2021 hasn’t started the way we’d all hoped. We have been thrust into lockdown number 3!! Whilst I don’t think that it came as a surprise to any of us, many of us have found this one particularly hard. It’s not surprising, we are 10 months in and it’s winter. Whilst we can see an end in sight it’s still frustrating that we are stuck in and can’t spend time with our family and friends. Everyone is having to deal with boredom, we probably have lots to do but motivating ourselves can be tough. If you’re a parent with kids, you have home schooling to face each day and to try motivating the kids too!
Parenting has its challenges at any time, without having to combine the pressures of working from home whilst home schooling. Have you found yourself pouring an extra-large glass at the end of each day? Alcohol may offer a short-term relaxing effect, but it’s time to look at some better ways of managing the mayhem whilst it lasts.
Below we will have a look at some ideas on how to juggle home schooling whilst working from home. Some things may seem bloomin’ obvious but overwhelm often means that you can lose sight of the simple things, hopefully this may just give you a nudge!
Don’t compare yourself to others
Start with social media!! Remember that it is often someone else’s highlight reel, rather than the truth. If you find you are comparing yourself to those who are posting pictures of perfect home school activities, just remember that you never truly know what goes on behind closed doors. There are plenty of parents who are struggling, but don’t openly admit it. Take what you see on social media with a pinch of salt.
Instead, follow accounts that help to lift your spirits. Tired and Tested is a great account to follow.
Establish a routine that works for YOUR family
We may all be in the same storm, but it has become evidently clear that we are in very different boats. A routine that works for someone else, may not work for you and your family. You may be a single parent, you may have your partner at home working too or even working away most of the time. Sit down and figure out the best routine for your family’s circumstances, a lot of the time it does not need to match a school day routine. Also bear in mind that you and your kids have different personalities to others too, which will also influence how you are able to manage your work / schooling schedule too.
At school, children aren’t learning from 9am- 3pm. Their day is broken up with breaks, assemblies and lunch so their actual time learning is a lot less than you think. One to one teaching can be more effective too, as children get distracted by their peers at school. You can then fit these hours of learning around your work.
Do you have a separate space for when you work? Not always possible, but if can work in a different room from everyone else, it should help you to focus more quickly. Also if you can, have a dedicated schoolwork area, this will help your children too, they will then know when they are in that space it is time to learn.
Of course, this may not be an option for everyone, but ideally partners can help with the home schooling if both of you are working. That way, you can both get a few hours a day dedicated to your own work.
If you have a childcare bubble how could they help you? Alternatively do you have Grandparents, Aunts or Uncles that would be able to help remotely if they’re not part of your bubble? They may not necessarily be able to help with lessons, but perhaps they could occupy the kids for a few hours over the week by reading to them for example. A great opportunity for them to spend some time together.
It may sound obvious, but you would be amazed how many people (particularly Mum’s) try to do it all. We aren’t superhero’s, although often we try to be, we are only human.
Sit down with your partner to figure out how each of your workloads can work around home schooling and other responsibilities. If you both have to work, calls or meetings at particular times, set the kids work for that time or encourage them to play, or do another more independent activity. Or again, if you have family who can help, draft them in at key times if you can!
Take advantage of resources
There are all kinds of learning resources available, BBC have launched Bitesize programmes on CBBC from 9am until 11:30am for example. Most of us normally want to minimise our kids’ screen time, but in a pandemic, extreme times call on extreme measures, so I would try to cut yourself some slack. Look online there are all sorts of very reasonable and also free resources and apps. By taking advantage of these free educational resources, will give you a couple of hours to get on with anything that is pressing.
Most schools have got a lot more experience with providing you with resources for your kids, you should have log ins to other resources, as well as well as the every day lessons. My kids also used to love workbooks which you can pick up pretty reasonably as well and will provide different types of learning and take them away from a screen!
Communication is key!
If you are struggling with the workload that the school is setting, talk to the teacher. Also speak with your clients or with your employer. By being honest and open, you should be able to find a way forward that can work for both parties, break down those barriers and reduce your stress.
It’s also important to ensure that communication and relationships continue for your children too. Older children may have their own phone and be able to talk to their friends when they want to, but what about younger children? They will be missing their friends, whynot get in touch with their parents and arrange video play dates? Talking to other parents can help you too, maybe talk to them about your struggles, it is highly likely they are having similar issues too. You will be able to support each other through these testing times.
Learning through play and other activities
If you are struggling to complete schoolwork, try not to panic. Certainly, don’t force your child through the tasks if it is causing you both a lot of stress and tears. Perhaps breaking the work down into smaller chunks with breaks in between will help? Or, consider encouraging them to do some of what they don’t like first with the promise of the stuff that they do like when it’s done!
Speak openly to the school, they may well be able to give you some ideas to help you motivate your kids, they have to do it all the time! Remember learning comes in many other forms, think of ways that they can learn through play.
Lego, Playdough, plasticine and painting make great hands-on activities and don’t forget jigsaw puzzles, they have huge benefits and work both sides of your brain at once!
If your child is old enough, why not get them involved in the daily chores, perhaps get them to help to prepare the meals, fold the washing, take the rubbish out – simple things that will help you and they will be learning key life stills too.
Getting out for some fresh air and exercise is good for you all, enjoy nature and wildlife – even when you live in a city, it’s amazing what you can see when you start to look! Splashing in puddles is fun and strangely therapeutic, I still can’t walk past a puddle when I’ve got my wellies on, it really is great for your wellbeing and mental health.
A break from formal learning (and work) works wonders for you and the kids, so don’t be afraid to go off track and will often inspire you all to get back to work.
Juggling is hard
I am sure there are few who would disagree that juggling home schooling and trying to work from home is extremely tough. Don’t feel like you’re failing. REMEMBER you are not a teacher (well not many of you are)!! Just do what you can. When you are with your children, give them your whole attention, as hard as that may seem, when there is work waiting to be done. Wherever possible try not to do too many things in one go, you will only end up feeling overwhelmed and try to allow at least some quality time with the children and then quality time doing your own work separately.
Create lists or stick PostIt Notes on the wall and move them around – a simple KanBan, to help you prioritise what has to be done each day with home schooling and your workload. After the priorities are done, go with the flow, some days will inevitably be better than others.
These are extraordinary times
Unfortunately, yours and your child’s mental health has been and will continue to be put under strain during these coming months, so it’s important to be kind to yourselves. You are experiencing something that is not normal and very difficult to navigate. If a movie duvet day is required some days, then that is ok! Stay positive. There is light at the end of the tunnel and things will get better.
The most important thing to remember is don’t look too far ahead. It will overwhelm you. Just take one day, one hour at a time.