How can I work from home with kids during the coronavirus pandemic?

How do you work from home with your kids off school during the coronavirus crisis, without driving your entire family up the wall?

Here are a few ideas to help us all through.

Set a schedule

Stick to a routine, Kids need a schedule.

Kids are more cooperative with a schedule if they help create it. So sit down with some paper and markers and set time for school work, quiet play, outside time and maybe even texting their friends.

Chris Durst, founder of, urged parents to talk to their kids and make it an adventure. Give them an incentive to be good co-workers.

“If they want me to be done on time, they have to do their jobs well.”

Make your own cubicle

Set up an office for yourself, off-limits, where mom and dad can work and it’s off-limits for kids. A door would be nice, but half a dining room table could work too. Even a closet door that blocks your view of the rest of the house could be helpful.

Give your kids their own school work space, nearby if they need some help and encouragement from you. That way, you can leave it set up for the next few weeks.

Use a signal, so that your kids know not to bother you “unless the house is on fire and brains are spilling out of ears I can’t be bothered. Kids understand that,”

Use screen time for education

My kids’ schools are using online lessons.

Great Lakes Science Center is offering Curiosity Corner Live lessons on the Science Center’s YouTube channel, with new content posted every weekday, including experiments you can do at home, quizzes, games and more. Caring Cubs, a kid-focused volunteering site, will post an idea online every day for kids to help their community.

Parents posted a spreadsheet of free online educational resources here.

If you’re setting kids up for independent learning offline, spend 10-15 minutes explaining the assignment and what they expect. Otherwise, you’re going to get “Mom, mom, mom,” in the middle of your conference call.

Take a break and get outside

While doctors advise avoiding indoor playdates, outside bike riding is great. So is playing on your backyard swing set or taking the dog for a walk. Maybe you can do it while you’re taking that conference call, if you don’t have to present or take notes.

Set them up with creative play

My friend Ellen suggest having older siblings teach younger ones, like playing school. “For elementary kids have them pick a new topic per day that they want to learn about – a new country, animal, instrument, etc.”

Also give them boxes for a fort, along with some washable markers. And if you’ve been saving a Lego set or a giant coloring book for a special occasion, this might just be it.

Connect electronically

Are they whining that they miss their friends? Facebook has a great messaging app my kids use to send ridiculous videos to their cousins.

You could also Facetime grandparents and cousins and far-away friends. My friend Sally is having her kids Facetime with their grandparents for school and music lessons.

My friend Amanda suggested having kids play Battleship or Guess Who via Facetime.

Give kids more responsibility

If they’re home, they’re making a mess. And you won’t have time to clean up after them. So have your kids wipe the counters, sweep the floor and unload the dishwasher. Maybe they can even finally clear the junk out of their bedrooms or yard work. They’ll have time for a deep spring clean.

Note: This is easier said than done, and in the case of my kids sweeping the floor, it is definitely better to show them how to do it than to just yell they’ve done a bad job. I know this from personal experience.

Reward them

I’ve been rewarding my kids’ good behavior with marbles in a jar, to save up for spring break. That idea might be a goner, but you can still use positive reinforcement.

If your kids get themselves dressed and their teeth brushed and their clean up their breakfast dishes themselves, give them a marble. Maybe at five marbles, you can have family game night, or bake cookies together.

Durst applauded the idea. She urges you to give your kids incentives to be good co-workers, like a checkmark on the calendar when everyone has had a productive day.

Without after-school sports, church obligations or social events, we’re going to have lots of time to bond as a family. We might as well make the best of it.