I’ve always dreamed of working from home. I could go on and on about all the perks that come with not having to go in the office to work. I’d have the luxury of sleeping in late, working in my most comfortable clothes, no morning traffic issues, and I’d have more time to spend with the kids before and after school. On top of that laundry would be done on my lunch breaks and dinner would be cooked at a reasonable time.
Well the virus came and turned all of our lives upside down. Can you guess what happened? I got to work from home…with my kids all day! My dream was crushed and then lit on fire when virtual learning was announced. You absolutely must be careful what you ask for. Never have I ever thought I would be working from home and essentially running a school at the same time! Impossible right? Nope!
To survive working from home and helping kids learn virtually you must have a plan or fail miserably like I did in the beginning. Oh I shed some tears because I wasn’t prepared for this challenge. It isn’t easy trying to fulfill work obligations while assisting young children with school. However, you can get your work done and help your kids succeed with online learning while keeping your sanity. Below are 10 tips that will help ease the pain.
1. Have A Routine
A morning and night time routine is essential for everyone to follow. You and the kids will know exactly what needs to be done when waking up in the morning and before going to bed at night. My kids have an alarm set to wake up on their own at 8 a.m. brush their teeth and eat breakfast. I wake a little earlier and do the same but my morning routine includes a hot cup of medium roast coffee and opening all the blinds to let in sunlight. During this time I pray that I make it through the day with my sanity in tact.
In the evening the kids know what to do before bed. Now my teen is self sufficient but those little boys…yeah that’s a different story. What is it with young boys avoiding the shower?? Either way they reluctantly shower, brush their teeth, and read for 30 minutes before going to bed at 9 p.m. I try to be in bed by 11 p.m. so I can enjoy some free time after the kids are down for the night. I decompress by catching up on my favorite shows, browsing social media, and taking a hot shower.
2. Prep Food
Having food prepared for you and the kids will save a lot of time and headache. When you have a busy day ahead it helps to have food prepared and ready to go. It cuts down on the kids constantly asking what they can have each day and you having to stop working and make it. Also, my kids school drops off breakfast and lunch Monday, Wednesday, and Friday. This helps me save time and money. Plus there are lots of healthy options to choose from.
If this isn’t available in your school district prepare your kids favorite breakfast items, snacks, and sandwiches ahead of time. They will be able to choose on their own when it’s time to eat. You may have to help younger children if they don’t have older siblings who can assist. I also prepare or have an idea of what I’m going to eat too. It’s easy to skip meals when there is so much going on in the day.
3. Help Kids Navigate Learning Sites
Now I consider myself to be an intelligent adult. I can read, write, comprehend all that…well that’s what I thought until I had to help my kids with virtual learning. The teacher would assign something for my 2nd grader to do but we could never find the assignment. We were both lost! I’d log off from work and spend 30+ minutes looking for a worksheet online that I was sure didn’t exist. I’d often have to reach out to the teacher for help.
I’d get the instructions from her but it was like a treasure hunt! Go to the red icon on the learning platform, scroll down for 5 minutes, then click the weekly icon, after that find the Kazam link, then you’ll see the worksheet located in the file to the right….Yikes! This was hard for me so I see why my son was frustrated. The point here is to spend time with your kids navigating all learning platforms and be sure they write down login info for everything!
4. Separate Everyone
I learned the hard way that it’s best for everyone to have their own dedicated work area…even you! Check out my article on creating a budget friendly office space. I really can’t believe I thought I’d be productive at the kitchen table with two young boys and a teen daughter near by in the family room. The boys would fight and irritate each other constantly and my daughter doesn’t like to use headphones. I couldn’t take the stress of fussing at them while trying to focus on work. I had to figure out something fast!
Everyone must social distance at home lol! I bought everything I needed to create a comfortable workspace in my bedroom. Since I moved from the kitchen table I was able to create more space between the boys at the table so they don’t bother each other. Yes, I was concerned about leaving the boys downstairs but I needed to have a quiet area to take calls and attend meetings. It’s not a perfect set up but it works. Plus I get in exercise running back and forth from my desk upstairs to the kitchen downstairs.
5. Expect Distractions
This whole working from home thing with my kids while they learn online has been one of the biggest challenges of my life. I take my job seriously and I feel just as strongly about my children’s education. I felt defeated when I realized I couldn’t give my job 100% because I had to help my kids get acclimated to the new norm of home school. I would have to frequently log out of work for several hours at a time to assist the kids. It was frustrating but necessary.
Please understand that you will be distracted from work. There is no way around it with young kids. Knowing this fact helped me push through and plan the day better. I know the best time to tackle a difficult task for work would be after the kids are settled in class in the morning, during their lunch, or of course when school is over in the afternoon. Do your best to plan out your day based on your kids school schedule. You’ll likely find some time to be free from distractions for a while too.
6. Prepare For Technical Problems
On the very first day of virtual learning my kids couldn’t get logged in for class. The system just couldn’t handle so many kids trying to sign in all at once and crashed. It took two days to be able to log in and access the learning platforms. That was beyond aggravating because the kids were so excited to see their friends faces and I spent what seemed like hours trying to fix a problem that I later found out was district wide. Ugh!
In the mist of troubleshooting I was given valuable information from school officials who tried to help. I got names, emails, and phone numbers of who to contact when having technical issues with Chrome Books or the learning platform. Get this info and keep it handy because you will more than likely have to use it one day. Technical issues are sure to happen that’s just life. It’s better to be prepared so you can quickly take action when needed.
7. Check-In With Kids
Separating everyone seems to work best for my household. We’re able to focus more and not distract each other too much. However, it does require me to do some running around since my work area is upstairs and the kids are downstairs. Again this isn’t the best set up but it helps me keep some sanity and work on things that require me to be on the phone or in a Zoom meeting. Lots of check-ins are necessary.
I often check-in with the kids either by running down the stairs or yelling down the stairs to see if anyone needs help with anything. I also sneak up on them sometimes to make sure they are on task. I don’t worry much about my teen daughter much but those boys smh…one day I caught my 11 yr old watching YouTube instead of paying attention to his teacher. So check-in frequently especially when they least expect it.
8. Everyone Should Go To Recess
Did I mention how frustrating all of this is? And that I cried some days? I think I did…Either way it’s true. I remember literally breaking down from the stress of it all. I wanted to give everything 100%. Unfortunately It would be impossible to give everything my full attention. It took time to accept this but I felt better once I did because there is only so much I can do as a single person. I obviously needed some cheering up.
One thing I would suggest is going outside for recess with your kids sometimes. After they eat lunch at school they usually have about 25-30 minutes of play time outside. I wanted to keep this up at home because we all spend too much time laying around on phones and computers. Joining my kids outside in the sunshine playing basketball, walking, or just watching them feels really good. It’s a much needed fun break for us all!
9. Sign Up For Alerts From Teachers
Checking in on the kids allow me to help them with a task or make sure they’re doing what is expected of them from the teacher at the moment. But it doesn’t let me know that work is being completed. I’m so happy the kids teachers will notify me that an assignment is missing, incomplete, or that a low grade was received. This way I’m able to be on top of things and quickly nip it in the bud.
If you haven’t signed up to receive alerts and important announcements from your kids teachers you should do so today! Check to see if it’s offered. It makes things much easier when you’re trying to figure out which assignment is missing or which subject your child needs help with. You may also be notified of important dates for tests and upcoming projects which is super helpful.
10. Ask For Help
You are not Superwoman or Superman with super powers so please don’t try to be. Trust me you’ll wear yourself out attempting to handle everything on your own. Even though I know this it doesn’t make it easier for me to reach out and ask for help from anybody. It makes me feel incompetent. Yeah I had to get over that fast because it was a real shit show over here for a while. I pulled myself together and thought about ways to make my life easier.
Asking for help was one way that eased the stress of attempting to juggle everything alone. My Goodness it was hard admitting that I couldn’t do this by myself. But I had to call in the cavalry which included a dad, a grandma, and a special man in my life. I was so thankful that I wasn’t judged. Everyone was so understanding and more than willing to offer a hand. So if things are tough or you just need time to catch up on work please ask for help.
These truly are challenging times for us all. It helps to know many parents across the nation are struggling to find balance in their homes just like me…I’m not alone. I’ve always wanted to work from home but I never imagined it being this way. I wasn’t prepared for having to work while helping the kids with school daily. I struggled a lot in the beginning but things are much better now that I have a plan in place.
Coming up with a plan was essential if I wanted to be successful with creating balance that worked for everyone. I thought about things I could do to help relieve stress and minimize distractions and came up with the list above. Think about a plan based on the dynamics of your family then put it into play. You’ll be on your way to more peace of mind and a system that allows everyone to get things done. Lastly, ask for help if it becomes too much. Don’t suffer in silence!