Play At Home, Work At Home: Five Things That Make It Easier

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With the stay at home measures in place a lot of parents have been working from home, schooling and/or caring for their children and trying to run a household.

When asked how I’m coping, my answer is essentially I feel like I have been preparing for this my entire family life. I have been a working single mother since my first son was born 10 years ago. I am now grateful to have the support of my partner. I have always balanced a combination of working partly at home, working partly out of the home without my kids (who were with family, friends or childcare) and working out of the home bringing my kids to work. Many times, I have worked at home for my full work hours which mirrors the situation now.

I see a lot of people who are looking for quick fixes to problems that are coming up, balancing our new lives until kids go back to school. While I can’t offer quick fixes, as our routines have been built up over years. I can offer a glimpse into how we do it in the hopes people will see something that works for their family and make their lives run smoother. Here are five ways we make working, schooling, and parenting from homework:

1. Get the entire family on board

Before Times: When we started and up until recently my working at home and working with them was a choice. It was a commitment that I made to my children and my partner, but commitment is a two (or more) way street. Since the time they were able to understand at age 3, I sit my kids down, and ask if they enjoy homeschooling, what they want more of, what they want less of, or if they even want to do it at all anymore. Then I tell them what I need to do to be able to keep working and what meeting all those needs will look like.

After Times: With the emergency order we had to sit down and talk about how things are different and how things would need to adjust. My partner is working from home so there are certain times we need quiet in our small condo for meetings. I also transitioned to online learning and needed to do some teaching online instead of in person. Playgrounds, the local woodlands were now closed so things would be different. I got their input of what they wanted and needed and adjusted things until we all agreed.

2.  Understand the concept of work as tasks instead of work as time

One thing we realized as homeschoolers is that there is a lot of “wasted” time at school that is not learning time. There is a great article on how much time is spent on academics at school here https://monkeymum.blog/2015/09/13/time-is-precious/. The same is true for work. Between getting coffee, chatting with coworkers at the “water cooler”, attending one-hour meetings that could have been done in a three line email you realize how much quicker you can accomplish tasks at home. When setting my workday, I set my tasks to accomplish. Sometimes I get caught on a problem and spend more time than I allotted, sometimes I get inspired And work flows fast, and I spend less time than I allotted. A good article on this is here https://medium.com/@hijoemartin/making-the-switch-from-time-oriented-to-task-oriented-productivity-16e5f71d62a9

3. Follow a rhythm

Before Times: Waldorf talks about breathing in and breathing out. I watch my kids to see their rhythm. When they are breathing out, they are reaching out, wanting more interaction. So, I don’t schedule hard work times. When they are breathing in, they are more independent, calmer, and more focused on themselves. This is when I schedule more “hard” work times when I must complete a task. This one takes a lot of observation, trial and error, and understanding of your kids. It starts small when they’re younger with eating and nap times and building on those until you have a solid rhythm. It also requires adjustments as routines and internal processes change.

After times: Having a good understanding of my kid’s rhythms and generally able to predict when they were “breathing out” and when they were “breathing in” I was able to match up activities. During my partners daily team meeting is when they are “breathing out” so we plan outside walks, online classes or groups but his afternoon meetings happen during their “breathing in” time so we plan quieter independent homeschool time.

4. Set priorities

At one point I was running a house, parenting, homeschooling, working out of the home with kids, working out of the home without kids, working at home with the kids and distance learning for my masters program all as a single mom. How did I do it all? I prioritized. How and what you prioritize is up to your personal life and goals, but things are going to fall off the table. I had a running list of things that had to happen no matter what. Things that mostly had to happen but not at the expense of priority tasks. The last was tasks I should do but if I could not it was not a big deal if they fell off the list. Eating and work I got directly paid for were at the top of the list, whereas tidying the house often fell off the list.

5. Use resources

Before times: We attended classes both to give me work time and for time intensive learning – we took a science class for science projects that I had neither the time to set up or clean up. I had a cleaning lady, we ate out, sometimes a lot. Parks and forests allowed free creative play periods and a spot for me to work.

After times: We can’t be out but we have become fans of online courses. We use proven and experienced online platforms like Outschool when I need to get tasks done but also use inexpensive or free resources like the library. We are taking money saved from commuting to order in more often and arrange grocery delivery to devote more time to work periods.

Our scheduling continues to evolve and adapt as we get used to the changes in our life, but these 5 tips help us to adjust to everyone’s benefit.

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Barbara Sheridan founded Barrie Forest Kindergarten and Nature School in 2012 where she facilitates a toddler playgroup, forest kindergarten and Project Based Learning group. Barbara has more than 20 years experience in developing and training professionals and parents on child directed programming and techniques both through one on one consultation and small group workshops all over North America. Barbara is contributor and resident writer for several organizations including Early Learning Explorations. She has received her Forest Kindergarten Teacher training, a Child and Youth Work diploma, a Degree in Psychology and is currently pursuing a Masters in Education focusing on innovation, creativity and sustainability. She is passionate about passing on her knowledge and experience to you.

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