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An Operation Manager’s Guide to Juggling Work & Homeschool

As many households across the world prepare for the juggle of work and homeschooling (if they’ve not started already), here are some tips from Rushani, our Ops Manager on how her family are juggling 2 full time working schedules and homeschooling 2 children aged 2 and 5 with no childcare.

Posted on Mar 23, 2020

As I’ve been planning for the week ahead I appreciate how hard a task it is to look after ourselves and our kids while we are also juggling work and trying to just keep up a bit of normalcy.

Navigating the change in everyone’s schedules can be quite unsettling at first and there are bound to be some teething issues, just as with any new process in the beginning. Therefore, I like to take the mindset that this first week at home is our testing phase and we’ll start off with a plan but be open to changes and most importantly be kind to ourselves and our children if we don’t manage to get through everything we had in mind for the day.

Here are a few of the things that I’ve found helpful in getting us ready for this test phase of our new full time working and homeschooling routine.

1. Involve the kids in the planning

Rather than present the work for our children and expect them to complete it, we set out the list of topics that we need to cover that week and ask them what order they’d like to complete them in. We also lay the expectation that some topics will be learned through games whereas others will require some time using books and worksheets. However, they are always welcome to suggest how we can turn a worksheet topic into a game once we’ve covered the basics.

When children have been given a chance to give input they are much more likely to stick to the plan and don’t need to be convinced to complete a task. They also know what else is planned so all the more incentive for them to focus and get on with the activities that feel more like rote work to move on to the fun stuff.

Things are more fluid with my 2.5 year old but I still give him the chance to input so that he feels heard and he loves to do whatever his sister is doing anyway.

2. Give them undivided attention as early on in the day as possible

I find kids tend to play more independently and are more understanding and flexible if you can’t give them attention at other points in their day, if their cups have been filled as early as possible once they’ve woken up. This could be a mindful breakfast where all the family are present and not on devices, a good exercise session (dance party is the current exercise of choice) and also fitting in their learning activities at a time when they are the most focused and switched on.

They are then ready for some of their own play time and independent learning games.

3. Make everything accessible for your children

I’m a big believe in the Montessori philosophy and so most things that the children need are already accessible to them at their height and level. However, we’ve created mini stations around the living room which we switch up each day to keep things interesting and they can move around and explore these activities in their own time.

I’ve also hidden away some toys/​games/​crafts so we can bring them out at a later date and also bought a few new ones to be used as the weeks go on.

We also make sure that healthy snacks and water are always out during the day so they can help themselves whenever they are hungry outside of mealtimes.

4. Agree signs/​etiquette for when we are both on a call

As we are both working, we do our best to arrange calls so that one person is always available” or able to respond to the kids’ needs but as with the nature of children they always want the parent who’s unavailable and there are inevitably times where we both need to be on a call. To plan for these times we’ve agreed some etiquette to follow when we are on a call.

They are allowed to walk in and out of the room to get things, play on the floor/​bed quietly, sit on our laps quietly and play and we have a sign they can make if it’s something really important they need to ask us or need help with. We have signs for 1 minute and 5 minutes so they know if it’s a long or short amount of time they have to wait. My daughter also likes to write little post-it notes with her requests or messages and leaves them on the table.

Luckily working at means this has never been an issue as children are frequent guests to our meetings and often have ideas to contribute too — especially when it comes to design!

5. Have some non-learning time with them too

While most of the morning’s directed time with them involves learning or learning games, we both make a conscious effort to spend 1:1 time with each child doing something they choose — so they are in charge for the 20–25 minutes and we play along. We then switch children and give the other child 1:1 undivided attention. Sometimes we have to split these sessions across the day and sometimes we do it all in one go.

It’s something we did even before the current work/​school situation and so we make it an important point to continue the things that matter to them even though it might feel like we are in the house with them all the time — letting them be in charge gives them a great boost in their self-confidence.

6. Give everyone a quiet space

Now more than ever it’s important that we all have somewhere we feel is safe and can get some downtime. Therefore, we all have a quiet space each that we can retreat to when we need a time-out and no-one else in the family is allowed to interrupt us when we are in our quiet space unless there is an emergency.

7. Movie Time

Inevitably it’s going to be hard to plan activities that take up every minute of the day, so we do allow them to choose a movie in the afternoon. However, in order to avoid this being just mindless consumption, we then also access lots of behind the scenes footage so that the kids can see how the movie is made and understand all the creative process and effort that goes into making a film. They’ll then often act out scenes from the film and the next day we use as much of that movie as inspiration to theme our learning — my 5 year old will write about it, they both draw pictures and we even do sums based on parts of the movie.

It might not happen everyday but if it’s one they’ve particularly enjoyed it helps to avoid rote learning and I don’t have to prep too much for the lessons because it’s fresh in all of our heads.

8. Mindfullness and mental health

It’s really important to keep talking to our children as honestly and openly as possible about the situation so they feel informed of the most recent updates. We have keyworkers in our close family who we won’t be able to see for a while which makes us sad. We understand why but that doesn’t mean we aren’t allowed to feel sad about it and we encourage our children to share when they are missing family or friends and we think about what we can do to cheer ourselves up when we do have those moments.

We also want our children to appreciate how hard NHS staff are working to care for people and how lucky we are to be able to stay safe at home and still continue with education and spend time together when for a lot of families around the world that just isn’t an option. Most importantly, it’s OK to feel however you feel in the moment and we let the kids know that we are figuring it out as we go — we aren’t perfect and there’s no expectation for them to be either. All we can do is our best.

We end everyday with a gratitude list, story time and then a meditation for kids so we will be continuing that routine even more solidly in the next few weeks.

9. Fill up your water bottles

I’ve filled up everyone’s water bottles and we have a challenge going to see who can finish theirs before lunchtime and then we’ll have a refill for the afternoon. This means we stay hydrated which we forget to do at the best of times let alone when we’re juggling but it’s key to keeping our immunity up.

In summary

It’s important to control the things that we can and keep up as much routine for our children as possible. At the same time, it’s important to have realistic expectations and not be too hard on ourselves if things haven’t gone how we’d planned. As with every great process — there’s the potential to improve upon it every single day!

Day 1 has gone well so far, apart from a 2.5 year old who didn’t want to nap at his usual time which is when I’d planned my meetings — but it was still fine and the kids were happy to have their movie earlier than planned. We’ve only had one meltdown which was around mealtimes and that’s the one area I know I’m going to have to be patient because feeding a picky eater in these challenging times is not going to be fun or easy!

If you have any tips on how I can tackle that challenge — then I’m all ears!