Lockdown 3.0 hasn’t been fun for anyone, but especially parents of young children and teenagers who’ve had the double challenge of working from home and homeschooling.
Not only are we in the middle of a pandemic, but we’re expected to remain just as productive as ever before, all without the support systems we’re used to. Added to that is also the fact that our usual coping mechanisms and diversions have also been put on hold.
Here are some tips we’ve picked up from parents, teachers and journalists who are all fighting their own lockdown battles.
Making the most of your time
It never feels like there are enough hours in the day, and now, not only are we struggling to complete our already hectic workloads, we’re now doing two, three and four jobs all at the same time.
We’re working our eight hours a day in our employment, teaching, or at the very least supervising the little ones, providing meals and snacks at regular intervals and trying our best to be understanding counsellors.
Mary Sauer is something of an expert when it comes to homeschooling. She’s into her sixth year of freelancing and chose to homeschool her eldest before the Covid pandemic was even an utterance in the media.
She recommends developing daily routines that allow for flexibility. She ensures everyone is up early, eats breakfast together and has a morning “circle time”. Then she incorporates pockets schoolwork as well as outdoor playtime, which allows her to get on with some of her own work. She’s had many years adapting her routine and suggests that parents new to this should go a little easier on themselves while they figure out the schedule that works for them.
Alina Dizik, writing for the BBC, is also a working mum and her tactics include having a plan each day that everyone agrees to. She recommends talking it through with all family so that each person is aware of times in the day when mum or dad has to be on a conference call.
She also advocates swapping homeschooling shifts with your partner so each parent can have a period of focus in the day to get the most important work tasks done.
Optimising your space for work, school and life
Putting boundaries around your time is essential, but so too is developing a comfortable space for the various new activities taking place at home.
Interior designer, Anna Barber, writes about “zoning” in House Beautiful. Like we had to during the first lockdown, it’s time to transform our homes into separate areas for working, exercising and relaxing.
Child-sized furniture for the smaller humans gives them the freedom and independence to study and play as they like. Additionally, you can create recreation zones by turning the dining room or kitchen table into a tent with a blanket or a cover.
Anna also recommends removing unnecessary items from eyeshot which will distract the school pupils from their work. Put away any books and toys, keep a few out, and rotate them in every now and again when fresh books and toys are required.
Avoid technology frustrations
Wi-fi, like water or air, is something we take for granted until we’re experiencing a shortage. With so much more demand for bandwidth, outages are a huge source of irritation for homeschoolers and workers. According to Uswitch, 35% of us are now encountering issues with our broadband.
Luckily, there are things you can do about it before resorting to an upgrade.
Wales Online suggests in the first instance, you try unplugging your router and booting it back up again. Then you ought to make sure no bulky objects are blocking the signal from the router to the device. If necessary, move the hub into the room you’re working in. It’s also worth making sure you put any tech that you’re not currently using into flight mode. If none of these tips works, you can buy an additional booster to strengthen the wireless connection in that part of the home.
Boost your productivity by taking a break
Downing tools may not seem like the most logical way to get on with work, but all work and no play makes you inefficient.
Whether it’s getting out for a walk as a family and taking in the beautiful surroundings, or going out for a play in the garden, we need to rest our brains and our eyes, even if it’s just for ten minutes.
In the Guardian, teachers give their best advice to despairing parents. One teacher explains that children need a break every 45 minutes. They also point out that children can be distracted in school as well as at home, and the trick to dealing with inattention is to work in short bursts. If something’s not going in your child’s brain that moment, then try again later.
Most importantly for productivity is getting into a good sleep pattern. In the first lockdown, students would sleep in and stay awake late into the night doing school work, but this is only going to lead to more stress, anxiety and fatigue.
Don’t let schoolwork become a burden
When parents see how much schoolwork has been administered by the teachers, it’s easy to think that children have to complete every assignment. However, primary teacher Alexandra Stephens says she’s happy if children prioritise their daily maths and English homework. Teachers understand that children get a bit down in the dumps as they would any other time. It’s important for them to do what they can without getting stressed.
If your child is struggling and you don’t know how to help them out, then admit you don’t know, but suggest you’ll figure it out together using the tools at your disposal: Google, YouTube and BBC Bitesize.
Don’t worry if your kids aren’t able to do 100% of their assignments, as teachers prefer to know the areas where they are struggling.
Finally, give your kids space – How would you feel if your boss was breathing down your neck as you did your work? Let them get on with their live lessons in a quiet area where it will feel less embarrassing for them if they get an answer wrong.
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