It takes a certain kind of bravery to be a stay at home parent and I have never put myself in the ranks of those that have embarked upon homeschooling. But, here I am pulling up my bootstraps and giving it a go as I am now (temporarily) a full-time working mom of a high functioning special needs child who is now….homeschooled.
Draw Courage from Culture
I have a few things on my side as I embark upon this new normal that as a society we are facing together. I have worked from home for over four years almost exclusively for a company that has built its culture around four key values: Human, Generous, Authentic and Innovative.
Each of these values will be key in making this new normal work well. Because of innovative technologies and working for a business that believes in leveraging the most progressive tools, I have the benefit of Microsoft technologies such as Teams, Planner and Outlook to assist me along this journey.
Since I have worked from home for quite some time, I have worked out most of the kinks that come with working from home such as scheduling, time management, task management and remote relationship-building through the use of video and chat; but that isn’t to say that I have not experienced new challenges with my new work structure (e.g. teaching math to an 8-year-old!). The need for scheduling, organization and perseverance just got elevated as I embark upon homeschooling as an added responsibility to my days.
Where Do We Begin?
First, breathe and remember this a trial and error period, so it will be essential to tweak your actions and circumstances until you find a rhythm that works for you. Let’s dig into a few things that I have learned after one week of being a work from home employee + homeschool parent.
- Get organized. If you think you are organized, take another pass and be sure that you have covered all of your bases for work, school and home.
- Structure and consistency in this time will help in all areas that we are trying to manage. A schedule for your key working hours, breaks and a schooling schedule to keep everyone on task will be essential. Although structure is important, if something isn’t working well within your home, adjust as you need to until you find a rhythm.
- Be realistic & kind to yourself – at work, home and “school”. We have responsibilities to uphold in all areas of our lives, but loosening the pressure on yourself and being realistic will help every family member achieve more. Not every task, project, lesson or day will be Pinterest-worthy, and that’s okay. It’s essential to balance mental health needs with productivity.
- Protect your time when you need to. Take a good look at your calendar and space out your calls, schedule homework assistance time, breaks and combine and move tasks around to make the day’s schedule more realistic and to strike the proper balance. For me, this looks like an adjusted work schedule, fewer back-to-back calls and integrating breaks through my new workday in order to check work, make lunches and redirect the “school”, as needed.
- Get dressed – this may sound insignificant, but I have learned that if you don’t treat your day as a workday, it won’t be. That means getting up and following a routine as if I were going to head into the office. These days, the same goes for my kiddo. She gets up at the same time, gets dressed and has breakfast as she would on a typical school day. Maintaining this routine during this time will help ease back into our typical schedule when she returns to traditional school.
- Dedicate a clear space and boundaries for work, home and school. This helps draw the balance between the three. I had some trial and error in this area and have now set up a workspace for school to avoid schoolwork being done on the sofa.
- Balance technology – I can’t urge you enough to find the right technology mix that works for you. Explore what can be used to assist in both your work (Video, IM Etc.) and education to make this time less isolated and a smoother ride. I have witnessed to schools, theater classes and even our Occupational Therapists spinning up technological resources in less than a week to accommodate children’s needs and to say I have been impressed is an understatement.
- Shift work – If possible, try to work in shifts with your partner to achieve a balance for everyone. It allows for more deep work and focus for both parties, as well as consistent supervision for a child who may need to make up schoolwork.
In unprecedented times as a parent, it’s essential that we work to develop unprecedented strategies. During remote work and schooling experiences, just like any other time, no household schedule or dynamic will look the same, and that’s okay. By doing what we can with what we have, we are already succeeding at parenting during this challenge.