Working from home AND homeschooling? Create your own school bell.

Parents who are homeschooling for the first time are up against some real challenges. As more and more students are doing at least some classroom work at home due to the pandemic, I’ve talked to several parents who tell me one of their biggest challenges is just keeping the kids on a schedule.

One dad I spoke to this week said he and his wife are both working from home while trying to keep their two boys, 9 and 6 changing from math to science to recess. Get behind schedule and they’ll have trouble catching up with schoolwork for the day.

Google has released “Family Bell” to help with this challenge. Simply open up the Google Home app on an Android phone, tap your profile picture in the upper right hand of the screen and you should see “family bell” in under the “just released” tab. Here’s how to take it from there:

  • Tapping Family Bell you can tap the plus or add symbol to set a time or times.
  • Give your bell a name, this is what Google will announce at the given time. For example, “math class”
  • You’re then asked to set the time you want the announcement made. I set math for 9 AM.
  • You can also select which days you want the announcement to play such as M-F which is the default setting.
  • Tap save and select the Google devices you want to make the announcement.
  • At the given time, the Google device or devices will chime a bell that sounds similar to the one in a school hallway
  • Google’s voice assistant will then say “math class”.
  • You can add family bells for each class.

Amazon’s Alexa or Echo devices can do this too but it’s a little more complicated. To set it up on those devices open the Alexa app on any smartphone.

  • You’ll need to make sure the devices you want to use are selected.
  • You’ll set it up on Alexa as a reminder. 
  • Give it a name such as “start math class” then select a time and frequency. The Alexa app only gives the options to set it daily, monthly, or every other day or 5.
  • Once you tap ‘save’, your reminder is set.
  • One thing about using Alexa for this is that the device will say “here is your reminder” followed by the name you’ve given it. There’s no way to change this.

If you’re having trouble keeping the kids on task or schedule, these smart assistants can help, and make it a little better for the kids than you yelling down the hall.

Amazon’s Alexa devices start out at $30 for an Amazon Echo Button.

Google’s Home Mini is $40-$50 but it will also work on first-generation Minis that cost $20.

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