All hell broke loose when the COVID-19 pandemic hit the world. Aside from the spiralling economy, overworked health workers, and tons of other complications, parents are left to juggle working from home and homeschooling their kids.
Places all over the UK are placed in different lockdown tiers to control the spread of the virus. It also shut schools and students were transitioned to remote learning. Meanwhile, many working parents have to work at home.
My family count ourselves lucky because we still got a job, and the kids can attend online classes comfortably. However, I will not deny that working at home isn’t always fun. Most of all, homeschooling kids is a whole new level of struggle. It’s like the boss fight of all parenting challenges we’ve had so far.
So what do we do to balance things? My wife and I had to discuss everything, ensuring that we get to work and the kids won’t miss their classes.
Like any mum and dad out there, we keep learning each day with this new normal set up. But as we go along, we’ve come up with a routine that made it work for our family. If you’re also struggling with your work at home setup and helping with the kids on their schoolwork, these tips will help:
1. First, organize
Working and homeschooling your kids can get very messy and confusing if you’re not organized. On our first days of homeschooling and online classes, frustration is really eating up the kids’ motivation.
I recommend coming up with a master schedule where you’ll reconcile your kid’s classes and your work hours. You should also brief everyone with what needs to be done the next day based on the schedule. This will take the guesswork out about who will lead the kid’s classes, what time you’re working, and who will do household chores.
You should make the schedule with your family. This way, your kids and spouse can raise concerns. It will also let you address problems even before it becomes a big issue.
At home, we have this large whiteboard where we write down the day’s schedule. It gives a visual reminder of the tasks, which also prevents procrastination and missing things.
2. Set up work and class corners
This is a very important tip. Setting up a work station and a classroom for the kids will put everyone in the ‘zone’. This will also limit distractions compared to working or studying in the living room and in front of the telly.
It doesn’t have to be grand. At home, I have a work corner with my computer, table, and office chair. Make sure that you get ergonomic chairs as long hours of work will really take its toll on your back. This should be the same for the kids’ chairs.
On a spare room, we set up the kids’ classroom. We put up chairs, tables, and other decors that resemble a classroom. Make sure that you also keep craft supplies, books, and other school items handy.
While it’s stressful for us parents to work at home, it’s also hard for kids. They miss their classmates and the idea of going to school. With a home classroom, they will somehow feel a sense of normalcy.
3. Make an ‘Ask Me Later’ book
One thing that my wife came up with is an ‘Ask Me Later’ notebook. It’s one of those cheap spiral notebooks where our kids can write their concerns that aren’t really that pressing.
For example, my eldest want to ask me if he can play games after class. He wrote it down under the ‘not urgent’ column while I attend a meeting.
It’s important to discuss the parameters of urgent and non-urgent with your kids. There will be instances that your child will need immediate attention. One time, my son had internet connection issues in the middle of an online school quiz.
In these occasions, we tell our kids that they can write ‘Dad/Mum Help!’ on a piece of paper and show it to us at the door. This will save us from disturbances in the middle of meetings while teaching kids the value of respecting other people’s time.
4. Schedule ‘team huddles’
Working at home and homeschooling requires teamwork. Before you start the day, make sure that you huddle everyone and make a quick briefing of what’s on the agenda. This will give everyone a clear list of goals. You can also use this opportunity to remind kids if you have a meeting and the kids can tell if they have concerns.
I recommend scheduling these short huddles multiple times a day. Over lunch, you can ask the kids of their concerns. These huddles are also a great time to check the ‘Ask Me Later’ notebook to address the concerns written.
It’s very important to communicate with everyone while working from home and homeschooling the kids. Whether you’re full-time homeschooling or assisting with online classes, you should know what your kid is doing.
You can also take this time to bond with your children. It’s not the most enjoyable experience (especially with math), but it will make your family’s bond stronger. Also, explain to your kids why this is happening and assure them that everything will come back to normal at some point.
If you need to make charts, reminders, calendars, and homeschool planners, do so. Anything that will make things easier for your family will help.
You should also talk to your wife about the day’s tasks. Remember that this is teamwork and you’re not the only master of the house. As the adults, you should be your wife’s partner, especially in deciding who are assigned for specific classes or subjects in your kids’ classes. In our case, my wife does maths, science, technology, and more with the kids. I cover art, geography, history, music, and foreign languages.
Divide the subjects based on your work hours and each other’s abilities. I once tried doing maths with my kids, and I was crying inside until my wife suggested that she took over.
6. Get the right tools and gadgets
One thing that homeschooling and working at home have in common is it needs the proper gadgets and tools. My wife and I had computers provided by our employers. Meanwhile, we have to purchase laptops and tablets for the kids. We also shopped for crafts supplies and books/modules for the homeschooling program.
I understand that not all of us have the ability to purchase these things. Working with what you have at home is sometimes the only option. You can try reaching out to organizations that run laptop donation drives for students who are in need.
The Department for Education is also providing gadgets to schools to help students who are transitioned to remote learning. They also extend assistance to children who don’t have access to an internet connection. You need to contact your children’s school to apply and discuss the requirements for this assistance.
7. Divide house chores
Aside from work and school, household chores are also important. Someone has to clean, cook, and run errands. You can divide this within the family while assigning one person to do grocery runs and other stuff outdoors. This is to reduce the risk of infection, especially if you’re living with an immune-compromised person.
At home, my eldest is assigned to vacuum the house before her homeschool schedule starts. Meanwhile, my wife and I alternate cooking schedules. We have a chore chart so everyone will be reminded of their tasks.
It’s also important to teach kids how to help themselves. Teach them where the school supplies are stored so they wouldn’t have to call you just to get it. Older ones can be involved in preparing simple snacks. You should also encourage your kids to help each other, but make sure that they won’t do anything dangerous, like using the stove or oven.
8. Talk to your kids’ teachers
If your child has online classes, it’s important to communicate with their teachers. This will clarify the output expected from your child and how involved you need to be in the process.
However, you should understand that teachers are also very busy and struggling with the online setup. If you need to talk to any of them, make sure that you notify ahead.
9. Talk to your employer
Due to the challenges of the pandemic, many employers are more than willing to provide flexible work hours to their employees. You can talk about this with your employer so you can manage your kids’ homeschooling without compromising the quality of your work.
It’s all about finding a compromise so you can reconcile working from home and homeschooling schedules. Also, distractions will occur no matter how you try to avoid it. The flexibility of your work will come in handy during these occasions.
10. Remove distractions
Speaking of distractions, you should remove any possible distractions, especially for the kids. As much as possible, don’t let them study in front of the television because the temptation of turning it on is strong. Also, set strict parental controls on their gadgets so they won’t access other sites other than school-related ones.
However, kids are kids, so you have to make a compromise. Talk to your kids about scheduling playtime, so they can still have fun at home. Short breaks are also ideal as a form of reward. Let your child rest for 5 minutes after finishing an activity. This will encourage them to keep going.
Remember that the kids aren’t the only ones prone to distractions. We, adults, are also guilty about this. For one, log off – or better yet uninstall – your social media accounts/app during work hours. Trust me, it’s easy to get lost in the hellhole of Facebook feeds, tweets, and Instagram stories. Before you know it, you’ve wasted 30 minutes of what’s supposed to be a productive time.
11. Dress for the part
When we first started working at home, I was in my bedtime attire – pyjamas, loose shirt, and messy hair. This felt fun for a few weeks, but after that, I noticed that I’m more prone to distractions. This is because my clothes and appearance aren’t detached from my ‘home life’. The same goes for the kids since all of them used to attend face-to-face classes before the pandemic.
With that, we decided to dress in work and school uniform – complete with shoes and tie. It really made a difference, especially with the enthusiasm of the kids. Sure, it’s added laundry, but it keeps us going, which is worth the hassle. We also see to it that we take ‘Groufies of the Day’ just so that we can make the most out of our attire.
12. Take a break!
Above all, never forget to take a break! Mums and dads, this pandemic is stressful enough. If you have the luxury of taking breaks, do so with the family. There are many ways to blow off steam at home, so all of you remain safe.
Watch movies, stage a family cook-off, start gardening, or play family games indoors. If you’re lucky enough to live in Tier 1 and Tier 2 areas, you can take the family on holiday within the locality. Make sure that you check specific rules about group outings to avoid trouble with the authority.
Also, don’t be afraid to ask for help. You can contact the school if you need assistance with your kids’ school needs as well as the workload given to them. Always be understanding as all of us are trying to make sense of the challenges this pandemic brought and still bringing.
Working from home and homeschooling at the same time is a great challenge to all parents. Not everyone is privileged enough to have the resources and time to juggle everything.
As the pandemic takes its course, more challenges surface, impacting both the children and their parents. As much as we can, let’s try to organize the tasks at home. Help is available in schools and local government units. Together, let’s all be safe so we can see the end of this pandemic.