Tip 1 - Set Up Designated Work and School Spaces
Give each person who needs to work from home or complete schooling at home their own space. This should be at a desk or a table set at the right height. Ideally, work and school spaces would be in different rooms, but that is not always possible. Even if everyone is gathered around the dining table, set up the spaces so each person has their own regular chair and table area. You may need to consider redesigning the home in the short-term to achieve the spaces and you will need to think about where computers, even if they are laptops, can be set up, taking into consideration plugging the equipment in.
Having a designated work or school space helps everyone to concentrate on their own tasks as much as possible. It also provides some structure, as you are more likely to concentrate on your work at a table or desk than sitting in the lounge.
Tip 2 - Schedule the Day
In the morning, create a schedule for the day that accounts for each person's educational, work, and break needs. If you are sharing computer equipment, this schedule is essential. Consider when you will exercise or have play breaks, especially for children. If you are sharing computers, you may need to consider when each person needs the computer most and schedule in other work or school tasks that can be completed without a computer for the other times. Print off work sheets, if possible, for the children to complete to reduce the amount of screen time they get.
If you have an important work conference call or online meeting, make sure that everyone else will be engaged on either quiet tasks or can be outside playing as part of their break time. Alternatively, if you are part of a couple and both parents are working from home, you may be able to get your partner to take a break and take care of the children while you attend your online meeting.
When considering a schedule for home schooling, you do not need to fill in every minute between 9 am and 3 pm with formal schoolwork. Schedule in proper breaks and remember that even teachers schedule in tasks like art and craft or sport, and various other things like assemblies and scripture will take up part of the school day. Plus, teaching one on one is quicker than teaching a bigger group. No one is expecting children to complete formal educational tasks all of the time they would normally be at school.
Schedule in two hours of formal educational tasks, hopefully provided by the school. Depending on the age of your children, you may be able to set up a task and then work yourself while your children are doing their own tasks. If your children need more intensive supervision and you are unable to complete your own work while they are completing schooling, then two hours of supervised learning is all you will be able to provide anyway.
Consider your own work schedule and think about other options to fit the learning time in too. You won't be travelling to the office, so start work when you would start your commute and while your children are still playing before school. If you and your partner are both working from home, you might be able to have one start early, say at 6:30am and finish at 3pm and the other one starts the work day later and finishes at dinner time, giving each person a few hours dedicated to work while the other looks after the children.
Tip 3 - Help Children to Play and Learn While You Work
Consider putting on movies or educational programs for some part of the day that your children can watch while you work. Give your child a creative time to complete an ongoing art project that they can do by themselves. Give your children fun activity books, get them doing jigsaw puzzles, or building Lego or playdough creations. You do not need spend every minute doing activities with your children. Encourage older children to read for pleasure, and work while they are absorbed by their books.
Tip 4 - Give Yourself a Break
No one is perfect and you won't be able to be the perfect teacher, the perfect employee, the perfect partner, and the perfect parent all the time. You can only do your best and given the unusual circumstances, most employers will understand. You would also normally have breaks during work, stopping for a quick chat with a colleague, getting a drink from the water cooler, having a coffee break, and a proper lunch break. So, don't mentally beat yourself up if your children distract you for a few minutes during your work time. Aim for balance and don't forget to give yourself some relaxation time too.
You are not the only one trying to juggle home schooling, caring for children, and working full-time from home which you don't normally do. Setting up special work spaces, scheduling each person's work and school needs, and allowing time for breaks will all help this process run more smoothly. Finally, giving yourself a break and not expecting perfection at doing unusual tasks in strange times will be the key to staying sane while juggling schooling and working from home.