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By Danielle Barfoot, mom to a boisterous teen and freelancer who writes about parenting and education. She writes regularly for Impaq Education, a curriculum provider for home, tutor and school education.

Homeschool is the new norm. The national COVID-19 lockdown has seen many learners who normally attend a traditional school temporarily become homeschoolers. Parents in turn now have to juggle working from home and educating their children. And, while it might seem like a daunting task at first, the flexible nature of home education means that you can work and homeschool your kids. With some planning, flexibility, teamwork, and creative scheduling, it can be done.

Juggling homeschool and work:

Forget about the norm

One of the biggest stereotypes of home education is that your children must work from 8am-2pm  Monday through Friday – basically, you must follow the traditional school schedule. The truth is that every homeschool is different and your schedule can be whatever works for you.

Depending on the hours you work, you can fit in a lesson before starting work in the morning, in the evenings after work, or even on weekends. If you work shifts, you can even shorten the “school week” by making the most of your days off. It might even mean considering year-round schooling, which will give you a greater amount of time to work with. (Just be sure not to miss important deadlines.) The key is to take advantage of the time you have, no matter when that is.

Find the right curriculum

One way to make the most of the time you have available is to spend as little of that time as possible on planning lessons. You can do this by choosing a curriculum with a comprehensive, pre-planned lesson plan. Finding a curriculum that includes a significant amount of independent work will also help. That way your children can continue working even when you are not around.

Due to the national lockdown and the uncertainty about the academic year, you may consider to homeschool your children for the rest of the year. If your children usually attend a traditional school that follows the CAPS curriculum, ensure that you choose a curriculum provider that also follows the CAPS curriculum. Your children can then easily integrate back into school next year.

Divide and conquer

If your spouse/partner is on board, you can share the home education load. If your work schedules differ, one parent can work on a few subjects, leaving the remaining subjects for the other parent – maybe Dad loves History and English while Mom excels at Maths and Science. Splitting up the responsibility for homeschooling this way allows each parent to contribute and to work to his or her strengths.

Rely on online tutoring

While you might not be able to take your child to a tutor for extra classes you can have the tutor come to you. Virtually, of course. Here’s how:

  • Join Impaq’s free webinars for Grade 10 – 12 learners. The webinars provide invaluable assistance in many of the FET subjects. To register for a free webinar, visit Impaq’s Events page.
  • If you are an Impaq learner, you can make use of the Guided Learning platform where we are continuously updating content. Tutors are also available daily from 08:00 to 13:00 to answer your subject-related queries.
  • Use TutaMe for online tutoring services and find a qualified and affordable tutor at the tap of a button.

Related: Ten tips to help you cope with school closures

Make use of free resources

There are many free resources available online that can help your child learn and discover new things from the comfort of your home. ITSI and Excom are offering learners interactive CAPS-aligned e-books for free during the lockdown. Subjects include Mathematics, Business Studies, Physical Sciences, Accounting, Life Sciences and much more.

Cami is also offering a 14-day free trial so learners can practise their skills during the lockdown. The fun educational software programs encourage learners to play interactive games and to actively participate in solving sums and problems. The lessons are pre-planned, and the exercises are marked by the program, which means less work for you. Download your free Cami Web trial of Cami Maths (Grade R – 7), Cami Perceptual Skills Builder (Grade R – 3) or Cami Maths for Special Needs (Grade R – 5 or 8 – 18 years old).

Work smart

When you work and homeschool, you may need to find inventive ways to sneak in learning during everyday activities. For example:

  • Let your children listen to audiobooks while you work.
  • Allow them to watch educational documentaries.
  • Use prescribed readers as bedtime reading.
  • Practice estimation, measuring and rounding by getting your children to help you cook.
  • Work on analysis, comprehension and inference around the dinner table by asking them to describe the characters in a show or movie they’re watching or a book they’re reading, then discussing the genre, foreshadowing, etc.

Plan ahead

Working parents need to plan the homeschooling day or week ahead. Check in daily, perhaps during dinner, so that everyone is on the same page regarding your expectations. Discuss what you expect your children to do independently and when an adult will be available to help. During this time, be open to suggestions from your family about how to make things run smoothly.

Related: Tips for studying from home during lockdown

Remain flexible

Even the best-laid plans often go awry. This is especially true for homeschooling parents. Add to that the demands of a job, and you will quickly learn that things do not always go the way you planned. If/when that happens, make the most of what you can accomplish and try again the following day.

Once you get beyond the mindset that school must happen between set hours from Monday to Friday and that children should be in bed by 20:00, there’s room to get creative with the homeschool schedule. Evenings and weekends can be extremely productive, so use them well.

Homeschooling while working is undoubtedly challenging, but it is not impossible. Follow the tips above to ensure your children can continue their learning journey at home.

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