Working from home while home schooling

I wrote a blog entry on working from home and parenting in November 2020 (only 2 months ago, but seems like ages ago to be honest). At first I thought I could just re-post it as a reminder, but having read it I realised that I really need to update my advice in light of the new circumstances. In November, schools were open with occasional unexpected breaks - but on the whole, they were open.

Now, the situation has changed - schools are shut, and the date of reopening keeps shifting. They could open in 2 weeks (or not), in 5 weeks (or not), they might open this academic year, but then again they might not. So, how can a parent with school-aged children combine home-schooling and doing work (whatever that work might entail - working for an employer, being self-employed, searching for a job, working on their own project, education, self-development, etc)?

There are a few things going on here. With regards to home schooling, I would suggest to keep in mind these questions:

  • What is the goal of your home schooling?

  • What works for you and for your child?

In my case, school used to fulfil the function of cognitive and social development for my kids. The online learning (2 30 min sessions a day on Zoom) really does not cut it for me - there is no cognitive OR social development elements that I view as appropriate for a 4 and an 8-year old in this arrangement. So instead of online learning, I use workbooks (I bought them myself) and printouts from school, which they give us and we bring them to their office every week for the teachers to see. Remember - this is my situation, my view, and you do not need to agree with it! If online learning works for you and your child, that's perfectly fine! What I am trying to show is that there are alternatives to online learning if it does not work, or it can be modified if that works better for you or your child.

Next, you need to remember that being a parent does not equal being a teacher - we have different roles, we have different environments that we operate in, there are no peers at home (when there are siblings, as in our case, it just all turns into a riot as they laugh at each other's assignments and make mischief). There is a reason why teachers get trained at how to teach - not everyone can do it, and definitely not with their own kids while sitting around in pyjamas at the kitchen table! But yet this is how things are and there is no end in sight to it.

Home learning in progress

How do I deal with a sense of despair at this situation? Well, I set minimum goals. Feasible goals. Here is an example: as long as each child does a bit of writing, reading and math every weekday - I'm cool with that. I try to go for maximum goals every day, but if things go sideways I do not despair. I remind myself that the expectations that have been put on parents by the schools, some of the employers and ultimately the government are absolutely unrealistic.

Next, make compromises and adjust your schedules to one another. If you know that your kids go crazy at a certain point of the day - try not to plan any work that requires concentration for that time. If you know that they can play for a bit on their own after you have done schoolwork with them - use that time to do your own work.

The main thing is, do not try to do two things at once - you will spend twice as much time and achieve twice as little. In other words, if you are trying to work on your own project while simultaneously home schooling your child, they will distract themselves and you will not be able to focus on your work either. It is much better to first focus on one thing and then on the next.

Finally, come to terms that you will not be as productive at work as you would be if schools were open and you had fewer stress factors thrown at you on a daily basis. Actually, you are MORE productive than you were in the past, given how many simultaneous responsibilities you have now. Manage school's, your employer's and most importantly your own expectations about what you can and cannot achieve, and celebrate what you HAVE achieved rather than feel disappointed about what you have not achieved on any given day.

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