As many children across the UK were going back to school after the Christmas period the Government were deciding to shut them again. The news was broken to us on the same day in which a lot of children had returned to school and this left us questioning why they couldn’t have made this decision before the children were due to return.
Parents who were working from home now had the job of teaching their children from home too. So how do working parents manage to juggle their own workload as well as playing teacher?
It’s a difficult task, that's for sure. During the first lockdown when schools were closed, there was more pressure on parents to make sure that their children’s education didn’t falter, this time round, the realisation that ‘we’re all in the same boat’ and that children are more resilient than we first thought, has lifted the pressure slightly. Given that, we all understand that children need stability and their education is an important factor contributing to that, but don’t feel like you have to re-enact the school day, you really won’t have the time for it!
Children of secondary school age don't need constant support like primary school age children do. Of course they may need a little guidance and persuasion to get on with their work but they can mostly be left to get on with it themselves. When it comes to our younger children, as working parents we need to ensure we are not setting our sights too high when it’s coming to goal setting. Don’t expect to get through all the school work your child has been set in the day. Concentrating on the most important subjects like maths, reading, writing, spellings should be our main focus, they’re the subjects which are going to get our children through life. If your child is having a bad day and it’s taking a lot to persuade them, then encourage them by using their strengths, if they have a favourite subject, or they find a subject easier, then just do that subject, some days will be better than others. Remember it’s the quality of work that counts not the quantity.
Don’t worry about what other parents are achieving, there’s always that one parent who wants to boast about what their child has achieved and how they are rocking the home schooling, but it isn’t a competition and you don’t know what their situation is. Family situations vary from household to household, do what’s best for you and your family and put other people's opinions aside.
If you’re a single parent or you’re the only parent at home during the day then this will make things even more difficult, so just prioritse what you feel is important and if you’re only covering one subject a day, you’re still winning! Families who have both parents at home, need to communicate and juggle the workload together, this will ease the pressure, we’re all in this together!
If you don’t already, create a designated work space so that you can just focus on your work. Make sure your children understand when it’s OK for them to interrupt you and they know when your on an important phone call or zoom meeting. It’s not just us parents that have to adapt to the changes, the children do too, but we can also educate them on life experiences.
If you feel that you are struggling to get through tasks which the school is setting for your child due to your workload, then use technology to your advantage. There are loads of online resources and apps out there for your child to use to ensure that their screen time is also educational which then frees up a bit of time for your work.
If you have children of various ages, don’t let it prevent them from working together. Older children can often enjoy playing teacher to the younger ones and there is no harm in them watching educational programmes for various age groups. The older children may even learn something from the younger ones!
If you’re employed then speak to your employer and ensure that they know your situation. Your employer should hopefully be a little more flexible with your time as long as they know you’re getting the work done, this will relieve some pressure so you have more time to complete your own tasks.
Not only does having the children at home eat into your time to support their education, but there’s further distractions such as having to prepare meals, drinks and snacks for them. Younger children can also be quite needy and want your attention, having the children at home really interrupts your routine. If you have older children give them the freedom to access snacks themselves, set boundaries so they know what they can and can’t have but giving them a little independence will be good for them and for you.
Children will also be missing the social aspect of school. Most schools are offering online interactions such as Teams calls to keep in touch with the teachers and friends. Teach your younger children about how they can access the meeting and at what time so that this is something they can do themselves without needing your supervision. Another great idea is to get in touch with another parent and arrange to take it in turns virtually to teach your children, sharing the workload will be such a relief and also great for the kids to have a buddy to work with.
Working from home can also mean that you don’t switch off from work, but try your best to. Being out of routine from having to do the usual school run gives you that extra time to concentrate on work, but it also means there isn’t that break to get away from your desk and focus on the kids for a bit. Ensure that when you have finished work all distractions are out of sight so that you can give the kids the attention they would usually have when they get home from school.
There are so many tips online, telling you to follow a routine, be organised etc, but at the end of the day flexibility is key. Committing to a routine will only increase the pressure on you, no day at home is the same, our emotions are all over the place at the minute. The whole pandemic is having an impact on everyone’s mental health and the most important thing is to ensure that your family is happy and healthy. Do what’s right for you and your family, it’s all about finding the right balance.