For many working parents, finding the right balance between work and home can be a challenge, whether they work from home or outside the home. Now the COVID-19 pandemic has transformed that challenge into a crisis.

As we look toward the fall, many states find themselves in situations where schools will either have to continue with remote learning or a combination of remote learning and in-person instruction. These options are proving to be a logistical nightmare for working parents, especially those who don’t have the option to work from home.

But working outside the home or working from home without childcare is possible and can be achieved without losing your mind. Here are some strategies on how working parents can manage their work and their child’s education:

Strategies to Manage Home Education for Parents Who Work Outside the Home

For parents working outside the home, staying on top of your child’s educational responsibilities can be overwhelming. On top of the hours you spend at work, there is also the time spent commuting. With schools and daycares closed, plus the added health risks involved in bringing outsiders into your home, relying on childcare has become extremely difficult.

Whether you are receiving outside help or not, it’s easy to feel removed from what happens throughout the day while you are at work. So what can you do to make the whole situation better?

Here are a few strategies that may help:

  • Create a To-Do List: To-do lists are a great time management tool for everyone. But when you work outside the home these can become your best friend. You can list out all the things you need to complete for the week. Then organize by priority and assign each item to different family members or friends that may be helping you out. You will feel a great sense of accomplishment and relieve some stress as you cross off items on day 1, day 2 and so on.
  • Set a Schedule That Works For You: Working parents can manage school successfully without feeling overwhelmed. Many homeschooling families have been doing it for decades and so can you. Some parents prefer to stick to the traditional school hours, while others prefer a different approach. If you find your schedule is not working for you, remember that homeschooling allows you the freedom to reevaluate and adjust your school schedule!
    • Sticking to Traditional-School Hours: Some parents may find that keeping their children under regular school hours may work best when working outside the home. Many parents schedule lesson learning during the day while they are gone and review their child’s work once they get home. If the child is lacking in certain areas, they add this as an item to tackle once they have more free time on their hands.
    • Using Non-Traditional School Hours: Other parents may find that sticking to non-traditional school hours works best for them. While coming home from work and then having to do school may feel overwhelming, the beauty of home education is that the one-on-one instruction actually saves you and your child time. Your child may learn a given skill or concept a lot faster than when trying to learn alongside 15 or more kids. You can schedule lessons on evenings and weekends.

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  • Involve the Family: Other adults in the family may be able to handle particular subject areas or certain “shifts” during the day. If there are older siblings, they can be engaged in helping to guide and even tutor younger children. Family members not living in the household can also use technology to virtually check in with your children while you are working. You can also use “family time” to supplement what is provided by the schools to fill in gaps or extend learning. For example, family members can join the student on virtual field trips or in watching documentaries.
  • Make the Most of Technology: Virtual assistants, alarms, reminders, etc. They’ve all become part of our daily lives for the most part. Take advantage of all these tools to help with the actual (home) schooling process.
    • Digital Calendars: Share these with family members to minimize interruptions during work hours and hold everyone accountable for their share of tasks/responsibilities. Assignments, projects and virtual meetings can all be scheduled and shared here.
    • Automated Reminders: These can help everyone stay on track with their responsibilities on a daily, weekly and monthly basis.
    • Shared Documents: You can all work off of shared documents/spreadsheets. You can store your assignments or projects on there and mark them complete once they are done. Whenever you have breaks at work you can quickly check the progress of all items and follow up on those that need it once you get home from work.
  • Pool Resources With Other Parents: You may be able to share responsibilities and combine efforts with other working or non-working parents of your children’s peers. Perhaps parents can divvy up the subject areas and be responsible for one or two subjects rather than everything. Socially-distanced activities can be arranged, or remote platforms can be used between families. Your group may even be able to share the costs of hiring tutors or other professionals who can take some role in educating your children.
  • Ask Children to Help: This may be a great time to ask your children to help you all succeed as a family. Maybe they can pitch in with housework, cooking (even if it is just pasta or peanut butter and jelly sandwiches), taking care of older/younger family members or pets, or other responsibilities around the house. Ask your children to respect quiet times or confidentiality in the event that you need to do any work from home. Making them feel like contributors to the family will help to give them purpose and teach them important life skills at the same time. Just be sure to acknowledge and thank them for the efforts they are making.
  • Communicate With Your Employer: Keep an open line of communication with your employer and colleagues to help meet your needs and the needs of your family.  Discuss whether you have some flexibility in your schedule, whether you can block off certain times to handle home education responsibilities, and how to prioritize work tasks.

Strategies to Manage Home Education for Parents Who Work From Home

Parents who are working from home without childcare while attempting to manage their child’s academic tasks may have more flexibility than parents who work outside the home, but they also have the challenge of school-related disruptions during their day. Whereas parents who work outside the home can better focus on work while they are at the workplace, parents who work from home do not have that separation.

Time management when working from home is key to stay sane and on-time with deadlines at work and school assignments if your child is still attending traditional school.

In addition to using all the strategies listed above for parents who work outside the home, here are some additional strategies for those of you that work from home:

  • Flex Your Work Schedule:  If you are a morning person, try to get some work done before anyone else in the house is awake. Then, arrange your work schedule around the remote classes, assignment deadlines, and other home education obligations that exist. Maybe focus on schooling in the morning and then move your work hours to later in the day or even the weekends if possible.
  • Schedule Independent Work Strategically: While younger children will need your attention more frequently, if you schedule a short list of activities for them to complete, the resulting freedom you get to get some work done should be worth it. You can and should promote independent learning at a young age. With older children, they should already be comfortable studying independently, however, make sure to schedule some regular check-ins to make sure your child feels supported during their independent study sessions.
  • Stop Multitasking: This doesn’t mean you can’t start the dishwasher, load the dryer, or get the slow cooker going. However, studies have shown that when it comes to mental tasks, your brain needs time to refocus on the task at hand, so be sure to set aside specific times throughout the day to work on one thing until it’s completed. With less to do at once, you may find that you get through more on your to-do list.
  • Create Individual Workspaces: This can look very different depending on your child’s age and needs. Older children may have a designated learning area in a separate room while younger kids may need to be in the same room as you. However, make sure this space is properly set to reduce distractions such as social media, television, video games etc. Eliminating distractions will prove to be beneficial to your child’s education and your work productivity.
  • Plan Educational Time Fillers: If for whatever reason your child isn’t being assigned a full school day’s worth of work, that is no reason for you to fall behind on your own responsibilities or them to lose out on instructional time. During your morning planning sessions, think about how to fill in any extra time with meaningful instruction or practice. Find relevant documentaries or YouTube videos, educational video games or academic apps, learning board games, art projects, online fitness programs, or other worthwhile activities. Put the ideas on popsicle sticks, and have your children pick randomly, or let them choose the ones they want to do each day.
  • “Take Your Child to Work” at Home: When possible, add to what the school has assigned by allowing your children to be more involved in what you do. Explain what you are doing for your job and have your children work alongside you at times. Is there anything they can help with that serves a fun, educational purpose? Have your children “punch in” when you do, and then make sure that work time is followed by something fun for all of you!

However you decide to structure your work/home education double duty, be sure to check in with your children regularly, not only when it comes to their academics, but also their social and emotional well-being. Hybrid and remote learning can be especially difficult for children who are very social, have executive function difficulties, or are not as comfortable using technology. Be sure to pencil in plenty of family time as well so that all this time spent together allows you to create tons of happy family memories.

Check out our facebook page where many of the Time4Learning members are actively sharing their experiences and advice.

What strategies have worked for you thus far? Be sure to share your tips in the comments below.

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