After 10 or so years of working alone at home, I finally have co-workers.

5 to be precise.

Thanks to the COVID-19 social distancing mandates, my 4 girls will be finishing out the school year at home. Their classrooms have been traded for our breakfast table, and their teachers have been replaced by me.

Me. No teaching experience. No desire to homeschool. No memory of any math past the 8th grade.

The 5th co-worker, my husband? He’s taken up residency in my office to avoid the distraction of our other co-workers.

The result? I’m running out of my kitchen a legal practice and an ad hoc school that caters to kids from preschool through high school.

And to add insult to injury, we’re all crammed at the same table.

Week 1 was a little rough. Several acts of graffiti vandalism were committed on the breakfast table. A co-worker spilled her juice all over my iPad. Another co-worker smuggled in a tube of red glitter and poured it on my laptop keyboard (trying explaining that one to AppleCare). 

There were tears. There was screaming. Objects were thrown.

And that was just me.

Lucky for me, I have a good mom friend who works from home and homeschools her kids. As her normal routine. By choice. Pandemic or not. And she rocks at it.

Several frantic text exchanges later, she helped me to retool my approach. With a little planning and organization, and resetting of expectations, Weeks 2 and 3 went much smoother.

Here are some tips on juggling working from home with e-learning.

Make a plan together

One thing I have learned after almost 15 years of parenting is that kids hate feeling out of control.

And when do they feel out of control the most? When they can’t anticipate what’s going to happen next.

There’s good reason for kids to feel out of control. No sports. They haven’t seen their friends in weeks (nor will they anytime soon). Heck, even school’s been cancelled.

Help them regain a sense of control by reserving 10 minutes at the start of the day (or at the end of the previous day) to plan the day. When will they be working on school work and when will they have free time? What are the goals for that day? When will you be available and when must they leave you alone? 

Work together to come up with a fun to-do list of activities for them to work on semi- (or totally) independently.

And while screen limits have been thrown out the limit, some limits need to stay in place. Keep consistent wake times, meal times, and bedtimes.

Accept that everything is not going to get done

Haven’t figured out yet how to get all of your work done and manage your kids’ e-learning?

You’re in good company–no one else has either.

We’re all in the same boat. Remember, getting some work done is better than none (and trust me, expectations will be lowered). And your kids spending a good chunk of the day playing video games (probably) won’t hurt them.

Focus on keeping the kids busy and feeling safe and secure

Not even in China, which is a few months ahead of us virus spread wise. They were able to make switch to online learning early in the process thanks to a huge government investment in online learning platforms the year before.

The Chinese parents’ consensus? Online learning can’t replace what goes on in the classroom, but it did keep the Chinese kiddos busy and provided a sense of normalcy it what was undoubtedly an abnormal situation.

And that’s what your approach to e-learning should be.

Your goal is not to replicate the learning that would be going on in your kids’ school. Don’t even try. You can’t. This isn’t homeschool. Not even close. Your goal is to keep your kids busy and make sure they feel safe and secure.

Keeping them focused on school, for part of the day, is part of helping them feel safe and secure.

Now is not the time to teach your preschooler to read, your 2nd grader to master cursive, or your sixth grader to memorize the periodic table.

Leave that to their schools when they return to class. Focus on just enough learning to keep their minds engaged for part of the day and provide a continuity of learning. 

Lower your expectations about work and over communicate with your boss and coworkers

Just like your kids won’t be spending their school years e-learning, you won’t be spending your career trying to work from home and take care of your kids at the same time.

Take time to plan out your day. Prioritize projects and work on the tougher ones when you won’t be interrupted. Schedule calls during times when the kids are occupied. 

If remote work is not the norm for your company, reassure your boss and co-workers that you’re working by over-communicating with them. Blind copy your boss on emails to clients and co-workers. Send her daily updates on what you are working on.

Be flexible with your work hours and your kids’ school hours

I’m a compulsive multi-tasker. I read while I watch TV. I listen to audio books while I negotiate carpool. I sort through my inbox on conference calls.

You get the gist. I can chew gum and walk at the same time.

But trying to get work done and guiding 4 kids ages preschool through high school through a school day’s worth of lessons? Even supertasker me cried uncle.

So I regrouped.

Do one thing at a time…

From 9 am to 3 pm, I focus on one thing, getting the kids through their school lessons, lunch, and what passes for P.E. in our house (long walks with our golden retriever). Me being fully present helps everyone to stay on task and to simulate a school day.

For morning-person me, that means getting up way earlier, like 4 or 5 am, so I can get a couple hours of uninterrupted, but heavily caffeinated, work time (and if Im lucky, a run) before the kids get up.

Does it suck? You bet. Is it a lifestyle? Thankfully no.

3 pm I’m off the clock. The teacher and kid entertainer clock, that is and I focus on work for the next 3 hours. “Do not bother me unless there is a fire or threat of loss of life limb,” are my parting words. With lawyer kids you have to be very specific of what the word “emergency” is. Do I get interrupted? Yes, but I don’t feel bad telling them to scram because I’ve already devoted a good chunk of my day to their education and entertainment.

Did I mention it’s “no holds barred” on screens in our house before 9 am and after they get their school work done? That helps to cut down on the interruptions. 

…or break up your job and the kids’ school work into chunks spread out through the day

Can’t compartmentalize your work day so neatly? Need to start your work day at a particular time? Spend your work day on the phone and responding to emails?

Be flexible with when things get done, including your kids’ school work. Remember, we are in uncharted territory and you make the rules that work best for your family.

The kids don’t need to get all of their work done in one sitting, it can be spread out throughout the day with breaks in between. Or can even be saved for later in the day when you have completed the bulk of your work.

Another strategy is to divide your work tasks into 1 hour chunks to be done while your kids work independently on their school work. Remember, they are required to work independently at least part of the time at school, and they should be able to do so at home as well.

How are you juggling getting your paying work done and managing your kids e-learning? Leave a comment or send me an email.

Please read the Disclaimer.

Tags: , , ,