A child and a young adult sit at a table doing work.
Homeschooling your kids while teleworking during the COVID-19 pandemic? Keep expectations realistic for yourself and your children and know that schedules will need to be fluid. (Getty Images)

5 tips for homeschooling your kids during the COVID-19 pandemic

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Parents with children — especially younger children in school — are feeling the time crunch at home as they try to balance work, homeschooling and household responsibilities during the COVID-19 pandemic. Cassandra Willis, Ph.D., an adjunct instructor in the Virginia Commonwealth University School of Education and a 2019 graduate of the school, offers some tips for homeschooling.

Develop a fluid schedule for kids to follow.

My daughter is in seventh grade, and my son is in fourth grade. I don’t expect them to be engaged in academics all day, but I do want them to be up, dressed and showered by a certain time every morning. They need to check their email and school accounts, and have reading time.

My daughter's pretty self-paced and motivated so she doesn’t have to be scheduled as much, but since my son is a little younger, he needs a bit more structure. He’s been participating in the VCU College of Engineering’s free online coding camp called Code Beat. It provides some learning time that’s not as structured as his regular math, science, social studies and reading classes.

A family pose behind a picture frame with "V C U School of Education" printed on it.
Cassandra Willis and her family at the May 2019 VCU School of Education Graduation Reception in Oliver Hall Courtyard. (Courtesy photo)

Make sure kids read every day.

It can be a novel, an instructional manual, or a graphic novel. You can set up an all-digital account with Richmond Public Library. They have wonderful books for reading online.

Take time to go outside.

The time that we go outside varies; it’s not set in stone. Yesterday, we washed the car. Before Gov. Ralph Northam’s stay-at-home order, we would walk to Chick-fil-A or the Target in our neighborhood, or just walk around the neighborhood. It's good for everyone’s peace of mind, especially for kids. My son is an extrovert, so for him, being in the house all day is difficult.

Remember you are working at home, not working from home.

We have to shift our thinking. Some people put unrealistic expectations on themselves when they have kids or parents they're taking care of in the home. It's unrealistic to say that you're going to work for 10 hours straight. I will work 10 hours a day, but it may be that I'm spacing it out, getting in some hours after my children go to bed or very early in the morning.

Check in with your kids. This is just as challenging on them as it is on you.

It’s all about balance, trying to keep your children in their routines, and being creative about what you do with them. Keep them informed, but don’t let them veg out on the news. Even though my children are smart and curious about what’s happening, why would I let them listen to news about thousands of people dying every single day and expect them to function at a high level?

You have to be in tune to their moods and their needs. Even if it's walking around the block, playing volleyball in the backyard, or whatever you can do within your space, do something to make sure that they're OK.