Home learning pro tips for working parents…from the future

It’s been a few years since I last posted on this blog (ahem, 5 years) but thought I’d finally take the plunge and dive right back in! In the past few days, I’ve gotten a bunch of texts from friends asking for tips on home learning, so I’ve documented them here (As a bonus, my older daughter also added some of her own advice to the bottom!). 

We’re in week seven of home learning here in Hong Kong and have picked up a few tips and tricks that have worked well for our fam. These might be obvious, but it took us a few weeks to get everything sorted out and find our groove. 

I hope they help with the transition to home learning and please share your pro tips in comments below!



Love in the Time of CoronaCelebrating Valentine’s Day…Love in the Time of Corona

Annie’s Home Learning Tips for Working Parents:

  • Try to take each day in stride (this is especially hard for me!) – our school’s home learning curriculum evolves weekly based on feedback. Expect that the first few weeks will be the hardest, but also know that the school, your kids, and YOU will adapt to home learning – this will help reduce anxiety all around
  • Set up a dedicated workspace for you (hard in an HK apartment – my desk is in my bedroom, which means I spend about 20 hours a day in my bedroom, not ideal)! This helps your brain get into work mode and also lets the kids know that you are in work mode (not parenting or teaching mode!) when you’re there

My workspaceMy home learning corner

  • Set up a dedicated workspace for the kids (also easier said than done in an HK apartment)! This helps standardize / formalize home learning and helps kids get into learning mode
    • Ideally, find a space with natural light  
    • Remove distractions (toys, etc.)
    • Label manila folders for each subject, keep them next to each kid’s dedicated space
    • Give each kid a notebook to capture daily to do list
    • Put necessary supplies within arm’s reach: pencils, pencil sharpener, erasers, crayons, plain paper, notebooks, sticky notes, devices (our school is using daily videos, zoom calls, and apps as part of the home learning curriculum)
    • Consider buying this $17 corkboard / dry erase board. It’s a huge hit with my kids – for some reason, they love writing their to do lists and checking them off each day
    • At the end of the day, make sure your kids clean up the workspace (themselves!) – this helps transition out of home learning and makes the next day start more smoothly

Kids WorkspaceKids’ home learning corner (it’s not typically this clean!)

  • Set a routine that works for your family and share responsibilities! Initially, I was doing the majority of home learning, as my job is more flexible and allows me to work from home full-time; we quickly discovered this wasn’t going to work. In week ~2, Liam started getting the girls going each morning and this has helped a lot. Not only did it make me a lot less frazzled, it helps the kids because they are not stuck with one “teacher” all day long. Here’s our rough routine:
    • Over breakfast, he gets each girl started, watches their morning videos with them (at our school, the classroom teachers have daily morning videos, as well as videos for reading, writing, math, Chinese, etc.) 
    • While they watch the videos, the girls take notes on their schedule and what they’re supposed to do that day
    • Liam then pulls up all the relevant links
      • Activities / apps
      • Online books
      • Zoom call links
    • Girls start with their independent learning or zoom calls
    • I check in with them throughout the day
    • We take breaks based on daily schedule (for lunch, exercise, dog walks, play time, etc.)

Parking Lot

  • Set boundaries with your work schedule / requirements. When I have times I need to work without interruption (conference calls, etc.), I let the kids know my schedule ahead of time and tell them “I will be in a long meeting from 10:30 – 12:30 and you cannot interrupt me during that time.” And then I lock my door
  • Be honest with your team / boss about your limitations. I work with a team spread across Asia Pacific so we are all under different work restrictions and have different family commitments. I’ve found it helpful to be completely honest with my boss / team about my situation and let them know when I’ll be offline due to family commitments. This is standard stuff but I think it’s especially important now, as everyone is overwhelmed and stressed. I also try to block working time on my calendar when I know my kids will be engaged with tutor, zoom calls, etc. 
  • Create a “parking lot” (Liam adapted a tried and true consulting tool to home learning!) and use this to enforce boundaries on learning / working / parenting routines. My kids LOVE the parking lot, probably because Liam is artsy and made it look so cute…

Parking Lot (1)“Put it in the parking lot!”

  • Incorporate daily exercise. This helps so much with sanity (mine and kids) – I usually have to push / fight to get them motivated but they’re always in much better moods after
    • Go on a walk
    • Do some yoga (we love these free kids yoga videos from Cosmic Kids)
    • Play soccer (my husband uses Beast Mode Soccer for training inspiration)

Cosmic Kids YogaCosmic Kids yoga break

Urban sit upsUrban hike and sit-ups

  • Take time for yourself. Whether it’s getting out to exercise sans kids, reading a book alone with lunch, going for a walk, listening to a podcast, whatever — if you’re exhausted and stressed it will make everything worse, so do whatever you need to make yourself happier (And if you need any true crime podcast recommendations, let me know…)
  • Seek out people to help, like a tutor or high school student. We found a fabulous mom in our building who tutors the girls in math twice a week. I also hired our friends’ high school daughter to come work with them twice a week. The kids love when these awesome women come over – it’s a change of pace and breaks up the routine. It takes the burden off of me during the day, gives me uninterrupted work time, and is really taking their work to the next level. As a bonus, I love knowing I’m helping other people in our community
  • Connect with your community. While a lot of community activities are off the table, outdoor activities are a good way to get active, outside, and engage with people, while still being mindful of risks (e.g., not touching, washing hands, maintaining distance, etc.) We’ve been pleasantly surprised to have really bonded with a lot of amazing families through this experience, whether through beach days, game nights, or outdoor playdates with kids. Doing “normal” things makes me so much happier and gives us all much-needed energy and endorphins
  • Communicate with your spouse / partner / childcare provider / family support network. This is a team sport and changes daily. Let your teammates know when you need help and give them a chance to ask for yours
  • Order some puzzles and crafts. We have gotten into tie-dye. It’s messy as hell but super fun and occupies multiple hours over multiple days. Takes me back to my Camp Lake Hubert days and is a ton of fun. Dharma Trading Company has tons of cool inspiration and products

Tie dye, origami, and monkeys doing puzzles…

Hi this is Riley (Anne’s daughter) I have a few things to add.

One cool thing is to write a letter to someone. It helps your writing and it is fun to get mail back!

Another thing I do is reading. It is my favorite thing to do even if I do not have an assignment.

My last suggestion is to get outside and play with a friend or friends. You might not want to, but it always makes me happier and makes me want to do it again.

I hope you enjoyed my suggestions!


Good luck, ladies and gents, YOU’VE GOT THIS!


6 thoughts on “Home learning pro tips for working parents…from the future

  1. marci martin says:

    Riley and Anne – 7 weeks wow! Thanks so much for the tips. Théo’s (15yrs & 10th grade) just closed. we are not sure yet what online learning will be available. stay healthy and hugs

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Christine Connolly says:

    Thank you for the tips! How timely as we enter into the e-learning stage tomorrow (and as you know, I WAH). Great tips, and what wisdom from the youngster. We miss you all. Chrissy, Dan and Meghan

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Skip and Pat says:

    Wonderful,Annie. You and Ri have covered all the nuance of this challenging endeavor very clearly. Is Ri the youngest educational consultant in Asia?

    Liked by 1 person

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