My last post for folks who are Suddenly Homeschooling spread far and wide pretty quickly, and I was SO GLAD to be able to share some of what I’ve learned from seven years of trial-and-error with homeschooling my own crew. I was immediately asked for tips and ideas for parents who have their kids at home AND have to keep working. My heart immediately dropped, thinking about you many parents… and then specifically about all the amazing nurses, doctors and therapists who cared for my son during his 48 day hospital stay last year and I thought… gosh, I need to think long and hard and do what I can to help!

Out of those thoughts, I’ve created a simple step-by-step system for creating a schedule that your child should be able to complete with minimal help from whoever is watching them while you’re at work. I hope this will be a gift to you working families trying to get through this craziness, and especially for the medical staff that are most likely working overtime right now. I welcome your thoughts and questions and hope to help any way I can!

Ready to jump in?

Step One: Gather Your Materials

The best place to start? Simply thinking about a handful of things your child would benefit from working on while you’re at work. Before we get into a list of ideas, I want to make one important caveat. You should not try to (and cannot) replicate public school at home. It’s just different!! I highly recommend starting out by creating a routine solely based around the two pillars that most educators agree are essential: Math and Reading. Once those pillars are in place, and you’re getting into a groove, by all means look at Science and Social Studies and a second language… but really know that if you guys are getting Math and Reading done every day, you are doing great.

Keeping that Math and Reading tip in mind, here’s a list of ideas (in no particular order — you already know what I think is essential!) for collecting materials to help your child continue making progress at home. Also — if your child has some schoolwork to do online, GREAT! Don’t try to overdo it — let that start your list!

  • Order an age appropriate Math Workbook like this one. Just completing one or two lessons a day will help your child continue practicing their math skills, and perhaps even strengthen some weak spots/gain some ground during the break. Have some time/want to save some $? You could also google “fifth grade multiplication worksheets” (or whatever fits the bill) find what you think is appropriate, print it, and put it in a folder.
  • Handwriting Books. How’s your child’s printing? Are you wishing they were learning cursive? You can print out free handwriting pages online, or visit a curriculum vender like The Good and the Beautiful (they’re our favorite for handwriting). Again, a page or two a day can take you a long way.
  • Shop your house for books your child could read and create an age-appropriate worksheet (or find one online like this) that will help them engage with the book in a fun (not school-ish!) way. Make multiple copies! For example, ask, “Who was your favorite character?” or “If you could rewrite the story, what would you change?” For older students, you could ask more in-depth questions.
  • Similar to the Math workbooks, look for something to strengthen your child’s Spelling, Reading or Writing skills. I know you don’t want to drop loads of cash on curriculum for just a few weeks, so remember there are loads of resources online and a half an hour hunting could produce enough work to keep your child learning for weeks!
  • There is SO much your child can learn online with the appropriate adult supervision and the right guidance. Khan Academy has loads of instruction videos on dozens of subjects for free. Maybe now would be a good time to sign up for a trial of ABC Mouse. (We haven’t used that one so I don’t know much about it!) Pick a subject and spend a few minutes googling — you might be surprised how much wonderful content you discover. Please just remember — I REALLY don’t recommend your younger children have unsupervised access to the internet. Check your parental control settings and be wise in this regard.
  • Choose something that’s just for the fun of it. Art For Kids Hub is a fantastic YouTube channel for drawing and other art projects. They’ll lead your child step by step to gain skills and confidence. KiwiCo has several great learning lines delivered to your doorstep, like Tinker Crate, Atlas Crate, and Doodle Crate. Definitely a fun and exciting way to learn!
  • Look for audiobooks online. I shared this in my last post but can’t recommend it enough! Start an Audible Trial or use your Library Card to access audiobooks. You can also check out Librivox where hundreds of books in the public domain have been read by volunteers. If your child is listening to great lit, they are learning! My kids love to gather around the coffee table with popcorn, crayons, and blank sheets of paper and listen to a story and create. Pull out a puzzle, build with blocks — and listen and learn at the same time! THAT is learning at its finest in our house! Also, blown away by this: Audible created a website called Audible Stories — as long as schools are closed, they are going to be open with free audiobooks! AMAZING! Well done, Amazon!!!
  • Shop your house (or the internet) for poetry books, or interesting pieces of information your child could practice memorizing. Many famous poems are online that they could listen to or read over and over. They could learn the Preamble to the Declaration of Independence, a song of the US presidents or the States and Capitals, or a passage of scripture set to music. Really, the sky is the limit! Pick something they’ll enjoy and let them amaze you by showing you what incredible sponges their brains can be! Hint: Encourage them to aim for repeating it seven times for seven days — their brain will master so much with that amount of effort!

Step Two: Pick a Few Things Your Child Can Do Each Day

Now that you’ve got a plethora of ideas, let’s calm down and just pick a few things for the list each day. We don’t want to overwhelm them, so I’d recommend having a basic number of things you feel “MUST” be done, and then you can consider some extras that “might” be done. Remember: Math and Reading are really the essential pillars, so make sure those are on the list, and know the rest is excellent extra!

Step Three: Get Out a Few Blank Pieces of Notebook Paper

Now you get to put feet on this thing, baby! At the top of that sheet of paper write the date that the work will be completed. Next, draw a little square beside each item that you’d like your child to accomplish. Those squares are important so don’t skip that step! Every time your darling kiddo accomplishes something and gets to check that box, he or she will get a tiny rush of endorphins and gain a little confidence: “I can do hard things! I can keep going! I’m making progress!” My kids love checking boxes and feel a rather large tinge of frustration if I check one of their boxes for them!

Remember: you’re just listing work for ONE day on that sheet. Math and Reading are Essential. Add the to do’s to the list and you’re golden. Each step should have enough information for the person helping your child to get them to the right place to do the next thing, or if the child can work independently, for them to navigate from step to step on their own. I’ve included a few examples in this post to help give you an idea of what this might look like. Arabella (list above) is six, Blake (list below) is nine, and Asher (at the bottom of this post) is 11. The 11 year-old has a good idea of what is expected, so less instructions are necessary.

Step Four: Attach any worksheets, write out any links, put everything together in one place.

When I’m away, it makes life sooo much easier if everything the child needs is all in one place. I try to attach worksheets with a paperclip, or put any workbooks that will be needed for the child to check their boxes.

Step Five: Consider a Reward for the Hard Work

You know what a lot of folks have a love/hate relationship with right now? Screen time. But when your kids are home and you’re trying to keep them isolated (you good citizen, you!) screen time is a likely necessity. Screen time can be a reward for getting all the work done. “No screens until you’ve ticked the boxes!” Or maybe if the child ticks all the boxes all week, dinner Friday night is something special they love to have. Maybe you’ll bake cookies together Saturday. Maybe she’ll earn $1 towards that Lego set she is saving up for. You’ll know you’ve found a great reward when your child is willingly plugging along with the end in sight. In case you’re wondering, I really believe in rewards for hard work because I think that’s real life! When you work hard at your job, you get paid — and hopefully if you’re putting in extra time and effort, you get noticed and get rewarded above and beyond. Work hard in your back yard pulling weeds and cutting grass, and you’re rewarded with that amazing feeling at the end of the day — I did that! This yard looks great! If you can aim for positive consequences and get more flies with honey than vinegar (so to speak), by all means — go for the honey!!

Encouragement for the Journey

Now that I’ve shared these ideas, I just want to take a moment to encourage you of one more thing. Friend, it is not going to be like this forever. Last year, we stared death in the face when my eight-year old son went into the hospital with a massive brain aneurism. The days dragged into weeks and for a long time we felt there was no end in sight. Survival mode is a hard place to live in. We are a lot like ketchup packets — you really only find out what’s inside when you get squeezed.

It’s hard to be squeezed, and it takes a lot of mental fortitude to make it through when there’s no end in sight. But, friend, you are made in the Image of God. He is strong, and so are you. He is creative, and so are you. He can laugh at the days to come, and so can you. We will get through this! This is not forever. The world may be a little different on the other side of all this — but maybe, just maybe, it will be better. Maybe we will have learned a little about caring for our neighbors. Maybe a lot of families will draw closer together, allow some old wounds to heal, make some new and beautiful memories when they have this time together. This isn’t forever, so don’t be afraid. And, this isn’t forever, so make the most of it!

I’m here for you if you have questions! I’d love to encourage you however I can. Brave Moms and Dads and Many Other Caregivers, above all, enjoy those kids. Have fun. Make learning fun for them. They don’t need to be worried or afraid. Find reasons to laugh, and laugh lots and often. Good times are ahead, and the best is yet to come!


I sure hope this was an encouragement to you today! Could you use some more encouragement during this crazy pandemic? If so, you can subscribe and never miss my (weekly) posts by clicking right here. I’ll do a happy dance, and you’ll get encouraging words in your inbox once a week! (I’ll also send you an awesome Meal Plan Step-by-Step Guide… kind of like this post, but for meal planning. Definitely a win/win! Hint: I Instant Pot like nobody’s business.  


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