Are you new to working from home?
Have you been thrown into the deep end with home schooling?
I get it, so many friends, family, colleagues and clients have been faced with the same dilemma. With school closures set across the country and the long standing uncertainty that the Coronavirus Pandemic has caused, it has left a mist of confusion, angst and worry in the air. Add a change to school, work and home life...this is something none of us had been prepared for.
The thing is, my day job has a remote working system and it took some time to get used to it. I went from doing support work where I literally slept at my job and was in the office first thing in the morning opening up, to then being in the remote-based working world, learning to navigate being somewhat my own manager. Luckily, i've grasped it now but I can only imagine the stress that this has caused many families all over the country who are not accustomed to this model of work.
Something that is new to me is the homeschooling part. After considering it for the last year or so, this experience of which has been placed upon us has brought to light some personal methods to manage the two. So, I have compiled a short list of 5 tips and transferable skills for both homeschooling and coping to work remotely that may be of benefit to you during this time of change.
1. Use your time management skills for work as you would for parenting. Something that the majority of parents struggle with...or am I speaking for myself here?? Time management can be either your greatest assets or your arch nemesis. If you have time management skills use them to organise you and your child's day in a symmetrical manner. School days have a specific structure, if you are able to organise your time and tasks in line with your child's typical school day (with the breaks) you will do yourself some justice.
Obviously there will be some meetings or calls that may be unavoidable but make the effort where possible. It will demonstrate to them good time keeping skills but will also show a disciple that is needed to balance the two. Be patient with learning how to do things differently, they are learning too. Embrace the gift of balance.
2. Take a scheduled lunch break.
Where possible take your lunch break at the same time as your child. This will give you both time to disconnect from the mental bustle and connect with each other. Try to prepare and eat a lunch together, if they are old enough this could even count towards a home economics/cooking class. Feel safe enough to take risks such as these, I would consider this a life skills lesson and counts towards my childs educational wealth.
Talk about how your morning has gone and have general conversations. Prevent yourselves from discussing the afternoon work and school activities until the end of the lunch break as this will become the focus of attention during the lunch break. Remember this is your time to pause, so do exactly that.
Another type of break we try to schedule is meditative. Light meditation breaks in-between tasks really help to clear my mind to detach from one thing and fully engage in the next. This is a practice I've encouraged with my child too, although there has been resistance at first, with this being part of his daily schedule he now completes his meditation tasks more frequently and is seeing the benefits.
3. Create the right working environment.
I cannot stress this enough! Creating the right working environment is so important for both you and your child. Make sure that you both are equipped for the journey. Many work places provide home stationary and equipment but further to that, if you require things such as a desk, specialist chairs etc then your work place should provide this to you to enable you to work comfortably from home. Ask about a remote based working policy where it should detail how the company will meet this need or make inquiries about getting an Occupational Health assessment.
For your child, ensure they have paper, pens, books, workbooks/textbooks and access to technology where possible. For many, internet access at home is an issue, in addition to devices to access schooling support. I would suggest you contact the school and set up a regular mailing system of the work your child would usually complete in the school.
Aside from the actual work and equipment, creating the right environment also means to have good lighting, fresh air and to prepare your work area to start the day right. Make your working area personalised, put out some candles, play light music, display quotes or pictures to keep you motivated. Have regular access to water and regularly tidy the workspace - clearing the physical space helps to clear your psychological space, it's like an automatic mirroring effect. You both can enter the day with a calmer and composed state.
4. Use a calendar/daily to do list to create lessons and life skills
This one is ultra simple but yet we can go so wrong by not utilising a simple tool such as a planner. We use a calendar for work/business appointments and important things to remember, it's the same in school with a lesson timetable. Don't abandon this at home!!
Something we do at work is schedule in admin days, although it doesn't always work that way, the concept is appreciated. So I've begun a shared to do list (confidential information hidden of course) which allows you to keep on track with yours and your childs tasks, optimise your work rate and ensures your prioritisation is monitored.
Include your work/school tasks and tasks to boost your wellbeing such as taking your break as mentioned in point 2. Try not to overwhelm yourself during the day to the point you now have to make time in the evening to do work. This is time to spend with your family and slow down from the full day of education and work. Check out our to do list on the downloadables page if you need some guidance.
5. Team work is vital.
You can't always take all the credit, give credit where credit is due. Having team effort boosts morale, it provides a lens of hope that you are doing something for a greater cause than just for yourself... especially when a task goes well. Something that I've realised is that although I am the parent I am not the only person in this equation that is part of a team.
My child was also part of a class where he had team mates to complete tasks, share ideas etc. I admit, homeschooling has been quite a pleasant journey because my child has had great input into what he wants to learn and I’ve grown to learn more about him.
He is offered the opportunity to explore his own desires as well as incorporate the structured work from his school. I recently had a "supervision/appraisal" type discussion with my child and asked for feedback on my home teaching methods and he was very honest. There are some things that need to be tweaked and the plan can be be refined. The importance of getting feedback from your child (verbal or observational) and implementing some changes can be the antidote to elevate some stress. It is okay to make adjustments and not know how to make everything work perfectly. Many parents didn't opt in to home schooling so we are all learning along the way. The art is finding a good balance and being gentle on yourself while you learn new methods to communicate and educate.
Another factor of team work that needs to be noted here is the challenge of co-parenting and homeschooling. It has been a working progress and I may not see eye to eye with my childs other parent, luckily the co-parenting home school discussions are had on a regular basis, that in itself is team work. I suggest creating an space where you can all put forward your ideas for a homeschooling plan, inclusive of the child and the other parent, to ensure there is symmetry and a continuation of standards.
If you are a single parent, seek advice from other parents on what they advise too, again a form of team work! Search in forums, websites or parenting groups on Facebook, these are all forms of teamwork. Work with your childs teachers if you are really struggling, this is probably one of the best forms of team work if you are really at a loss.
However you choose to go about this, try not to stress! You can always find a team willing and ready to help you – we are in this together.
I hope this has been helpful
Until we meet again, stay safe, stay well, and most of all become and remain happy!