I am sure a lot of parents can relate to this enormous challenge, regardless of whether they are migrants or not. Homeschooling your kids for the second time within six months is not an easy thing to do, especially if at the same time you are working from home, and still have to take care of family members in your homeland.
In my specific case, the first lockdown was a bit easier. We managed the homeschool start-up challenges with our eldest (currently in the 7th-Grade) and did not have to worry about homework with our youngest who was still in kindergarten. Then came the second lockdown, and made us face new challenges and scale-up our homeschooling game.
Since homeschooling means doing schoolwork during mornings and practicing in the afternoons, time management and communication can work wonders. Organization, teamwork, and dedication are key; here are my tips for balancing your work and your kids’ schoolwork.
1. Be Transparent with Your Employer
Opening up about a major challenge takes courage. But, if your direct manager knows the situation (yes, we are all in a crazy situation), support and understanding will be immediately established. When I told my manager that there are several COVID cases in my daughter’s school and she needs to stay home, which directly impacts my (and my husband’s) availability, my manager said “no problem” and simply asked me to inform him whether I need any support with my work tasks.
While this might not be the case across all work environments, it is still important to include your manager and let him or her know about your unique challenges, so you can figure out a strategy to overcome these challenges together.
2. Schedule Study Time
Set up a routine for you and your kids. If everyone knows that 7 am, for example, is school time, then everyone must be committed to this schedule. In my family, the first shift of schoolwork starts at 7 am and ends at 9 am, when I must start my workday. Then, at noon my husband picks up the second schoolwork shift, which normally lasts until early in the afternoon.
Of course, this changes according to your child’s age and the amount of help he or she needs in learning and practicing schoolwork. This can be an excellent opportunity to learn about your child’s strengths and weaknesses and see how you can dedicate time to specifically focus on a particular subject.
What happens if you don’t have time? This happens. It’s important to keep an open channel of communication with your significant other and coordinate your children’s education together.
3. Ask for Help
It’s true what they say, it really takes a village to raise a child, and homeschooling is definitely a community effort. So, reaching out to the teachers, grandparents, siblings and even other parents could ease the chaos.
It starts with the school teacher making the effort to email school work to all the parents, explaining lesson plans so that parents can teach their own kids ala school style, and ends with parents finding the time to squeeze in some school-time in their work schedules. Another part is the sacred bond between all parents, a bond that includes sharing information about homework, and even help in sharing the homeschooling load. For example, you can share homeschooling responsibilities with other parents and decide that once a week your child will do their schoolwork at a classmate’s house and on another day, your child’s classmate will do their schoolwork at your house.
Asking for help, especially during these challenging times, is not a sign of weakness, it is a sign of strength. We need each other to teach and raise our children. Don’t be afraid of asking school teachers for tips on classroom management, a parent to send a copy of the page your kid is missing, or even someone you trust to tutor your kid.
4. Ditch the Household Chores
Working from home is challenging for most parents who try to multitask and combine house chores with work. My personal tip is to not even try to do chores while working.
Of course, chores will remain chores until they are done. Personally, I get to it once I am done working for the day. That way I can focus on my work without overwhelming myself with other personal tasks.
Yes, the pile of laundry will still be half full at 10 pm, when I can dedicate time to fold and iron (if not, it’ll still be there tomorrow). Most importantly, I don’t feel guilty if I am not done with my chores. Also, if anyone can tell my husband to give me a roomba s9+ this Christmas, that would be great!
Pro tip: Set timers on the washing machine and the dishwasher, that way everything is clean by morning when all that’s left to do is place the clean dishes and cutlery in the cupboard and hang clean clothes in the closet.
5. Say No, It’s Really OK
This may come as a surprise to some of you, but saying “no” can sometimes teach people to love and respect you. Working from home is undoubtedly stressful, especially if you add homeschooling a kid on top of everything. Remember that sometimes, you can politely say no to a colleague, or decline a meeting.
6. Save Your Evenings and Weekends
In other words: Work hard, party harder! Personally, I tend to focus at work during work hours so that once I close my laptop and leave my home office, all my time is dedicated to dinner, my kids, my husband, my hobbies, and yes, sometimes even to chores(!).
Healthy segregation of activities is vital to one’s wellness. So, be sure to dedicate time to your family and friends after working hours. Remember having time is different than making time. Most working parents don’t have the time. So you choose.
7. Be Mindful
As parents, we are responsible for taking care of ourselves and our family’s needs. If we are mindful of each family member’s needs, we can customize our behavior according to their love language. This can really shift the way we balance our work from home and our homeschooling efforts for our children, making this effort both manageable and harmonious.
Indeed, finding the balance between your work and your kids’ educational needs is not an easy task. Keeping the balance is hard, but once your family develops some kind of routine, it will open up understanding for both sides.
On the other hand, knowing our limitations with all the roles we need to fill during these stressful times makes us more emphatic human beings, which is, by the way, what we need more in these extraordinary times – Empathy.