My first idea for homeschooling when you’re self-employed was to put my head into a bucket and scream. But I don’t suppose that would be constructive, would it? Yes, we’re back here again. As we wave a one-fingered hello to another lockdown and kiss goodbye to dry January, many of us self-employed parents of primary-school-aged kids will be wondering just how we’re supposed to work at home and educate the future generation. Most of whom will never be able to see you as their ‘teacher’. Let’s face it, most of us are only just managing to keep our authority level slightly above theirs at the best of times. I’m not going to pretend I’m not about to struggle or that I didn’t struggle last time but I have found a few ways to make primary age homeschooling at the same time as homeworking work. At least for short periods of time. Here are a few, and please please add yours in the comments.
1. Get dressed And Create A Work Space
As much as I love staying in my pyjamas all day, it only works for me when there’s little to do and no one else to have to motivate. Getting dressed seems to show my daughter I mean business. Besides, it signals the end of cereal and cartoons time, for both of us. It’s also not great to make every space in the house a part of their ‘home school’. It means there’s no time to switch on or off. Try to create a designated area for your child to work in. For some, it works better to be in a separate area from you. For others, they might need to be close to stay focused or because they’ll need your help. Either way, make sure they are included in getting their workspace the way they want it, just as you do with yours.
2. Set Time, Teach Time
One of the most frustrating things about working beside a young child is that the length of time their concentration lasts equate to length of time it takes you to get into your work stride. As my daughter is still getting her head around telling time, I figure I’m helping by setting time bands and tasking her with monitoring them. 30 minutes of work followed by 15 minutes of play, for instance. Everyone’s routine will vary depending on what the schools are doing, but I can’t work only for the length of time my child can concentrate for, so there are times when she has to play on her own. Then I carve out time for both of us to take breaks together.
3. Get Them Involved In Cooking
When the kids are tired of maths and phonics and handwriting and all of that, why not get them involved in learning the basics of living? Getting them involved in making lunch or dinner is not only a good way to get you both off computer screens, but you’re also teaching them a valuable skill. It’s not just about the cooking either. Ask them to help you create a healthy lunch that includes all the essential food groups and they’re learning about nutrition too!
4. Create A Tuck Shop
One of the best things I did during lockdown 1.0 was to create a tuck shop in the kitchen. This handled several problems. Firstly, it helped teach my daughter how to count money and work out change. Also, the reality that when the money was spent, there was no more. Hence, it helped me to limit snacking. I would put out some treats (crisps or biscuits), some fruit, veg sticks and yoghurts and give her one pound each day. Then I’d price up all the items and let her decide what she’d spend her money on, encouraging her to work out the coins and change herself. 5. Family Work Day
Kids want to be kids and that’s not easy for them in lockdown. Especially without other kids to play with. So if they can’t be kids then a bit of pretend play can be a great relief. When my daughter gets tired of homeschooling I change the name and call it a workday. We dress for work and she’s my colleague for the day. I give her her drinks in a mug and when she has her school Zoom sessions we call them ‘meetings’. Maths becomes accounting, art becomes product design, history becomes research and so on.
It makes her feel grown-up and, more than that, it reminds her that all the things she’s learning are going to be applied one day in the real world which helps to motivate her. Plus, these are the days I usually get the most work done.
6. Keep Active
It goes without saying that 2020 taught us the value of staying active. Especially for the kids. It’s tougher for me in winter to get motivated for walks. The yoga sessions in the park are not going to happen this time around but I might be persuaded back to Joe Wicks. Leaving the house is important though so we’ll be putting on our wellies, hats and gloves for stomps around the countryside at least every other day.
7. Keeping a Diary / Scrapbook
It’s all a bit shit at the moment, isn’t it? For the kids too. We can’t be upbeat for them all the time. We can’t promise not to get frustrated or shout or put them in front of the TV so we can just get some bloody work done! What we can do though is put aside time each day to focus on what’s been good. A diary or scrapbook can be really good for kids to get creative and to express themselves. For older children, they may also want to use a diary to express all those not so positive things too. It can be good to get it out, write it down and own those feelings.
8. Don’t Exclude Them From Your Work
Many of us went self-employed to balance work and parenting which means we don’t necessarily want to keep them totally separate. Now, when it’s impossible to do, it can be a good time to explain what mummy or/and daddy are doing and why. Like most things, once kids understand it, they’re more patient. They like to be a part of things and if you’re running a business then they’re a part of it by default so share it with them. It’s not always possible for them to actually help. That depends on what you do for a living. My daughter can’t design websites or Copywrite with me but sometimes she’s just happy for me to show her what I’m doing and tell her about how that’s helping other people.
9. Friend Time
The worst part of not going to school for most kids is the lack of other kids. Especially if you’re a single-child household, but even if you’re not because siblings and friends aren’t the same. Arranging Facetime calls with their peers can really lift their spirits and remind them that all the other kids are in the same boat too. We’re doing it whilst we can’t see our friends face-to-face and although it’s not the same it’s better than nothing. So why should it be any different for them? Plus, they get to use your phone so there’s an added bonus!
10. Accept Your Working Hours Will Change
Being stressed all day that you’re not getting enough work done is not going to help you or the kids. It’s also going to be impossible to get it all done during their school hours unless you have a lot of help, which many people don’t have right now. So you might have to accept that a couple of hours of work in the evenings after the kids are in bed will be required for a while. Though it might not seem like enough, if you’re a working parent then you know it’s amazing how much we can get done when time is tight.
It’s not great - I know. It can’t last forever though...right?