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Connecting with Kids: 8 Tips for Creating a Work-from-Home Schedule

By Lori Jackson and Steve Peck

As families settle into the new realities of home life during the COVID-19 pandemic, many parents are finding themselves thrust into the roles of parent and educator. Although many school districts are instituting online remote learning platforms that feature teacher-led lessons, a vast majority of the homeschooling process has fallen on the shoulders of parents. Adding to the challenge is the distinct relationships that children form with teachers and parents. Following directions and listening, for instance, unfolds far differently in front of teachers than parents. By examining, understanding, and learning the different relationships that children form, parents can better set up to succeed in their newfound multi-faceted role.

Undoubtedly, parents wear a variety of hats in the lives of their children. They are the coaches, chefs, drivers, educators, and cheerleaders who support them unconditionally. Kids watch their parents as they wear multiple hats (often simultaneously) throughout the day. Similarly,  teachers also play numerous roles in children’s lives, but their roles are usually easily understood and remain consistent.  As a result, it’s easier for kids to know and anticipate the expectations of their teachers as they have spent a good deal of time setting them up for their classrooms. 

While most parents have established expectations and rules in their homes, they likely haven’t covered how to behave during math time at home, for instance. It’s no wonder, then, that it’s a challenge for parents to settle into our new normal in schooling.

For parents who are working full-time and homeschooling, it’s especially challenging to get their children to listen to them in the same way they look to their teacher. If parents could influence their kids to adopt an at school attitude of listening quietly, and doing their work when asked, it could prove beneficial.

In the Wizard of Oz, it was all about the shoes. In the new normal, it’s all about the schedule! The daily and weekly schedule is the best friend to any parent trying to homeschool and work, and it’s the best friend to any child trying to anticipate what their day will be like in this very confusing new normal. To many parents, this may seem obvious. Many of us think of ourselves as highly scheduled, if not completely overscheduled. But whatever schedule we had before is no longer relevant. It’s time to create a new schedule to address current needs.

For parents trying to do it all―whether you’re an educator trying to teach both your students and your kids, or a parent in any other profession, trying to find that elusive balance―here are eight tips to keep in mind:

1. Sit down and write out your work, home, and now homeschooling obligations. Be sure to indicate what is flexible and what isn’t. You can likely change a call with one person, but perhaps not the full team weekly meeting. Your child might have online learning times pre-scheduled, as well. 

2. Get creative. Find a surface in your home that can act as your daily schedule. Get markers and whatever other supplies you need to do the schedule your way.

3. Have a family meeting and fill in the schedule together. Talk about the different meetings you each might have. Note on the schedule when it is independent working time. Young kids will know this quiet time as “morning work” or “independent reading” time from school. Try to be as specific as you can. 

4. Make sure to put in break time and fun time―and food! This is particularly important now when everyone will need some reinforcement and something to look forward to. Can you build in a fun activity after you have a quiet time?

5. When you are reviewing your schedule with your family, make sure to discuss what behavior expectations you have. Will you need quiet for a meeting? Will they? Where will everyone work? This is the time to make it clear. 

6. Review your schedule in the morning during breakfast. Make sure to emphasize behavior you’ll need if there is a time you’ll need quiet and help your child make a plan for how to manage this time. 

7. Have a quick recap at dinner. What worked well, what didn’t, what needs changing, and how is everyone feeling?

8. Be patient. Teachers spend the first weeks of school getting their students settled and into their routines. The balance will come, it will just take some time. 

We are all craving some semblance of normal in this very uncertain time. Having a predictable schedule for everyone will help to create that. When kids know the expectations we have for them, they are able to match their behavior to our expectations. When one activity or time of day is more challenging we can look at it to understand why and make some adjustments. 

Take the time to plan your week and you’ll see changes in your family’s ability to manage home school and all of the rest. 

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