Since this blog is a bit about writing and a bit about homeschooling (and maybe some rantings if I’m feeling saucy), I thought today we’d combine the two.
Because there have to be more than one of us who are nutty enough to try to do both at one time, right?
Homeschooling and writing … never the twain shall meet. Or shall they? Well, of course they shall.
The first bit of advice I’m going to give you is this:
Organize as if your life depends on it. Does it? Okay, no not your actual life life, but your successful life does. Flying by the seat of your yoga pants does not a thriving life make. You need some structure, time to plan, and a schedule.
Yes, the S word. For some homeschoolers it’s socialization. For others, it’s scheduling. Sorry, but letting the day take you where it may is not going to be the best option for you if you’re combining homeschooling the creatures and writing your novel. You need to be organized and structured.
A sample week for a homeschooling parent who wants to be a novelist
Outline your book (this is typically an ongoing process, not one Monday out of your entire life) while your children work independently.
Over snacks (between breakfast and lunch), hash through ideas with your kids and get their opinions. While you might be writing something completely over their heads, they can still get excited for you, offer up creative ideas for characters, or give you inspiration for the kids in your book.
When it comes time to do the subjects you need to be fully present for (i.e. math), put away your book and focus accordingly.
If the kids nap, that is great writing time. If they have more independent work to do, join them in the same room and you can focus on your separate work at the same time. Consider using Google Docs or the like, something that will automatically save your work. As homeschooling parents, we get interrupted a lot.
Like, a lot.
Drop the kids at their co-op classes. If they don’t have any, consider starting some. Seriously. If you organize it, they will come. No one is great at teaching every subject, so “farm out” the ones you dislike or feel overwhelmed/uninterested in. While Junior is at Biology Lab with the co-op, you can take your laptop to a nearby coffee shop and really get some work done.
Please plan a day (I don’t care if it’s Tuesdays) to take some time off from homeschooling. Hopefully, the whole school day, but even a couple hours will do it. You’ll feel refreshed and ready to go the next day, Junior will be accountable to someone else, and you can crank some words out.
Once you’ve picked him back up, you’ll have the ride home to talk, or maybe you can listen to an audio book in the car that you both enjoy (bonus points if it inspires your own book).
If one child is old enough (over 9, say), this can be their day to do the cooking.
Bonus: kids tend to take a small eternity to prepare meals so you’ll get lots of writing done. Following recipes, measuring, chopping, researching their food, it’s all educational and it all counts as a successful homeschooling (and writing) day.
So, they’ll make a mess. It’s okay. The warmth you feel in your heart from pounding out 4,000 words will soothe you.
Short bursts. Do everything in 15-30 minute time-frames. Make a list and pass out copies to the kids. Put chores on there, things like dusting, windexing the mirrors, washing towels, vacuuming, giving the dog a bath, taking the pile of Goodwill giveaways to the car, etc.
Doing things occasionally in small bursts of time can cut down on frustrations (like being stuck on a math problem for an hour, or rewriting the same chapter that isn’t working for a whole morning). It also makes it more fun, and you’ll be shocked at how much you can accomplish.
Writing a query letter? 15 minutes. Sprucing up your Author page or Linked In profile? 15 minutes. Putting books on hold at the library? You get the idea.
Do all your schoolwork and writing outside. Pack a picnic, find a table or a beach, bring your fully charged laptop, or write by hand for a change. Use Fridays to grade your kid’s work from the week, edit your own writing, and tweak next week’s schedule.
Do the week’s laundry (kids older than 8 or so can totally do their own, start to finish).
Meal plan, and grocery shop.
Schedule ahead your posts for social media if possible. I like to schedule my Author posts two weeks at a time. It takes about an hour, but then I’m done and don’t have to think about what to post for a while.
Of course, the number of children you have, how supportive your spouse is (if you have one), how busy you are with extra-curricular activities, if your children have learning disabilities or special needs, all these things will factor into your schedule, but consider using the ideas above to kickstart your own planning.
- Get a calendar, white-board, app, or whatever floats your boat, to plan out your days. Remember, while you might not love structure and plans, the vast majority of children actually do.
- Learn to use your slow cooker or InstaPot. Meals that cheerfully bubble away only to magically turn into dinner on their own are a working homeschooler’s best friend.
- If you have access to a helper, like a part-time babysitter, use them wisely. What do you struggle with and need the most help with? If it’s cleaning and you have the funds, hire a house cleaner. That’s one less plate you’ll have to spin. If it’s cooking and your kid(s) are old enough to learn, share the load. If it’s homeschooling in general, look for co-ops and/or clubs your children can join to lighten your workload. If the grandparents are nearby, ask for slumber parties once in a while.
- Be diligent about bedtimes. If you happen to be a night owl and know you’ll do your best writing in the midnight hours, be strict about what times your children go to bed. Don’t negotiate. They can read for a while, or listen to music, before they drift off. They’ll be fine. Conversely, if you’re a morning person, get up earlier than they do. If that’s not possible, don’t feel guilty about officially starting your homeschooling day closer to lunch time. They can have the mornings to play or veg out, and you can have them to write.
- Set yourself at least a couple of “office hours” during the week. Maybe it’s 12-1 each day where the kids get free time and you get writing time. Maybe it’s a free for all Friday. They get crafts or movies, and you get writing time.
- Use the weekends. Whether you use them to focus solely on family and put away the book you’re working on, or use them to really get some words on the page because you don’t have to homeschool, use them wisely.
- Don’t waste the times that your kids are in extra-curricular activities. No, this doesn’t mean speed out of the parking lot at the gymnastics academy like a bat out of hell, but it does mean you have permission to use those times. Yes, I know, being present is all the rage, but Mom/Dad has a book to write and they’ve seen you do that same tumbling pass eleventy-seven times (on their sofa). So, take the laptop to basketball practice and don’t feel badly about it.
- Take days off. Public schools take ’em, you should take ’em too. Monday holidays, grading days, Spring Break, Thanksgiving Break, sick days, vacation days. Use them to regroup or to write like a maniac.
Finally, remember that these days aren’t going to last forever. You won’t be homeschooling forever (and it should lighten up as the kids get older). And once your book is written you can go back to the more organic from of homeschooling that maybe you missed when you were multitasking as an author.