Here is a peek into a discussion that involves all homeschooling mothers to one degree or another. Thousands of mamas could ask the same!
A mom asked, “What do you do to keep your kiddos motivated during school time? My son has a hard time focusing and staying on track periodically when I'm not sitting right next to him. I try to make sure I can dedicate some time to sitting next to him reminding him to stay focused on his work but food needs to be made, dishes need done, laundry needs folded, etc. Do you have any tips for me?”
In the beginning of all academic endeavor, children are far too new at the task to be left alone. You must sit right with them, one child on your right and the other on your left, in the beginning stages. The rule of thumb is that a parent doesn't push the child away, the child will eventually push you away when they are ready to "go solo!" That is how you will know when it is time. The child will initiate it, and it will occur at different times for different skills. The child will let you know when it is time to back off. In the meantime you must stick right with them.
Think of Olympic trainers/coaches: they are "on it," watching every stroke, even telling their "little charge" what to think during stress and competition. These coaches wouldn't think of letting their protégés figure it all out on their own. It is too costly to let anything slide.
Academics don't go on all day, but for two hours or so every morning you must be all theirs. No phone calls, no errands, no appointments; this is sacred time to grow a child in "wisdom and stature and in favor with God and man." Tutors of British royalty were right there with those children for several hours every day, raising up royalty. Our children are no less regal or important, spiritually. They are eternal people who go on forever. There is absolutely nothing more important than investing in your child. Focus. (If you want to see what the odds really are all about, read The Power of a Focused Mother.)
Now, you can do many things of your own while sitting next to your child while he is focused—but the second he veers off, your first priority is to gently and lovingly re-focus him. A large part of your job is just tapping his paper with your pencil to re-focus him, when he strays or daydreams, but you will also have to answer questions and instruct). Often you will be able to read your own book (have your own devotions, for instance), peel potatoes, write up menus, while sitting right next to him, if he is doing well for a few minutes, but you must keep your eye peeled and your heart riveted on the main agenda.
If your kitchen is a separate room, move a card table into your kitchen, during academic time, so that your children are right near you the whole time that they are doing academics, if you have to also meal prep during that same time.
A child never learns mental discipline by himself. He learns to discipline his mind through many, many experiences of external discipline while he is sitting right next to his mother, his father, or a grandparent. This helps him get "the hang of it." Even the Savior used the "with you" principle with His 12 disciples. He kept them with Him, so they could observe and mimic everything. Tossing a child into a corner with a workbook page (as teachers often do in the public schools) is academic abandonment. Children don't have an experience base that is strong enough for them to be able to cope with academic rigor. They don't know how to work on their own, or how to master new material. They have never been down this road before; you have. A tutor is a TUTOR, and so a parent who is tutoring must stay on task for as long as it takes. If you do, the outcomes will be tremendous. You will never regret it. Sadly, there are many parents who later realize what kind of a ball they dropped too early—to their sorrow.
To get the housework done, have the children work with you, after they’ve tackled their academics or in the midst of it, to accomplish all the work that is needed to make the day run smoothly. Teach them that work always comes before pleasure. Think: is there something left undone? We do that first! Develop the work ethic in your children by requiring them to work, as long as there is still work to be done. Abraham Lincoln built fences and he schooled; there was little to no entertainment in his childhood. Responsibility and work build a man's character, like nothing else. Our culture is top heavy; we're entertaining our children to death. There is no life apart from work for any human being, at most any age, and to give the illusion otherwise is simply that—an illusion. Idleness is the Devil's playground. Mothers by the scores with large families have learned this work principle, in spades. They couldn't survive without this teamwork. They start with their two-years-olds, requiring them to carry their own diapers to deposit in the trash can. So trained, a child will grow to think nothing of it. Work will become a blessed habit, and the child will feel very good about himself, for good reason :)