How to structure the day when homeschooling

Natalie Costa
Leading Education Expert and Former School Teacher

How to structure the day when homeschooling

Parents should be patting themselves on the back for doing such an incredible job in jugging work, home-schooling and family life. Everyone has been adapting to the changing circumstances and managing to keep their household running despite the challenges. 

By now, many will have put together a structure for their day, but now it’s about keeping the young minds in your household happy and motivated throughout the days, weeks and months ahead. 

What happens when children start to miss being around their friends? And what is the best way to keep children engaged with their spirits up while you continue to work, study, and play together under one roof?

We hope the following tips will give you several ideas that help along the way.  

STRUCTURING THE DAY FOR SCHOOL, WORK AND PLAY

Don’t try and fill all 6 hours with home-schooling 

When children are at school, they have a real mix of activities to keep them busy throughout the day. During lesson time they aren’t expected to learn solidly for an hour. In fact, often only a small portion of the time is spent actually teaching, the rest is when children are encouraged to do break off activities on their own. They will also, of course, spend some of the time chatting away with their friends. 

Children thrive with structure but have a ‘fluid’ structure, mix up the activities and implement them in short bursts to keep children engaged.

Remember you are not a teacher

Home-schooling in the traditional sense is very much a choice, so don’t try and meet the same standards of schooling as others. The lockdown is very much crisis management of a situation you have been thrown into, so you can’t compare it like-for-like. 

You are, of course, your child’s primary educator, but you’re probably not a qualified teacher. If the work is too challenging, don’t put pressure on yourself. 

Never compare yourself to others

There will always be parents who proudly share their achievements, whether that’s showing off a great craft project they’ve completed with their child or posting pictures of the amazing breakthrough they’ve had while home-schooling.  

It can be so easy to compare your own efforts to those of others, but really try not to. The achievements of others do not reflect yours in any way. Each family is different, and we will all have unique learning and teaching styles. By all means use the internet for inspiration and ideas but always do what feels right for you and your family. 

Host a morning meeting

Each morning host a family meeting where you discuss together what’s going to happen in the day ahead. This should only take a few minutes, but by communicating to your children what the next few hours will look like, they’ll know what to expect. 

Keep learning to bitesize chunks

Just because lessons in school last for an hour, doesn’t mean you have to teach for an hour. While older children may be able to entertain themselves for longer, for young children, split activities into chunks that last between 15-20 minutes each. Switch between activities where you teach and where they are then expected to do some learning on their own.

Look for opportunities around the house 

There are all sorts of activities around the house that can keep children busy and entertained while still learning – just in a different way.

Children will happily learn on their own and this can give you valuable time to get on with your day. 

Depending on their age, activities could include: 

  • Ask them to write a story about one of their toys or Teddy bears
  • Challenge them to build a bridge from one surface to another using LEGO or only using paper and Sellotape
  • See if they can use the contents of your recycling to build a structure that will protect an egg from cracking if it’s thrown on the ground from a height
  • Do a puzzle
  • Watch a nature documentary and then write about what they learnt
  • Create Playdough animals and tell Mum or Dad about what each animal eats, where they live etc.

 

Explain co-learning

Trying to work and home-school at the same time can be tough. For many, we still must pay the bills and need time to focus on our own work. By explaining to children that Mummy and/or Daddy need to also have time to ‘learn’, they will more easily understand why they can’t always have your full undivided attention. 

Break up the day with exercise 

Get children up and moving for five minutes at least every hour. Put on some music and dance, go for a walk close to home, or set them an active challenge. All these things will change their energetic state and stop them feeling lethargic or bored. 

Keep the tough stuff for the morning

For most of us, our brains work best in the morning, before the post lunch slump or mid afternoon when little minds start to get distracted and tired. Aim to do the challenging mental tasks, such as numeracy or literacy, in the morning as this is when you’ll get the most out of your children.  

Teach non-traditional subjects

Consider incorporating other important skills and lessons into your day. 

For example, teach children about gratitude, kindness or compassion. You could even share practical skills, like how to change a tyre, how to plan meals for the week, or how to sew on a button. These are all vitally important life skills that will benefit them in the future. 

Understand that every day is different

You are bound to find that while some days it seems like you’re cooking on gas and everything goes without a hitch, on other’s nothing will get done and home-schooling will seem like a total disaster. This is perfectly normal!

Start and end the day strong

As long as you start and end the day strong, that’s what matters. Don’t worry if the middle is a bit messy!

Bookend your day with positive intentions and activities. Begin the day by setting out positive intentions and end with a fun activity, such as an online drawing class or family dance off!

Celebrate the small wins

Finally, don’t forget to celebrate the small wins. Whether it’s as simple as your child having a lightbulb moment with an equation they’ve been struggling with, or you’ve managed to have a full hour without any tantrums, every success – no matter how big or small – should be acknowledged. 


Think about how you would like to remember this time in terms of how you and your children felt. The most important thing is to spend the time doing activities that nourish you and your child. Education doesn’t have to be the only priority, remember to use it as a time to connect with your children and strengthen your bonds even further.

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