As executive director of Content and Implementation at education technology company Curriculum Associates, I’m familiar with distance learning challenges, hybrid schedules, and the juggling act teachers, students, and families perform every day.
In addition to coaching educators on ways to engage students in distance learning this school year, I’m also supporting education very close to my own home – at my dining room table, in fact – where my two daughters are attending class.
Given this unique lens as both a parent and someone who supports educators, I’d like to share my top tips for others trying to work and support at-home learning through these challenging times.
● Embrace the crazy. Every day will be different and present its own set of challenges and opportunities for you and your family. That’s life: it’s messy and continually changing. Lean into the chaos and make peace with the fact that things may not always go as planned.
● Failure happens. From personal experience, I can tell you that sometimes you will fail at balancing working from home while simultaneously helping your children learn virtually. These mistakes will provide an extreme dose of humility. Take them in your stride, learn from them, and move on.
● Mornings are your friend. I know it can be tough to get up early, especially on cold winter mornings, but it’s essential to have time just to yourself each day. As my girls have gotten older, they tend to sleep later, so I get up before them, my wife, and even my dog to exercise, meditate, and prepare for the day ahead. Taking this small amount of “me” time does wonders in starting each day with a positive attitude.
● Schedules are helpful—sort of. Manage your children’s school weeks to the best of your ability, realizing that there will be days when your schedule will fall apart at 8 a.m. It’s helpful to have a copy of their schedules on hand to anticipate lunch breaks and other free periods and try to be available if possible when they aren’t learning so you can have their food ready and be there to help with any school (or life) questions.
● Carve out your own space. Set aside your work area, whether it is a corner of a room or your own office, to help you focus and get work done. Enforce a “no action figures allowed” policy with signage if needed. Making an effort to have your own dedicated space, no matter how small, will help you stay on track and be more productive.
● It’s all about teamwork. Look for your helpers, both those in your home and on your team. I am fortunate to have an incredible wife who I lean on heavily to help me navigate trying to work and lead conference calls while also helping my daughters with their studies. I also have team members who understand when I need to turn my camera off to prepare pb&j sandwiches for lunch. Speak up if you’re feeling overwhelmed, and reach out to family, friends, colleagues, and partners to help out and for advice.
● Stay thankful. While this situation isn’t what anyone was expecting, make time for gratitude for things large and small. You’re likely spending more time with your children than you ever were before, so take advantage of this rare opportunity to get to know the fascinating little humans in your life even better. Reframing this time as precious has helped my perspective immensely.
● Find reasons to laugh. Some days may make you want to tear your hair out, but at the end of the day, remember that this situation isn’t going to last forever. Try to find humor in the frustrating and ridiculous moments. Did your dog jump on your lap during a meeting and bark loudly to be let out of the room? Did your child decide a Zoom call was the best time to show off her new dance routine? Did someone in your house yell, “I have to use the bathroom” at the top of their lungs, just as you hit the unmute button on Zoom? These will be the “can you believe…” stories your family shares for years to come.
● We are all improvising. Finally, while it can be helpful to consider advice from others, know that there’s no fully-baked expertise on how to parent and work through times like this. Every week – heck, every day – is a learning process, and flexibility and grace will serve you well. Forge the unique path that works best for you and your family, trusting in your ability to do what’s best for your personal and professional wellness.