Many of you have asked what a work-at-home schedule looks like while homeschooling 2 kids bilingually.
Now, thousands upon thousands of you have been thrown into this situation.
Everyone is wondering “How can I work from home, teach my kids, and keep them entertained everyday?”
Give yourself grace as you find a new rhythm for your family.
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In this post, I’ll share:
- Our transition to working at home and homeschooling life
- Benefits of Montessori-inspired 3-hour work blocks
- Sample work-at-home parent bilingual homeschool schedule
- Printable homeschool schedule template
- Encouraging the minority language
- Tips for work-at-home parents who are homeschooling young kids
1. Transitioning to homeschooling while working at home
Six years ago around the time my daughter was born, I transitioned from full-time academic pediatrics to working-at-home as a medical writer.
Initially, I continued to see patients part-time but eventually dropped clinical care to focus on medical writing and now managing this blog.
Over the years, my writing hours have ranged from part-time to overtime.
Meanwhile, my 6-year-old daughter has been attending school part-time 2 days per week, which meant I have been homeschooling her part-time.
My 3-year-old son has been tagging along with informal – but still very important – learning through play.
Usually, we have a nanny 2-3 times/week on the days my daughter goes to the hybrid school.
However, our nanny has not been able to come for several months, so I have been working from home while homeschooling my kids.
If you’ve been following us over the years, you’ll know that it’s taken trial and error to figure out what works, especially as the kids grow and their needs change.
On days when I wonder if homeschooling was the right choice (now there is no choice), I remind myself the benefits:
- Maximizing time for speaking minority languages
- More bonding time for me and both kids
- Learning at child’s own level and pace (eg, our hybrid school was able to accommodate grade-skipping)
- Efficient learning schedule means more time for free play
I’ll share what we’ve learned and what helps us survive and thrive now.
2. Benefits of Montessori-inspired 3-hour work blocks for homeschooling
A daily routine is incredibly important but there needs to be breathing room, too.
In contrast to traditional schools where lessons are scheduled by the hour or even more frequently, I’ve found rigid time limits to be counterproductive with young kids.
Our day is roughly divided in 3-hour blocks (with the exception of nighttime):
- 早上 (Zǎoshang / MORNING) – Work or play
- 中午 (Zhōngwǔ / MIDDAY) – Kids’ quiet time while mommy works
- 下午 (Xiàwǔ / AFTERNOON) – Play
- 晚上 (Wǎnshàng / EVENING) – Wind down
- 夜晚 (Yèwǎn / NIGHT) – Kids sleep while mommy works
The blocks are inspired by Dr. Maria Montessori’s observations that children (ages 3 and up) have more time to delve deep in their learning before switching tasks.
Three-hour time blocks also gives room for flexibility for the whole family.
For example, if the weather is better in the morning and everyone is cranky, then we will postpone homework and start the day with play.
It also gives kids the chance to focus on a school subject longer rather than jumping from one topic to the next.
Until you come up with your own work-at-home homeschool schedule, here’s our template that you can adapt from.
3. Sample work-at-home bilingual homeschool routine
Here is our general homeschool routine when I work at home without our nanny.
Some adjustments have been made to make being with the kids 24/7 more bearable.
Note that typical activities like swim, soccer, piano, Chinese lessons, and play dates have all been suspended due to social distancing.
However, previously, these were spread out throughout the week so that we were not rushing to so many places in one day.
Block 1: 8am-11am 早上 (Zǎoshang / MORNING)
Our day has been starting later due to the recent daylight savings time.
However, usually everyone is awake by sunrise.
- First things first:
- Before my kids wake up, I try to give myself some time to read a bible verse to start the day with the right mindset.
- Then I quickly skim through emails, social media notifications, and the news.
- I go through a mental to do list of the day, while eating breakfast before or with the kids.
- When the kids wake up, they usually want to play together for a little while before they realize they are ravenous.
- Then it’s time for their breakfast routine:
- Drink water
- Brush teeth
- Change clothes
- Then it’s time for their breakfast routine:
- Homework time (if too cold outside)
- 6-year-old does:
- Math and copywork independently
- Spelling, grammar, literature, and history with mom
- 3-year-old does 1 or 2 of the following:
- Plays with open-ended toys like blocks, little cars, animal toys
- Low-prep Chinese activities (eg, sticker matching, sticker tracing, highlighter tracing, hide and find games)
- If he’s antsy, water play (with pipettes!) and homemade play dough tend to capture his focus and give him a much needed sensory experience.
- 6-year-old does:
My 6-year-old usually finishes her homework in less than 1-2 hours. Many homeschoolers typically finish academics faster than a traditional full-day school.
For my son, here are 35+ Fun, Easy Chinese Activities (Listening Speaking, Reading, Writing) that I prep the night or just make up on the spot.
This makes him feel special, because he’s doing work with us.
Block 2: 11am-2pm 中午 (Zhōngwǔ / MIDDAY)
- Lunch: My son usually helps me prepare a simple lunch while my daughter practices piano or wraps up homework. These meals take less than 30 minutes prepare, and then we pray and eat together.
- If we head out, my son will take a car nap.
- If we stay in, my son will (hopefully) nap in his room while my daughter has reading/quiet time in her bedroom. Backup plan if he won’t nap: quiet time with sister. This is when I can get some work done and check emails.
Block 3: 2am-5pm 下午 (Xiàwǔ / AFTERNOON)
This block is for free play indoors or outside.
- If the weather is nice, I try to take them hiking, ride scooters, or play soccer so they get lots of energy out. (We’re cautious about finding empty places where we can be careful about social distancing to minimize infection risk.) When we get home, clothes go straight in the hamper. We shower immediately to prevent bringing germs into the house.
- If the kids are playing inside, they usually build forts, play hide-and-seek, do puzzles, or play board games. I don’t usually plan anything for this time and let them figure it out. But if nap time was a struggle, then I’ll prepare something special for my son to thank him for sticking to quiet time.
- Then they are expected to clean up everything. I remind them that if they want the privilege of these things, they must put things back where they came from.
Block 4: 5pm-9pm 晚上 (Wǎnshàng / EVENING)
As we wind down for the evening,
- Eat simple dinner (son often helps)
- Light chores (eg, wipe dining table, vacuum/sweep, fold laundry)
If we didn’t get to go out, I’ll try to sneak on my indoor bike while the kids play next to me.
Bedtime routine consists of:
- Changing to pajamas
- Brushing/flossing teeth
- Story time: usually the kids will read 1-2 stories with Luka Reading Robot and then another couple books with me or my husband.
Block 5: 9pm-8am 夜晚 (Yèwǎn / NIGHT)
After the kids go to bed, my husband and I are on our computers working, often past midnight.
First, my husband and I catch up about our days. Then, it’s time to read the news and tackle a mountain of messages.
Once a week, we do telephone bible study with my brother-in-law who’s a pastor and my sister-in-law.
When my daughter was younger, I would also use the night to prep a Chinese learning activity.
Admittedly with my son, I often prep on the fly as I’m too busy working at night.
But if this all new to you, spending time the night before can help make the next day go a little easier.
4. Printable work-at-home homeschool template in English and Chinese
Click on the following links below to download the work-at-home homeschool template in your desired language:
You or your child can write in the tasks or use Post-It note strips to move certain tasks around as needed.
If you have Adobe pro, you can edit the schedule to type in your child’s name(s) and daily routine.
In addition to your to-do list, create a visual daily routine chart for your child to help them through transitions.
5. Encouraging the minority language
The exception is when we read the bible or my daughter’s homework.
These resources are in English, but we try to discuss concepts bilingually.
6. 10 Tips for work-at-home parents who are homeschooling young kids
Here are 10 survival tips for work-at-home homeschooling parents based on our experience.
How are you coping with work-at-home homeschooling life?
What are your children’s ages and what are you juggling with now?
Have you come across other tips that have helped your family?
Juggling work while making sure kids are fed, clean, healthy, and educated can sometimes feel like a circus.
Remember to give your family time to adjust and to process everything.
We are all definitely learning as we go, and we can encourage each other!
More about bilingual homeschooling as a work-at-home parent
- Homework Routine: 6 Tips for Survival and Success
- Schedule Challenges with 2-and 5-Year-Old Kids Learning 3 Languages
- Kids Art Cart, Storage System, and Organization Tips