Let’s face it, this year’s going to be challenging for all parents. We’ve talked about tips for virtual learning and about the differences between homeschooling and virtual learning (and tips for that as well), and now we want to talk to those of you who are working from home while your kids are schooling from home.
Yeah, it's me – struggling to keep up with work deadlines while supervising my children’s online schooling. And, I’m not ashamed to admit. It’s a lot to take in at once! While there’s no right way to home school (or supervise virtual learning), parenting and working while the kids are virtual learning will be much of a trial and error process. And, I’m here for all the first day(s) of school bloopers!
Here are some tips to hopefully give you some pause and make things fun while getting through the semester or school year during the pandemic. Full disclosure: I’ll be trying out these tips as well, as this is my first time working from home while my three kids engage in virtual learning. I’m prepared (not really) for things to go haywire (like two-out-of-three of my kids’ having their first school day end early because of technical difficulties. I’m also ready to drink huge amounts of chai throughout all of this!
I’ll probably also need to ambush that secret chocolate stash after the kids are in bed.
Hey – just keeping it real, LOL!
But, I’m trying these 13 tips in my home, and hopefully, they’ll help make things go smoother for you and your kiddos too!
1. Create schedules: Working from home requires rigor and self-discipline, especially when you have to get work done when it may feel like a drag. (Admit it, it does feel that way sometimes!) To do this, you have to create a block schedule for yourself and the kids. This may include a morning routine, everything from brushing teeth to squeezing in 10 minutes to read the Quran, eating breakfast and cleaning up beds before school. Give the kids a running list of things they can do – from quiet activities to chores and playtime. Set working blocks before the kids wake up during the times they can independently work and for yourself for things to accomplish after they’re asleep.
2. Talk to your manager/co-workers (if you work with others): More of us are managing working from home while our kids school from home than you think. We all need to manage expectations, and many places of work have had to come around to greater flexibility and trust in their employees. If your office knows what’s up in your home with your work situation and you present how you plan to meet deadlines and adjust things, Insha’Allah it will make everything go smoother. Unless you have a Godzilla boss, in which case I’m sorry. Really, really sorry. And good luck :)
3. Wake up an hour(s) early:
One of my best tips is to wake up one-to-two hours before the kids. I know. How much sweeter would it be to sleep? But trust me on this. For example, you could wake up before fajr or stay up afterwards – both times of immense barakah
, or blessings. The Prophet Muhammad (saw) said: “Allah made the early hours blessed for my Ummah
.” (Ahmed). The Productive Muslim
gives great tips on increasing blessings while being productive, like sleeping early and squeezing in Quran reading, exercising in the morning and beginning tasks with Bismillah
, in the name of God.
Also, if you know you have a tight deadline for something that day and need some quiet time to push through, the early morning hours can be great for this if it’s too hard while the kids are up and schooling.
4. Instant Pot goodness:
When I finally gave into the Instant Pot hype, I promised myself that I’d use it at least once a week or I wouldn’t buy one. Although I don’t cook everything in it, some of my favorites are chicken biryani
, four-minute mac-and-cheese
, just boiling plain pasta and making soup in the fall or winter. It can be a HUGE time saver and even something you can start up when you break for lunch so that dinner is ready when you need it.
5. Grab-and-go lunches: One of the things that works effectively for my family is meal planning for the week – whether I’m making the food that day or parts to toss together in the morning. I also have set up my dining room table for breakfast with biscuits, Nutella, fresh fruit, honey and snacks. Keep the table/space prepared with clean bowls, spoons and plates.
6. Keep healthy snacks on hand: My kids, ages 10, seven and five, requested snacks in their mini-fridge that I set up near their learning stations. I’ll be adding a fruit basket on top to keep healthy snacks within reach, which includes yogurt, cheese sticks and pre-packed sandwiches to get them through the day. I’ve also filled water bottles at the beginning of the day for no interruptions. Of course by week two, we may all be reaching for the cookies. No promises!
7. Set ground rules: Have some basic rules to keep chaos at bay. Have the kids stay in their designated room or space during class. They can walk around during breaks but shouldn’t come into another room where someone is learning. (If you have tots at home, this is going to be hard, I’m not going to lie! You may need to subscribe to the school of YouTube for little ones for pockets of time when their older siblings need to focus.) If they get kicked off a Zoom or Google meeting (whatever your school uses), then they can knock quietly where mom is working to ask for assistance. They are free to eat lunch by themselves if they finish early.
8. Creative decor: In our house, we set up the desks in three rooms for virtual learning. To make it more fun, we told the kids to decorate their space however they wanted to. (Within reason, of course! I’m not standing for a glitter explosion!) To get them started, we picked out simple flower wall frames that we found at our neighbor’s garage sale. Add items to the space that the kids love and will help them feel more relaxed.
9. Set up space near the youngest/the neediest: While you’ll need a quiet space to make phone calls and attend meetings, consider setting up your workspace near the kid who you anticipate will need you the most to avoid interruptions, like a door opening repeatedly. If your kids don’t need constant hands-on assistance (secondary), consider setting your space somewhere between them. Have the kids use headphones if they are able to keep up with classroom instruction, and use your own. Keep yourself muted when you’re not speaking. (Who doesn’t know this by now?)
If you have a kindergartner like me, you may need to pay attention for the first few days and have the kids keep headphones off. Ask the teacher for clarity/guidance. Ask them for grace. We all need grace with each other.
10. Clear your schedule: Give yourself the sanity of moving deadlines, asking for more flexibility and try not to schedule any major meetings or calls during the grind of class times (if possible) – especially during the first few weeks. So far, I have found out the kids will have some downtime to work by themselves. Ask your boss to consider having meetings during those time periods. Shorten meetings whenever possible or let yourself stay on mute (while using the chat function) if you need to do something for your child. Ask about pre-recording presentations or having meetings in the evenings. Make sure you have independent activities on hand for the kids if they are done early.
11. Send (more) emails: We’re all going this pandemic bending conventional professionalism to work early and perhaps while the kids sleep. Personally, I make a running document of all my deadlines and who to email or call at what time besides putting appointments in my Google Calendar. Some mornings I am following up with contacts or just sending texts or emails. As a journalist, I prefer phone interviews but am relying on more emails to set up appointments and interviews. Send texts or emails whenever possible while the kids are virtual learning. Connect by phone before or after class or when the kids will be independently learning and/or taking a break. Don’t expect instant responses. You may not be able to give instant responses yourself.
12. Silly Stretch, Wacky Yoga or Just Dance:
As the kiddos won’t be getting as much exercise during the school day (Someone explain to me how online P.E. is going to work?), plan a quick walk during lunch or after class to keep them moving. In some schools kids will get 10-minute breaks between courses. Put on your kids favorite Go Noodle
or Just Dance
video. If you’re not into music, do sing-a-longs like “Head, Shoulders, Knees and Toes
,” or “Go Bananas,” which incorporate movement.
If your kids like yoga, Cosmic kids
incorporate storytelling. Maybe even do a 16-minute exercise
on YouTube twice a week to get them pumped during longer breaks/lunch. (Perhaps you can squeeze in your workout together! Or, catch up on that deadline while they work out.)
13. Friendly check-in: Set up a scheduled time when they can check in with a friend, family member, or someone they want during a break. They miss their friends and won’t be able to talk during class. This is a great way to fill in that void.
Whether this list works for you or not, brainstorm ideas to make virtual learning while you work from home easier for you and the kids. Ask them what they need from you and tell them what your needs are as well.
Share your thoughts and tips with us in the comments below!