When I started homeschooling my oldest, I was a single mom going to grad school. A year in, I left grad school and started my own business. I’ve been running that business (and others) now for 12 years. I know a lot of us have been thrown into homeschooling & facilitating distance learning at the moment. It’s hard to balance it all. I have a confession: the interior of my house looks like it’s a disaster site, and to be honest, I probably won’t be fixing that until this weekend. Balance is hard – even when you’ve been doing it for a while.
Know Your Priorities
If everything is a priority, nothing is a priority. The reason I know that we’ll get to the whole house maintaining thing this weekend is because I have a handful of deadlines. For me, with 3 kids ages six and under, having an immaculate house is a task of Sisyphean proportions. I’d rather let go of that and focus on 1) keeping clients happy and 2) ensuring my kids aren’t spending all of their time with the electronic babysitter.
Use Screens Strategically
That said, I do make use of the television, and I’m not even going to apologize for that. Sometimes, there are conference calls, sometimes I need to follow up with a prospect, and sometimes I have a strict deadline that I absolutely have to meet. In those times, I have no shame in my game – Blippi, Paw Patrol, even that Ryan kid help prevent interruptions.
Develop a Do-Not-Disturb Signal
This one is easier said than done when you have young children. With my oldest, I would put headphones on, and that was his signal to read, draw, or play independently. My six-year-old is starting to get the hang of the headphones on…but I can’t do that if her youngest sibling is awake – I need to have all ears ready. Find something that works for your family – especially if your partner is also working from home.
Have a Plan
I use ClickUp to manage my life. (The link is a referral link, which gives me points. I’m not sure what the points do). Between ClickUp with my tasks list for any given day and my homeschooling planning tools, I feel pretty good going into each day. I know what I need to do and what my students need to do. It also gives me a measure of how I did with a day at the end of the day.
Okay, so this one is somewhat hard right now and we really need to think outside of the box. Ordinarily, we have a lot of different activities we participate in for social engagement – and I do a lot of volunteer work. Right now, we’ve dialed back on that. I won’t be coaching T-Ball this summer in all likelihood, and I’ve taken all of my Girl Scouts troop meetings into the virtual realm. I’m considering hosting a virtual dinner party or something of that nature. Working from home gets lonely. So does homeschooling. Even if you don’t think of yourself of all that social a person, humans are social creatures. You don’t realize how many small social interactions you have until they’re just not there.
Things May Not Go As Planned
Despite our best intentions, when working with kids, things might not go as you’d planned. Be prepared for this, and do not let this discourage you. Working at home with kids at home full time and homeschooling them on the fly is a really unique situation. Even those of us who have done this a long time struggle. Something I do that really helps is to record how long things actually take when I’m trying out a new schedule or routine. That way, I’m better able to estimate how long things will take next time and I can plan better. Be flexible. There really is a learning curve to this.
Realize You Cannot Do It All
I know this is related to prioritizing, but it really merits its own discussion. No one can do it all. You will lose your mind and drive yourself into a state of burnout. It’s tempting to try to do it all. I know that temptation well! When I was writing about project management, a wise project manager told me, “You can have scope, budget, or time – pick 2.” That’s a pretty good analogy here. We are all in unique situations right now. It’s okay that it all doesn’t get done. It will. Enlist others to help if you can. If you can’t, it will wait.
Schedule Down Time for Yourself
Finally, I’m a firm believer that if it’s not scheduled, it won’t happen. We all need some downtime. Right now, that’s going to be a bit unique, and that’s okay. It’s okay if you decide, “you know what, I don’t have an immediate deadline, we’re fine on our reading, we’re just going to watch movies and play board games today.” I promise you – from my own experience – it all evens out. Make sure you have time-outs for yourself in your schedule.