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Life’s New Juggle: Remote working & homeschooling

12 May 12:00 by Sheryn Small

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Tips on how to retain some sanity…

Covid-19 has brought many challenges, but perhaps none quite so prevalent as that faced by most parents who are trying to wear two hats simultaneously – worker and teacher. I’m only four weeks into this new regime, and whilst I don’t claim to have all the answers, here are a few tips that are helping me survive.

1. Preparation

Sounds obvious but the more prepared you can be before the day starts, the more productive you and the kids will be. Look at what the kids have to check off. Do things need printing out so it’s easy to fill-in? Do they know their log-ins and passwords – have them handy if they don’t and stick them on the wall so they don’t get lost. Are their computers fully charged and have they got headphones ready so there is minimal disturbance for you? 

Make sure the right textbooks are to hand, and that all the necessary tools are in easy reach (pens, notebooks, calculator, protractor, erasers etc!) as there is nothing worse than a pesky interruption along the lines of “I can’t find my….”. Do they understand the tasks that are set and what’s being asked of them – if not spend time going through them upfront so there are fewer interruptions for you. 

2. Scheduling

I tend to put a good 30 minutes aside at the start of the day running through what the kids need to get through. If the school isn’t providing a schedule, write one yourself, as the clearer the road map is for the day the more chance they’ll have of working through things independently, allowing you more time to manage your own workload. Make sure you share your schedule with the kids too so they know when you cannot be interrupted. If you have an important meeting between 10am & 11am – make sure they know about it, and that any questions will have to wait until it’s over. 

Communication is just as important at home as it is in the workplace, and now the two are the same location it’s more important than ever.  Setting alarms can also work well with younger children who cannot read the time. Tell them that when the alarm goes off that’s when it’s time for morning tea and not before!

3. Set Break / Together time

It’s also important to have set break times where the family can come together, most importantly to eat(!), but also to have some downtime and question time, before everyone goes back to the next set of tasks. My family tends to replicate school in that we have a ‘recess’ mid-morning break, a lunch break and end of school/ afternoon tea break, which signals the end of the day for the kids, and with any luck, the end of your teacher role, so that at least the last stretch of the day might be a little easier. 

If you have set times, it makes it easier to schedule your own work and calls around these times. Be honest with your colleagues about when you’re unavailable. Everyone is going to have some level of appreciation of what working parents are going through at the moment, and if they don’t they need educating!

4. Workspaces

There are probably different strategies for different situations, but it is worth considering WHERE everyone will work, to give everyone in the house the most optimal opportunity to get work done. I have recently carved out new workspaces in our home so we’re not all on top of one another. The kids separate into different rooms when they are working on “high concentration” tasks, and I work in a separate room for phone calls/ meetings along with my own high concentration tasks. 

Sometimes giving kids a level of independence to get on with things themselves somewhere separate to you means fewer interruptions, as if you’re visible to them, it’s too easy to ask something rather than working it out for themselves

5. Be easy on yourself and your kids

Keep reminding yourself that working remotely with your kids in tow is not an easy situation for anyone, and there’s no one to blame when things go awry. If one of your kids is having a really off day and it’s all too hard, don’t punish them and yourself by persevering. Put an educational video on. Tell them to go and build some lego or do a puzzle, walk the dog or read a book. 

There are going to be times when their schoolwork doesn’t get done, but that IS OK. Teachers know how hard this situation is on parents and whilst there is plenty of work set, all children are different and many won’t complete all tasks. Cherry-pick based on your child’s needs, age and ability. At the end of the day, us working parents have jobs to do too, and putting ourselves in a prime position to keep them is all part of Covid-19 survival.

And finally, here are a few great links for school holiday time (or just for those off days…)

Reptile Park Live Streams (10am & 2pm daily)

Science: Max on ABC iview

David Williams Audiobooks

Craft for kids: The Spruce Crafts

Andrew-Lloyd Webber musicals are streaming free on Youtube

Amazon Audible books – all their books are currently free to stream