For the many parents who are forced to work remotely as a result of the spread of COVID-19, trying to do their jobs while tending to their children’s needs has become one of the most trying aspects of the pandemic. Helping kids with their schoolwork, keeping them entertained (and fed!) while also being available for work calls and responsibilities can be a major feat. It’s no wonder that many parents say navigating the day-to-day of virtual learning and homeschooling has taken some trial and error. 

We asked our Thrive community to share their most creative and efficient homeschooling tips for keeping kids engaged while at home. Which of these will you try?

Start the day with a family activity

“We don’t dive into work or school work until we’ve gone for a family walk and played tag. My husband and I were honestly annoyed at first when we started making time for tag. Our looming to-do lists were on our minds, but that burst of sprints, play, and laughter on our son’s face has become one of the favorite parts of our day. Plus, he’s so much more focused on his work when he’s done what he wants in the morning and let off some energy.”

—Lisa Pezik, business strategist, Ancaster, Ontario, Canada

Remember that each child is different

“As a mom of two children and full-time COO, I apply my favorite workplace productivity tips both within my company and at home. Faced with virtual learning during lockdown, I quickly realized that one size does not fit all. At first, I failed with my son by pushing him too much and not connecting. Now, we create daily lists with specific tasks, times, and rewards for his work. He is now thriving and uses the system to create more free time. On the flip side, my daughter is a self-starter, and was on track from the start with little guidance. Every child is different!”

—Kerry Wekelo, COO, Reston, VA 

Carve out intentional breaks

“I’ve found it helpful to get outside, go for hikes, and plan whatever activities you can between learning sessions. When I need a break from teaching, my kids watch educational shows on PBS or something else about animals. I also have online educational games that we use, in addition to what we’re doing for learning. This ensures that they can play educational games, and it gives me my much-needed break time.”

—Nichole L., Reno, NV

Encourage time away from screens

“In my homeschool, the best tip I have is for students to take regular breaks from their screens. They can use the Pomodoro technique as a guideline. It is a great way to break up tasks and stay refreshed.”

—Mandy Halgreen, CEO and teacher, Bulawayo, Zimbabwe

Try the untraditional route

“My best advice is to avoid being hard on yourself when homeschooling your kids. We only do traditional instruction for an hour or two each day, and take a day off if we need one. They are happier this way and seem to be retaining more than they do in traditional school. It also helps to find activities that they enjoy. In our house, we bake and learn fractions while baking, as well as reading and following directions. One kid thrives with online programs, while I do a more hands-on approach with my other kid.”

—Nichole L., Reno, NV

Use the rooms in your house for learning games

“As the mother and former educator, I know the struggles of so many parents feeling overwhelmed during this quarantine. They’re not really ‘homeschooling,’ which is a conscious and planned event, but ‘crisis intervention schooling.’ About a month ago, I started posting lesson ideas, activities, strategies, and resources. All of the ideas are based on how our brains learn. All of my suggestions use real life as the classroom, even though families are social distancing. Lessons include using maps with family photos posted in your home to illustrate where you’ve visited, or even taking a ‘math scavenger hunt’ around your home to search for all of the ways math is used in each room!”

—Kari Kling, educator, coach, speaker, and author, Phoenix, AZ

Be OK with granting a “snow day”

“When hard emotions coincide with schoolwork, we stop. Some days he’s not feeling it and tears start, or he gets up from the table repeatedly. We listen to the cue and call it a ‘snow day,’ even though there is no snow at the moment. I’m not worried about him catching up, but I am mindful of his confidence and emotions. We’ve learned that it’s important to set realistic expectations.”

—Lisa Pezik, business strategist, Ancaster, Ontario, Canada

Avoid comparing yourself to other parents

“My husband and I both have full-time careers, and when the pandemic started, neither of us felt we could take on the role of being a stay-at-home educator as well. I kept seeing images on social media of parents creating perfect schedules for their kids, and I felt like I was failing as a parent on top of not feeling as productive and creative in my own work. After a few weeks, I made the decision to craft a different narrative — one that matched my ideals and my reality. I have never been a micromanaging parent, so why would I start managing my kids’ time and schoolwork now? I decided that we needed to follow a different operating manual, and it empowered me and my kids to create a different story. I gave my children the freedom to fail, but it also gave them the freedom to succeed. I cognitively shifted my thinking by embracing my reality for what it is. And we are all better off for it.”

—Kristin Heck Sajadi, founder, CEO, and adjunct sociology professor, Lexington, KY

Do you have a creative tip that’s helped you navigate homeschooling during this time? Share it with us in the comments!

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  • Marina Khidekel

    Chief Content Officer at Thrive

    Marina leads strategy, ideation and execution of Thrive's content company-wide, including cross-platform brand partnership and content marketing campaigns, curricula, and the voice of the Thrive platform. She's the author of Thrive's first book, Your Time to Thrive. In her role, Marina brings Thrive's audience actionable, science-backed tips for reducing stress and improving their physical and mental well-being, and shares those insights on panels and in national outlets like NBC's TODAY. Previously, Marina held senior editorial roles at Women's Health, Cosmopolitan, and Glamour, where she edited award-winning health and mental health features and spearheaded the campaigns and partnerships around them.