In 2020, students finished the final months of their school year online. The experience was frustrating and highlighted the problems with trying to keep kids focused on school and productivity. Now a new school year has begun, with many students (and parents) navigating online-only education once more.
The new learning environment has already proven troublesome for parents who need to leave their homes for work. It’s also challenging for those who run businesses from home or continue to work remotely for their employers.
Thankfully, you can help your kids achieve online school success while simultaneously staying productive with your own work at home. Here’s how to do it.
1. Discuss the situation.
Many people aren't accustomed to talking about their family or personal situations at work. However, managers and supervisors can — and should — be understanding of team members and their lives outside of the workplace.
Despite the pressure you may feel, you’re not expected to divulge every detail of your daily life to employees or clients. You may, however, want to share with them that you have children and must accommodate your role as a parent as well as a business owner.
Setting expectations can go a long way in helping you proactively set guidelines for your availability for telephone and video calls. You can start this process by getting clarity about deadlines or asking for extensions if you need them. You may also choose to communicate your availability routine by using the tools you have at your disposal such as the “away” status update on messenger services or by blocking off time on shared calendars.
2. Change your schedule.
Consider shifting your home office hours to accommodate school and work needs. This might mean starting earlier, working later or moving some project work to the weekend. Getting up even one hour ahead of your normal work hours or using a Saturday morning can keep productivity on track.
It may sound grueling, but a change of schedule can provide a way to fill both your roles. Plan carefully so you're available to help the kids with assignments, sign into meetings and complete your work projects. Looking ahead at what you need to accomplish each week can help you assess and adjust each week’s schedule as necessary, and help you get ahead of priority projects that need your undivided time and attention.
While many may now be accustomed to working at different hours, don’t assume that others will be working on the same schedule. It can be critical here to overcommunicate your availability, at least until others become familiar with how and when you can work.
3. Talk with your kids.
Since virtual learning began for many in March, you may have already explained the concept of "quiet time" to your kids. Now is the time to reinforce those boundaries and share a new schedule. Consider posting a “quiet time” hours on a family calendar or put a sign on your door to let them know you are in meetings.
Planning your lunch around the kids' lunch can also help provide them with quality time to make up for your quiet time request. During this time, you can talk to them about how their school day is going or answer questions about their assignments. Even just listening to any frustration they have with online learning can help your kids settle into the new arrangement.
Be proactive with setting guidelines for your availability for telephone and video calls and communicate them to those who need to know.
As your workday ends, check in with your kids and plan something that you can do together, like take a walk, go for a bike ride, play a game — or have your kids select an activity that they would like to do with you. Not only are they happy they have your full attention, but you also can enjoy the time as a way to decompress from work.
4. Hire virtual tutors.
Many college students and substitute teachers are looking for work right now. Meanwhile, parents like you are seeking assistance with schoolwork and academic support.
Hiring a virtual tutor can be a win-win-win. Your kids win by getting extra help. You win more work time and can still feel good knowing that your kids’ educational needs are being met. And more people serve a vital purpose while making a living through this new in-demand role.
You can find a tutor through an online job board like Tutor.com, TutorMe, Varsity Tutors and others. Many local tutors, teachers and college students are also posting in local Facebook groups and community forums. Finally, your kids’ schools may also have tutor recommendations.
5. Talk with — and lean on — other parents.
We all need to vent, so it’s good to check in with other parents you know. Talking and listening help make the situation more bearable and might also lead to better practices that you and your family can implement.
Online communities are even forming in local areas and within certain school districts where parents are sharing ideas about creating and managing their kids’ online learning environment. Others are volunteering to assist by hosting a learning collaborative or “pod” in their garage or patio. Even something as simple as scheduling some time for a fifteen-minute phone call with other parents in your organization can go a long way in helping you level set.
6. Put kids to work.
If their schedule allows, ask your kids if they'd like to help out with small tasks or projects related to your business. This may be most beneficial for middle school and high school students. If they're not overwhelmed with schoolwork, this can give them something to do and help them contribute in meaningful, helpful ways.
It’s a great opportunity to get help with time-consuming tasks, such as mailings or filing. If you have tech-savvy high schoolers, they may even be able to help with creating and scheduling social media posts or data entry if you’re running your own business.
Besides keeping them busy and reducing your workload, there may be another benefit: Depending on the type of business structure you use, you may even be able to write off part of what you pay your kids for their services.
7. Stay patient.
There’s obviously nothing normal about this school year’s routine for you or for your kids. School districts may or may not return to traditional in-person learning this school year, so it’s important to make the best of the situation and remember to be patient with your kids’ frustrations and help promote their positive mental health. This, too, applies to the new way of working — it’s new for virtually everyone, so try to dispel new frustrations with patience and an open mind.
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