By Jenna Prada, Director of Executive Functioning
Many of us now find ourselves in the unexpected position of homeschooling our children—some of us while continuing to work full time. I feel you; it’s not easy. I’m a trained educator and a parent and, if I’m honest, it’s taking all of my energy not to be entirely overwhelmed by it all. Here’s my advice based on my first few days of working and schooling from home: Save your sanity and help your children be productive by implementing a daily schedule.
Though what the schedule actually looks like and who takes ownership of creating and executing it will vary by the age of your child(ren), the benefits and underlying principles of the schedule are consistent across grades and abilities:
- Creates structure: Children manage change best if it occurs within a context they’re familiar with, so throwing their whole routine out the window is understandably stressful. Having a clear plan for each day gives children a structure they can count on, creating safety and security during an otherwise scary time.
- Encourages independence: It’s impossible to be as productive in a full house as an empty house. Working from home right now is complicated by also needing to manage children. A structured day is one that kids can come closer to managing on their own, thereby giving you the time you need to continue to function—both professionally and personally—during these strange times.
- Instills important habits: Think big picture: Students who have the skills to manage an expanse of unstructured time transition more smoothly from high school to college. Professionals who are able to bring structure and routine to their work life are more productive. There is an opportunity here to help your children develop crucial life skills that their highly scheduled lives often preclude. Challenge them to own as much of this process as possible.
So how do you make a schedule that works for you and your family? Implementation is key, so thinking about the needs and structure of your child’s daily experience while maintaining flexibility is important. Here are some considerations to take into account when making a plan:
- Consider your family’s needs: Do you need a consistently-timed schedule or a flexible set of daily tasks?
- Consider your child’s responsibilities: Different schools are offering different levels of structure for their students. Perhaps they’ve given you enough to fill your child’s day. If not, additional responsibilities may include chores, physical activity, creative endeavors or inquiry-based projects.
- Think long-term, too: Obviously a daily schedule is about tackling the here-and-now, but a silver lining of this extended period at home is that it may open up new opportunities for your child to grow during these next few weeks. Perhaps they will learn new ways to contribute to the household. Perhaps this is a time to connect deeply with family and find some quiet in what is so often a fast-moving world. Perhaps they’d like to explore a topic of interest for some time each day. Consider your child’s interests and how this time can serve them in the long run.
- Create a flexible plan: Once you’ve thought about each of the above. It’s time to get something on paper. Either tie tasks to the time of day or create a list that suggests a length of time of each task but leaves the order and exact timing open.
- Build in time for exploration and decompression: Make this a dedicated chunk of each day or consider devoting one day to enrichment, family time, games, or some other pursuit based on interest. Capitalize on this time to encourage personal growth based on your child’s interests.
I’ve harnessed the creativity and generosity of families I know to share some sample schedules below; repurpose them as you wish for your family.
Though this schedule is clearly designed for younger kids, some of its standout elements can apply to students of all ages. I particularly appreciate the inclusion of an activity with a parent; we parents rarely get so much facetime with our kids, and if your work day is somewhat flexible, this can be a great opportunity to tackle a project together. There is also a list of family chores that make clear how kids can contribute to the household while they are home: since parents are extra-busy right now, we can use all of the collaboration we can get!
The schedule above, provided by a teacher, sets aside time for students to make a daily plan themselves after checking in with the school’s online portal, and to reserve set hours for “academic time.” For many students, it might make sense to do what this teacher suggests and set aside specific academic time—with the understanding that it will be used differently each day.
This open-ended schedule allows for either the student or the parent to add details each day without needing to reinvent the schedule based on the shifting realities that are surely coming our way. For older kids, the academic times will need to be longer, but the concept holds up quite well regardless of age.
Our own Carolyn Haas, Director of Elementary Services, offers the following schedule for elementary school students. Her note about being mindful of nutritious food is a good reminder for us all. I also like her thoughts about separating academic time by “screen” vs “screen-free” and her reminder that our kids do need some choice during the day.
Finally, this was my first attempt at a schedule for my first-grade daughter. I’m absolutely revising it every day (and that’s ok; flexibility is the name of the game for many parents). I also know that I won’t be able to stick to specific times for activities since I’m working full time while she’s studying. I leave it to Lili Fey to decide the order of her day, and she knows she can do whatever she wants once she finishes the below.
As you can see from these examples, there’s no one-size-fits-all for scheduling. As you create what works for you, remember to remain flexible and to forgive yourself, as we all should during this trying time. Every parent-turned-teacher is doing the best they can—and that’s enough!
But, if your child struggles to see how they might organize their assignments daily, or there are challenges related to the various new platforms they need to manage, or the lack of structure makes moving forward with long-term goals feel daunting, reach out to us. In addition to online tutoring, virtual study groups, and more, Private Prep can offer you a weekly 15-minute Productivity Focus session during which one of our Academic Skills Coaches will help your child craft a cohesive plan including steps for accountability. And if starting this process at all feels overwhelming, our Executive Functioning Coaches can set up a one-time session to help your workshop your family’s personal schedule.
You and your family may be at home, but you’re not in this alone. We’re here to help, so contact us.