Prior to this global pandemic, I would have never imagined home schooling my two daughters, ages 6 and 8. I am an entrepreneur who is used to multitasking, but now I find myself in the unique situation of managing a business, a household and virtual school all while trying to keep my sanity — I’m sure many of you are in the same boat! So how do we manage to do all the things while #WFHWK (working from home with kids)?
Honestly, the first day or two were quite challenging. I spent way too much time figuring things out, reading emails from various teachers, searching for assignments, establishing priorities, printing things out and explaining everything to my kids. Oh, and then we had to make sure we submitted all the classwork. I found myself managing this virtual environment and helping them with schoolwork for more than half the day, so my own work was suffering. I was overwhelmed and my oldest daughter broke down crying a couple of times because she felt like she was getting too much “homework.” It was hard for her to understand the difference between homework and virtual school, which requires her to do classwork at home.
That’s when it hit me. Her actions mirrored my frustration. I literally stopped what I was doing, held her in my arms, and told her everything was going to be okay. I declared it was time for recess and told both my girls to take a break.
The truth is that this new normal isn’t just hard for us — it’s hard for our kids, too. They’re learning new things and navigating unfamiliar territory, which makes them anxious. Kids thrive on routine so it’s important to explain to them what’s happening, set goals for the day and review the expectations with them. I’m learning this as I go.
The next couple of days seemed to go much smoother. We established a schedule, leaving room for flexibility as needed. If, for instance, I had to take a conference call for work, I would declare it was break time and asked my girls to leave the office so mommy could have some quiet time. Then we would resume classwork when mommy was ready.
Here are a few tips and tricks I have for other parents who are working remotely while managing virtual school.
- Set a daily routine. Even if you don’t stick to your planned schedule, it will help you plan out your day.
- Review the day’s assignments together. This will help your kids understand what is expected of them.
- Set priorities. If there’s a specific assignment that must be turned in by a certain time, make sure that is completed first. Some teachers expect assignments turned in by a certain time, while others are fine getting the assignments by the end of the day.
- Write everything down. I print out the lesson plans for my daughters, make notes for them on the paper, and we place a checkmark next to each assignment as it’s completed. I also like to send a message to the other moms in the class chat with a list of everything that’s due that week to make sure that I didn’t miss anything. This not only helps me, but it also helps other moms who may have missed an assignment for a special area (music, art, media, etc.).
- Be flexible. The internet may go down, you may have an emergency situation at work, or your child may not be understanding their lesson. It is okay to veer off schedule and pick up where you left off later. Teachers are usually very understanding, so you can also email them and ask for more time if needed.
- Take breaks throughout the day. Don’t go too long without taking a break. Kids need to get up and move around, have a snack, get some fresh air, etc. It will help them regain focus when they return to complete an assignment. Parents could use a break, too!
- Don’t be too hard on yourself (or your kids!). When things aren’t going as planned, we tend to panic or become anxious. Don’t let those negative thoughts take over! Most of us are not teachers, so this doesn’t come naturally to us. And that’s okay. We’re doing the best we can and that’s all we can do right now.
- Have fun. Make learning enjoyable by working on an art project together, doing a cool science experiment outside, breaking out into an impromptu dance party during your lunch break, playing outside, or baking cookies together after all your work and school assignments are done.
We’re living in a period of time that will be forever talked about and studied. As we collectively navigate our way through this season of unprecedented times, let’s take a moment to think about that and let it all sink in. I know many of us are going through some tough times, both emotionally and financially. But this quarantine period also provides us with great opportunities — to be more creative, compassionate and, most importantly, to spend quality time reconnecting with our families.
We’re all in this together and we’re all doing the best we can in a perfectly imperfect way.
Take care and stay healthy,