Professional Development

April 14, 2020

How to Build a Distance Learning Schedule That Works For You

Distance learning, learning at home, crisis homeschooling – no matter what you call it, most of us are doing it. And it’s hard. I’m in the same boat with all of you! Working from home and setting up a homeschool schedule to help my own children was a challenge. I finally found a schedule that works really well for my family, and I hope you can find some inspiration to make a distance learning schedule that works for your family.

First, I want to bust a misconception about learning at home right now. Although students are at school from 8:00-3:00, you don’t need to do “school work” with your children for seven hours a day. At school, one teacher is teaching 20+ students at a time. That requires more time for all subjects plus lunchtime, specials, and transition time.

At home with one to several children, you can help them master their standards in a shorter amount of time.

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Tip # 1: Build in time in the morning for you to prepare for the day.

At school, students work on “morning work” so the teacher can take attendance, turn in lunch order information, and go through folders to look for important notes. You could set up a time for yourself to be able to prepare for the day, too. This will help you feel more organized when you get started. You can see what I did for morning work in THIS POST. Most of these will work at home, too!

Allow your students to explore and work on fine motor activities in their morning work stations! This time of day is great to squeeze in some extra fine motor practice and allow for them to play!

For our family, we use breakfast time as a whole group to talk about the plan for the day, set expectations for everyone, and do our daily family devotional. I have some friends who also use breakfast to read a book aloud to the whole family.

In my family’s schedule, after breakfast, I built in an hour of morning playtime so I could gather books and supplies that I’ll need for the day to do school with my two oldest kids. You can also use this time to do any morning chores you might want to get done.

Tip # 2: Start by making a family schedule.

If you start with your family schedule, you’ll be able to see how and when you can fit in school time. I shared four tips for setting up for homeschooling HERE. You can block out times when you and/or your spouse are at work (or working from home time), lunch, naps, etc.

For our family, we have two working parents, two school-aged kids, and a toddler. I needed to write down our schedule so we could easily manage our day. You’ll see that we built in a few hours a day for school. Remember, you don’t need seven hours of school time a day.

If you just can’t find a few hours in your day Monday through Friday due to working outside of the home, that’s okay. This isn’t typical homeschooling – it’s more like crisis homeschooling. Do what you can during the week, and use the weekends to squeeze in school work.

Tip #3: Create your homeschool schedule with content.

Grab a pencil and paper (or computer) and write down the content you need to cover in your homeschool schedule. Do your best to work out a plan that works best for your kids.

Remember, if something isn’t working for you, you are allowed to change it.

When I created my kids’ school schedule and content to teach, I tried to include these things:

  • what the school sent home to do
  • skills my children needed to work on based on their last progress report
  • things I know they need to practice based on what I see in their homework at home

Here is a peek at what we did one week. Is it perfect? Absolutely not! But the kids learned and I kept my sanity! ๐Ÿ˜‰

I decided to write out a week at a time for all subjects: reading, writing, math, science and social studies, and physical movement.

I tried to choose activities that I already had or that the school provided us. Finally, I also tried to implement things I can do with both of my kids at the same time since they’re so close in age.

Quick Homeschool Schedule Tips:

One common question I hear is, “How long do I spend on each subject?”. I want to encourage you that there is no right or wrong answer. I will share some guidelines, but please don’t feel like this is what you have to do to be successful.

  • Reading lesson: 15-20 minutes (plus independent reading time throughout the day)
  • Writing time: 20 minutes
  • Science/Social Studies: 30 minutes
  • Math: 20 to 30 minutes
  • Physical movement: 30 minutes
  • Phonics/One-on-one teaching time: 20-30 minutes (other children are doing stations or menus)

As you can see, this only adds up to a few hours a day, which is all you’ll need. Intentional time teaching kids one-on-one or in a small group at home really makes a difference in learning.

Tip # 4: Use stations to make time to help a child one-on-one.

Setting up stations are a great way for kids to have meaningful tasks to do and for you to be able to work one-on-one with one of your kids if you have multiple that you are homeschooling. When we do stations, one of my kids does a station for 15 minutes, and the other one works with me to do a phonics lesson.

Some ideas for stations could be:

  • Play a board game or card game
  • Do a puzzle
  • Listen to a book on YouTube and fill out a listening station data sheet (free on my blog HERE)
  • Make a card or picture for a friend
  • Write a story
  • Do a page from a workbook (math, phonics, reading, etc)
  • Write a letter to someone
  • Watch an art video and create a piece of work
  • Play a Boom Card Game (Try a FREE one!)
  • Do a literacy activity on an app or website (see my favorites HERE)

The main idea behind stations is for children to be doing something meaningful and educational that they can do independently. You can make them easy for yourself like the ones on this list so you’re not recreating the wheel.

Tip # 5: Include brain breaks so your kids can stay focused and stretch their legs.

When kids are at school, teachers build in plenty of brain breaks for kids to get a chance to stretch their legs and refocus. Brain breaks can be short or long, depending on what you’re needing. You can do a short brain break (5 minutes) in between activities or a longer break (15-20 minutes) in between subjects. Here are some ideas for brain breaks for all ages:

  • Online kids yoga class (check some out HERE)
  • Online kids dance class (check some out HERE)
  • Go for a bike ride or scooter ride
  • Blow bubbles outside
  • Play soccer, football, basketball
  • Go on a nature walk or scavenger hunt
  • Build an obstacle course
  • Jump rope
  • Fluency and Fitness

As the parent, you can use the brain break time to prepare for the next activity, get a quick chore done, prepare lunch, or participate in the brain break if you need one, too!

Tip #6: Use a menu of activities for kids to pick from.

One way to make the day more fun is to let the kids pick an activity to do. Kids love the ability to have choice and enjoy completing the challenge or menu. I like to have my kids complete a menu activity as they’re finishing up lunch and for a little while after. Here are a few ideas:

  • Life Skills Bingo Card (Grab the free one in THIS POST.)
  • Reading Challenge (Find one HERE. Complete one activity from page two each day.)
  • Menu card with all of the brain breaks and station activities and let the kids choose which one to do

Tip #7: How to Teach Your School-Aged Kids with Younger Siblings At Home

A lot of us have younger siblings at home too, and teaching our older children and entertaining the younger ones can be tricky. I totally understand! There are a ton of activities and resources out there that are directed towards toddlers and preschoolers. Here are few ideas to help manage younger siblings:

  • Include them when you can in activities like listening to read alouds, writing time (they can color a picture, too!), and physical movement time.
  • In math, give them extra manipulatives to play with.
  • Use age-appropriate puzzles for them to complete.
  • Have baskets with “special” toys to set out. These could be toys they haven’t played with in a while that you only get out during school time. Rotate the baskets throughout the week.
  • Let them do some less messy activities next to you like Play-Doh, paint with water books, or Water Wow books.
  • Make them a sensory bin to play in. Use crinkle-cut shredded paper or (plain paper) in a tub and hide small toys in it for kids to find. You can also have them use tongs for fine motor practice.

Tip #8: Remember to be flexible and make changes to your homeschool schedule as needed.

The goal is to do your best every day, and that will look different from day to day. If my toddler is extra fussy one day, it’s harder for me to cover everything I wanted to. And that’s okay!

If your homeschool or distance learning schedule starts to not work for you or go as smoothly as it did at one point, change it up and try again. I love a schedule because it helps hold me accountable, but I also try to remember that there is grace for the difficult time we’re in right now.

Other Helpful Posts for Parents While Distance Learning

Happy Teaching,


8 Get to Know You Games for Distance Learning

Getting to know your students can be trickier while distance learning. Grab this FREE printable with eight get-to-know-you games and activities so that you can start connecting with students, help them get to know each other, and build a positive classroom community.

Hi, I'm Amanda

I’m a K-1 teacher who is passionate about making lessons your studentsย loveย and that areย easy to implementย for teachers.ย ย Helping teachers like you navigate their way through their literacy block brings me great joy. I am a lifelong learner who loves staying on top of current literacy learning and practices. Here, youโ€™ll find the tools you need to move your K-2 students forward!


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