Prisma is the world’s most engaging virtual school that combines a fun, real-world curriculum with powerful mentorship from experienced coaches and a supportive peer community
When the pandemic sent workers and students home, suddenly kitchen tables across the world transformed into office-classroom blends. The whole family learned to jump on and off of Zoom meetings, trying to coordinate professional responsibilities, childcare and education.
For all the chaos and frustration of those early pandemic days, interest in remote schooling increased, as families began to see the benefits: increased academic flexibility, the ability to get more involved in their child’s education and have more quality time with family members — not to mention the ability to travel without worrying about the school calendar.
Homeschooling can be a heavy lift, for stay-at-home parents or those who work full-time. So if you’re a family who wants it ‘all’ — to homeschool and to work from home — how do you reconcile those two all-consuming roles?
That was one of the questions that led us to found Prisma. We wanted to make home-based learning possible for more families by eliminating the typical challenges of the homeschool day: a daily schedule with plenty of room for developing creativity and critical thinking, an evidence-backed curriculum, one-on-one learner support, social interactions with a diverse peer group, and a close-knit community.
In developing a program that allows families to work, play, learn from home, here’s what we learned.
Homeschooling is incredibly flexible, but with great power comes great responsibility: set expectations, parameters and boundaries for everyone involved.
Start from any non-negotiables or set commitments in your work schedule, whether it’s regular team-meetings, client appointments, or quiet time you need to hash out a project.
Then think about how to coordinate those commitments with your goals for your child’s learning: Will you be providing instruction at certain times of the school day? Do you need to give daily feedback, drive your child to appointments outside the home, or supervise projects? What will happen in the event your child needs you when you have a time-sensitive work commitment? If there are two working parents in the household, how can these commitments be distributed to accommodate two full-time jobs?
With these constraints in mind, line up your work and homeschool schedule. (It probably won’t all line up perfectly at first, but at least you’ll have specific areas to troubleshoot.)
However you decide to set up your day, we recommend incorporating an early morning routine to transition from family time to school and work time, for example, after you clean up from breakfast. You can commit to a regular start time, with each family member sharing their goals for the day — as Prisma learners do in a daily standup with peers— followed with periodic check-ins at meal times.
As you institute these rituals, include each family member, adults and all kids, younger children too. As we wrote in a previous post on habits, it’s important to have everyone model the same behaviors — and that you’re not expecting behavior from kids that you’re not doing yourself. If you agree to avoid social media during school hours, make sure you aren’t browsing Facebook in between Zoom calls.
Once you have parameters, you need to make sure they’re practical. It’s no use telling your child they need to work independently, if they don’t have a clear idea of how to get their day started.
This is where technology can be your friend: at Prisma we have start pages for kids with their calendar, their task list, and all the materials set up for them, so they know what to do the moment they sit down at their desk. (You could try an analog version of this as well, with all the physical books organized within reach.)
Depending on your schedule, plan for check-ins during the day: while older children and high school aged kids may not need a lot of time from you, you should still plan on touching base every few hours to ensure they aren’t spinning their wheels.
When transitioning from a traditional public school environment, new homeschooling parents are often surprised to find how quickly they can cover the required academic material — and how much free time is left over.
If that’s the case for you, you’re doing it right.
But don’t think you have to fill 8 hours a day with work. Creative and critical thinking require unstructured time, a blank canvas where kids can doodle to their heart’s content. Let your child to use this time to do whatever gets them excited, whether its arts, technology, construction, or researching a passion project on any topic under the sun. Don’t look for specific results from this play — but you probably will find remarkable outgrowths where you least expect them.
The above advice is geared towards running a homeschool program during work hours, but there’s another aspect to it entirely: choosing or developing your curriculum.
For parents who don’t have the expertise to plan their child’s school year — nor the time to acquire it — and who want their child to have a certain amount of structure, we recommend enlisting professional support.
One popular option, for parents who want an in-person experience, is to form a small homeschool co-op with local homeschool families. While it may require a steep startup cost in terms of time and energy (and potentially funds), once you find the instructor and students, you should expect to be able to work from home without interruption.
Another popular solution for working parents is online learning, because these programs offer an academic program, a regular schedule, professional instruction and, in some cases, extracurriculars and a cohort of peers. Prisma parents — many of whom work full-time from home — are expected to engage with their children’s education and provide regular feedback (which homeschooling parents generally want), but without having to become professional educators themselves.
Peer-to-peer learning is a crucial part of child development that often gets missed when homeschooling. By the same token, people who work from home might miss the camaraderie of water cooler chats.
A win-win solution is to connect with other homeschool families, to arrange in-person meetups where kids and parents can co-work. We’ve seen families in our community who have traveled to the same location, and combined schoolwork, remote work and experiential learning, all from the same AirBnB.
We’re not big advocates of perfection — in homeschooling or in life — but we will say that with practice, your family will find more of what works — and let go of the rest. Homeschooling while working, even part-time, can feel like a crash course in time management, so use the experience as an opportunity to embrace real-time experimentation.
Remember, developing critical thinking skills is one of the most valuable parts of child development, so let them know you’re depending on them to analyze their education — including any obstacles — and give their feedback as well. If they know you’re taking their opinion seriously, they’ll be more likely to rise to the occasion and give their best.
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