Are your children distance learning from home? Perhaps you’ve been a work-from-home pro for years. Maybe the COVID-19 pandemic is what brought you home to do your work. Either way, you’re successful at what you do, and every day is productive for you. It shouldn’t be any different when the kids are learning from home.
But now that the traditional school day has changed—morphing from one in which students attend school, go to class, complete their assignments, stay after school or extracurricular activities, go home and repeat the process the next day to a virtual, learning-from-home endeavor—you’re looking at ways to ensure success for not only yourself but your school-aged children as well.
And you can do it by creating places for work and learning to take place, by setting clear boundaries and expectations and by communicating, re-assessing your situation, and being flexible by making necessary changes as they are needed.
Create an intentional, purposed place in which business to be conducted.
Success comes from purposeful planning and preparation.
While it may be a bit more convenient for you to be in the same room with your children, that’s not usually the most productive set-up when it comes to business. How will you answer phone calls related to work if your kids are in a virtual classroom listening to their teachers? How will you read and respond to e-mails in a timely manner if you are distracted by the dialogue between your middle school-aged kids about the latest TikTok trends?
While you have to remain accessible to your kids should they need your help, you also have to remain productive in your own efforts. You have a family to support.
Start by allocating a particular space where you’ll work. If you don’t have the extra space, try working in a large walk-in closet or at the dining room table while your kids work in the kitchen. Whichever space you decide to use, set it up where you can work long-term so your schedule becomes routine to you.
Be sure to have supplies easily accessible to you and the space to talk to those with whom you collaborate, without distracting the kids.
Create an intentional, purposed place conducive to learning for your children.
The same goes for the kids’ learning space. Learning can take place in many ways and in many areas within your house. Bedrooms can work if there are desks set up in the rooms where the kids can be organized and purposeful in their efforts, so long as they are not easily distracted by toys, games, and other things that fight for their attention during the school day.
School-aged children will still need occasional supervision, especially if they struggle with attention issues or learning differences, but they also need a specific place where they know they will work on school each day. Though they’ll never admit it, kids crave structure. It’s one of the first ingredients in the recipe for their success learning from home.
Set clear boundaries and expectations for yourself and for your children.
Setting boundaries is probably one of the most prevalent challenges facing those who work from home.
Having children who now learn from home only adds to the challenge, but it doesn’t make things impossible. Clear boundaries must be set with regard to the amount of time that you will spend working, as well as the amount of time your children will spend attending virtual school and working on assignments. As a work-from-home parent, you may already face the challenge of work-life balance. It makes sense—your work is always right there with you. Your home is your place of business.
One of the luxuries we forgo as work-from-home employees is the ability to “leave the office.”
That doesn’t happen for us. So we have to be intentional about the time we will dedicate to work and the time we will reserve for uninterrupted family time. It isn’t only your deadlines and the kids’ assignment due dates that have to be adhered to; the family unit must remain a family unit—a cohesive unit that still enjoys evenings and weekends together, one that cooperates to help each other be successful and one that can, quite frankly, simply get along with one another.
Communication has always been a “make it or break it” component to every relationship, whether professional or within the family.
That’s why it’s absolutely essential to be sure you’re communicating with your team and your supervisor, as well as with your children and their educators as necessary.
Often, endeavors fail due to a lack of communication, not due to a flawed plan. If ever communication were key, it’s now when the whole family is working and learning from home.
Virtual working and learning from home are brilliant ideas, but they can present unique challenges when it comes to communication since you aren’t right there with your team in the flesh. Your paths don’t cross. Your children don’t actually see their teachers in person. These things can make communication more difficult and sometimes even seem like it’s not as necessary.
Be upfront with your employer and let him know that your children are learning from home. Let your children’s teachers know you are a work-from-home parent, but you still will be an involved parent. And when problems arise, communicate so that understanding and solutions can follow.
Re-assess and make necessary changes.
By now, you may be a few weeks into the parent-at-home-students-at-home scenario. How’s it going? Are you pulling out your hair? Are your children missing assignments? Is there chaos? Or are things flowing pretty well? Are you feeling successful? Are you meeting your deadlines?
No matter how you answer these questions, changes can always be made to your set-up. Reassessment is key, as it will allow you to take a look at your successes (or lack thereof), as well as your children’s progress and make changes accordingly.
If things are working well, perhaps you’ve found your flow, your pulse. And if things need a re-imagining, that’s not the end of the world. In fact, it’s a doorway through which you can find your flow. Do what works best for you and yours.
Find the environment and pulse that works for your family.
What works in your home may not work for your daughter’s best friend’s family or your supervisor and his children, and that’s ok.
The most important thing to remember is that like you and your children, your situation is unique.
Your home life is unique. You may face challenges another family doesn’t face and vice versa. So throw out the notion to compare your family’s work/learn-from-home dynamic with that of the family down the street. Your only barometers are yourself and your family. Is your family completing work and assignments and still finding time to be a family? If so, you’re doing well. You can do this! You’ve found that flow, and success is around every corner.