How families can learn and work at home TOGETHER…and stay sane!
Here are the facts – I am a tertiary educator, researcher and online business operator. I am a grandmother. Sometimes I feel I can’t create enough activities to keep my grandchildren (3 and 9 years old) occupied for a day so I can work from home! I am often frustrated.
….And I don’t think I’m on my own in feeling this way.
For many families, having children learning at home because of COVID-19, has created a certain amount of chaos to an otherwise calm working from home environment. As a publisher of dance education resources, I was already running an online business from home and having my two grandchildren around the house has seriously disturbed my daily routine.
Negotiating a new working schedule is only part of this equation. More importantly, we need to consider how we are going to maintain our ongoing relationships with those we love most in the world.
Be prepared to pivot…adapting to learning and working from home with kids
We can learn many lessons from parents who are already home schooling. As parents, their daily routine is about creating an environment that is productive, creative and calm. Doing this with children of different ages and stages of learning is a juggle on its own.
When talking about learning from home, Sharndra Chapman (distance educator and home-schooling parent), says:
Relax!! If it’s not working today…pack up and try again tomorrow. It’s not worth the parent/child conflict.
She stresses that switching activities is the key. Trying a range of subject areas from the Arts through to PE and be prepared to shift focus if things really aren’t working.
Establishing the rules of the home office and classroom
Avoid being too rigid in making the rules and involve each child in establishing their own ideas of what might take place every day. Think of it as a strategy meeting each morning that establishes what each person in the home wants to achieve.
Your children will surprise you with how creative they can be about their own learning and how accommodating they can be about your needs. This is where charts and stickers come in handy. I often use these to set goals and to eventually achieve them.
If you have deadlines for your work, make this clear at the beginning and work out how much ‘you’ time you need to achieve it. This can be tricky with very young children. Your younger children’s nap-time is a very good time for your older children to play some games online or watch a movie. This can create some quiet time for you to concentrate on your work.
Sharndra suggests slowly creating ‘must do’ tasks that will often involve literacy and numeracy. These activities will be the ones that are set by the school curriculum and will be able to be done independently. You can get your easy work done like checking emails while keeping children on task.
Be prepared for work to take longer to achieve when kids are involved!
When working from home alone we can really get in ’the zone’ and often achieve a lot in a short space of time. With a family in the picture things can slow down to a stop! Avoid the frustration by setting some activities for parents and children creating together and some where they work independently.
Schools require any online learning to be supervised by parents so try to be in the room when there are online interactive activities taking place.
Also be prepared for your child’s learning activities to take longer than you might think. Each child will respond to activities in a different way. The more involved they are the longer they will spend completing the task. If you are wanting to get some work done make sure it’s something that they are passionate about.
Get creative with how you work in the home with your children
Music, dance, visual art and drama are all fun and effective ways for children to learn but can also diffuse home isolation tensions. They also provide a welcome change from your work and can act as a real stress breaker. Space them between tasks that require concentration to release some of the pressure. My motto is:
If in doubt dance!
Collaborative arts education projects with your children are a great way to be involved as partners rather than with you leading. Once again set a plan, in consultation with your children, about how the project will proceed. Having clear scaffolding for the activity supports a happy team.
So here are my new facts. Long after the COVID-19 crisis is over and we’re back working from home alone, our children will remember the time spent together as a family. How much fun the family talent quest was and how Grammy was willing to take a risk and look foolish as she danced around the living room to a song from her youth. The unknown will be known and what will remain is the security of how we pulled together and supported each other. Go easy on your family…and yourself.