as the Homeschool Styles Quiz and Learning Styles Quiz, to better understand student learning styles and potential strategies to pursue.

Offer Personalization

The pursuit of learning and education at home will be a personal one for students. Many will not be used to following through with a structured schedule of schooling at the confines of their dinner table or bedroom. In these unique, undiscovered environments, it is important to institute a practice that teachers all across the world institute: personalization. Providing choices and pathways of learning and exploration for students allows them to own their personal learning journey. Personalization is built into many virtual learning resources already—students can prioritize exercises and lesson plans to pursue and build their own playlists based on their own preferences. In the absence of this type of resource, it is still possible to offer elements of personalization to at-home students. This free list of homeschooling resources for parents is by no means exhaustive, but provides a good starting point to build in differentiation and personalization into a student’s learning at home.

Remember to Include the Fun

The home environment is an intimate one. Many students likely have some form of personal space in their home that they are not afforded in a school setting: their bedroom, their video games, their books, their escapes. Therefore, a balance should be forged between these relationships—one with home life and one with education. There should be structured time for them to escape and pursue what gives them pleasure. Their pursuit of learning and education should be interwoven with their own personal routines while at home. Additionally, creativity and the pursuit of the arts, if not already built into the routine, will greatly benefit the engagement of students cooped up at home. Homeschooling parents will benefit from having a happy productive “student.” Homeschooling for working parents is tough enough without an unhappy pupil.

Districts, schools, and teachers must also play a large role in trying to support homeschooling parents during this time. Supporting parents through consistent communication via email, text, or phone calls and having webinars and other remote learning meet-ups will be important in creating a system of routine and support in not only students’ lives, but also parents’ lives.

Visit GoGuardian's Distance Learning hub for resources to support your schools during closures.