I am still homeschooling my kids and they are not going back to school this year!
Welcome to your new job – homeschooling! Without any planning or warning, parents around this country and the world were thrown into being confined at home with their children while expected to continue on with their jobs and be their kids’ new teacher.
As a parent of 11 year old twins and a gainfully employed Mom, being thrown into the world of confinement while homeschooling and working has posed its challenges, however, it has also brought us joy. With a little organization and discipline we are surprisingly enjoying the experience. I am here to offer you some tips that have worked for our family and how to make the best of your new job without getting everyone extremely frustrated. Now, this is what has worked for our family of two kids in the same grade and a couple who take turns helping each other. My hope is that these tips will apply to families with different circumstances as well, as these are applicable to most situations.
Here are my tips for a productive work/homeschooling parent:
1. Have a daily routine and schedule
By having a daily routine and schedule you are setting clear expectations for your children. You are the manager of your household; therefore they look to you for guidance. Children thrive on routine and are happiest when they know what to expect. This truly makes life easier. In our house, we have maintained the same hours as we would for regular school. We wake up, have breakfast as a family, our kids can relax while one of us cleans up the kitchen and then we start “school”. We have created a daily family schedule that is divided into three main areas: Family time, homeschooling and Mom and Dad working hours. This has allowed us to maintain a certain level of sanity and provides our children with clear expectations.
2. Communicate with your employer
Employers, at this point, have recognized that work is not as usual. Communicate with your manager and set expectations around what you can get done and what hours will work best for you. If you communicate with your manager, most times they will work with you to accommodate your situation. Right now, it is unreasonable for employers to expect employees not to be distracted by this current situation and their family lives. Setting expectations with work is key to success both at your job and for homeschooling.
3. Keep it Flexible
This goes both ways, with your children and with your work. Remember that homeschooling is not the same as school and you can’t have that expectation. Have some flexibility in your schedule. If your kids are in need of a break, take 5 and come back refreshed. From a work perspective, help your children understand that there may be days where their homeschool schedule may change because you may need to attend a work event or meet a deadline. Clear communication and flexibility work together here.
4. Take turns, if you have a spouse to share the load
My husband and I “meet” every night to determine who will take the first round in the morning at homeschooling depending on our work load, virtual meetings, conference calls, etc. This has worked well for us and it has helped us keep a routine while being able to attend to our businesses. If you do not have someone to share the load, communicate with your children and look for creative projects they can work on while you’re on work-time. But no matter what your situation is, prepare for it the night before. Your day will go a lot smoother!
5. Opportunity Alert!!! Give your children your full attention
Remember that your kids did not ask to be homeschooled, just like you didn’t ask to homeschool them! Children are very perceptive and they know when you are distracted. If you set a schedule and expectations with them, they expect the same in return from you. So, when you are with your children, set your phone on mute, do not check your emails and stay present with them. You may find joy in spending this quality time with your kids. View this as an opportunity for uninterrupted time to connect with your children, and make an effort to pay attention to all the things related to them: how are they learning, what questions are they asking you, how they are reacting to you as their teacher, what else can you help them with and what else can you learn about your children that you did not know because you were too busy working and going through your daily routine on auto-pilot. For some of you, this may be the only time in your children’s lives you may be able to be this present with them. Take full advantage of it!
6. Wake up earlier than usual
Today, having time for you that is yours, may not come as easy as it did a month ago. Just like being organized with your job and around your children’s school work, you need to make sure you are taking care of yourself and making time for the things that bring you joy. Wake up an hour or two earlier than your household. You have to decide what those hours mean to you. The most important thing is to make sure everyone understands this is your time and should not be interrupted. It is important to pay attention to yourself too and make sure you are doing things that make you happy. Happy parents, happy children!
7. Respect your working hours and provide your children with an activity they can do on their own
You may be asking yourself, “What does one have to do with the other??” EVERYTHING if you want to be able to work! Respecting your working hours is critical to be able to deliver on what is expected of you. Despite your children’s age, you need to provide them with guidelines or an activity to do while you are at work! If left to their own devises, most kids will flock to their electronics or watch television. That is fine, if you are Ok with that, otherwise you may need to provide guidance. For me, during my working hours, my children will play outside (weather permitting), get their reading done, Facetime with their friends, play a board game or finalize any school work they can do on their own.
Working from home takes discipline, and with the whole family around you, you will need to make sure you and everyone else in your house is respecting your work hours. My kids know I am not to be interrupted unless there is blood or broken bones! Everything else can wait to be resolved once I am not at my home office.
8. Focus and Organization
During your working hours, focus on the important things first. TIP: Review your calendar the night before, go through what needs to be done the next day, what calls are on the docket and outline the three most important things that absolutely must be accomplished the following day. Once you are in your home office, focus on the important things first, and then move down your to-do list. This allows you to stay productive while focusing on what needs to be accomplished. Your business will thank you later!
9. Finally, be forgiving with yourself
This is a big load we have taken on! Remember that we are ALL in the same boat here. Should you have days you need a break from it all, give yourself permission to do so. We are living in unprecedented times, and for some people this has been more stressful than for others. Give yourself an opportunity to express your feelings, whether it’s time to grieve, breathe, cry, make a call to a loved one, write in a journal, or whatever feels right to you. Do your best to be PRESENT because we don’t know what the new normal will look like and right now, all we can do is be respectful of one another, be kind and move forward.
Stay safe and healthy!