The coronavirus pandemic has forced moms and dads into a new and challenging situation. In the blink of an eye, many are now remote employees and homeschoolers. It’s a difficult transition, but fortunately, people online and on social media are eager to help.
Below we highlight several parents sharing their best advice for getting work done while teaching.
1. “Alternate the hard and easy work.”
Lacy, a mom of four who homeschooled for seven years, discussed this strategy on her website, Catholic Icing. “You can’t just expect the kids to sit down first thing in the morning and pound out all of the really hard book work first thing all in a row. The best results will come from mixing it up.”
2. Have a sense of humor.
If you’re attempting to teach reading and writing, try this hilarious tip from Kristina Kuzmic, a blogger, YouTube personality and author. “Always throw in a few of their favorite words,” she wrote on Facebook. Reward yourself bonus parenting points for making your kiddo smile.
3. “Take the time to work on life skills.”
According to photographer and homeschooler Melanie Mauer, this could be as simple as lessons on laundry or even baking (which is a perfect way to teach fractions and comprehension). For middle schoolers, have them read books such as How to Win Friends and Influence People or The Simple Path to Wealth: Your Road Map to Financial Independence and a Rich, Free Life or Rich Dad Poor Dad. When they’re done, ask for a narration or simple written report, she advised on her website.
4. Give your kids audiobooks to listen to as they do another activity, like playing LEGOs or coloring.
Amber Cok, a military spouse and homeschool mama in Rhode Island, included this tip in her super-useful Google doc for parents teaching their children at home. She also gave shout-outs to Audible and Librivox for audiobooks, and Read Aloud Revival and Sonlight for booklists. We imagine this will lead to precious quiet time for you.
5. Create a Kanban board using sticky notes to track the progress of work and school tasks.
This way, you and the family are on the same page. Lindsay Krone, a Virginia-based project manager at IBM, said she just started using this method with her little ones.
6. Set up a rotation with your neighbors for watching the kids.
On LinkedIn, Adrienne Hovland, a global business unit manager at Post-it Brand in Minnesota, aligned with another family on social distancing before starting this arrangement. “Between the four of us, if we each take a two-hour shift, we can get six hours of work done in an eight-hour day,” she wrote. The other day, when her kids went to their neighbor’s house, she packed them lunch and sent them with backpacks. Her husband picked them up for recess and music lessons at their house. “We’re one day in, and having a routine is comforting to both the kids and the adults, as things continue to evolve that we can’t control. I’m excited to make a ‘lesson plan’ for tomorrow. More to come.”
7. “Talk to your kids about your work and seize learning opportunities as they arise.”
This is going well for Michelle White, writer and owner of upLinked. After her 3rd grader saw her put together an analytics report for a client, she had him figure out graphs.
8. “Focus curriculum on what conference calls are interruptible.”
We all have Rebecca Joyner, the vice president of corporate marketing at Sovos, and her spouse to thank for this genius hack. Rather than hoping their three kids won’t interrupt during certain times of day, the full-time working parents assume that they will, and adjust their lesson plans accordingly.
9. Don’t spend too long on a subject.
Remember youngsters’ attention spans? Yup! On LinkedIn, Lisa Tomlinson, the head of people and commercial development at Fircroft College in the UK, said that doing this was key to her “successful” first day of homeschooling while doing remote work.
10. Give your kids some say because they might be more willing to cooperate.
Earlier this week, Sara Jones, the president of InclusionPro, revealed that she is doing this with her 13-year-old son. He gets to choose the time of day for check-ins, and she told him they could adjust the time of day as online school gets going. It sounds like her method is off to a good start. “He suggested starting Tuesday so he would have something to report. We just might survive,” she wrote on LinkedIn.
11. Follow your child’s interest.
Keep them occupied by asking what they’re curious about and instructing them to use the internet to report back to you. It’s a quiet activity with big rewards, according to Brian Sowards, a global talent strategist at Ph.Creative. “They will learn 21st century skills; they will learn that they can research any question they have,” he mentioned on LinkedIn. Brian took this approach for two years when homeschooling his son, who is now “top of his class.” As someone who has designed courses for 40 universities and 20 private schools, “I have seen the power of following the child’s interest. It’s not what they learn that matters most—it’s that they learn how to learn,” he wrote.
12. Schedule the times you’ll need to step in.
Katharine Cusack, who works in training and development at Nuro, displayed this strategy in a LinkedIn post featuring a photo of her family schedule. Next to the tasks are colored circles with different meanings. “Red=full stop and little to no adult work (for one),” “Yellow=one parent needs to be nearby and ready to step in” and “Green=full work focus and kids independent,” she wrote. As she reminded us all, knowing when you’ll have to pause a task can boost productivity too.
13. “Value the informal.”
From having homeschooled his eldest daughter for years, Arun Pradhan, an entrepreneur from Australia, said that this is one of his biggest tips. “Yes, it’s great if they log into Mathletics or do that essay… AND an interesting conversation with you, playing a game with you, or just you chatting through what you’re working on right now all can contribute much, much more to them becoming thinking, caring, adaptable beings. So be OK to let go of the formal if it means more connection and informal,” he wrote on LinkedIn.
14. During high-focus times or calls, put up a “Please Do Not Disturb” sign to indicate privacy or quiet.
As Kara Pernice, a senior VP at Nielsen Norman Group, emphasized on LinkedIn, setting boundaries is crucial, even if you don’t have a door. To motivate children to listen, “reward helpful behavior,” she wrote.
15. Do a Zoom call with another parent and their child.
A little face time with a classmate is sure to brighten up their day, and possibly energize them. Rachel Duffy, founder of Sagacity Lab and a mom of three, recently did this and said it was “so fun for the kids.”
16. Put your children on different school shifts.
If sibling squabbles are already becoming a major problem, look no further than Guro Rogstad’s method. The mom started doing this after she noticed homeschooling her two older kids was impossible because they kept annoying each other. Now, “one of the kids looks after little one (in close proximity to my husband and I) while the other works next to me or my husband. Then we shift after a while with the one playing then doing school work,” she wrote on LinkedIn. “Productivity and output? I’d say, at best, it is halved for all of us (for now), but at least we get things done without too much agony.”