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Working at home with children.

As the UK shuts its schools this week and everyone who can work from home is strongly encouraged to do so, many parents are being thrown into a new reality. Even as a seasoned Home Educator who runs my own business from home, times are changed. Usually my kids and I are out and about a lot, and when we are at home my husband isn’t here as he’s working in his office. Although I do work from home, I also go out to work with clients whilst Lovely Granny watches the children and does Lovely Granny stuff with them like Art and Poetry. In this new virtual world, the children are having to learn to keep quiet whilst we’re on calls with clients and team members and not infect Lovely Granny with Covid-19.

So I’m going to run through some tips to try to help with this, and to run through our own routine. First and foremost, I am going to say please don’t compare yourself to what you see other people posting. Remember that you are only seeing the highlights of their day rather than the unedited reel of your own.

Secondly, although education IS extremely important, the mental health of you and your children is more important. What you want to be looking for here is ways to keep your stress levels down. Don’t get in fights with them over home work. Remember that there are many many more ways to learn than the prescribed curriculums. My kids love watching documentaries and reading books. They build lego, make art creations, write and tell stories (some of which are simply hilarious), play dressing up and make believe, bake, help with chores, ride their ponies, do amazing things on Minecraft, claw each other’s eyeballs out, and slob in front of the TV watching dross. And these are all important, including clawing each other’s eyeballs out (social skills and negotiation!) and slobbing in front of the TV (downtime).

The resources that I use for Home Education are unlikely to be very useful for people who have their children at home for a relatively short period as many of them are long term resources that I pay for. Check out BBC Bitesize, Khan Academy, BraveWriter and Twinkl (yes, there is no E on Twinkl) for ideas. There are massive long lists circulating FaceBook right now that are full of resources, but my suggestion is don’t over complicate things. It will overwhelm you.

Down to some of the nitty gritty here before I talk about the importance of routine. We turn all the devices to airplane mode during the day, even when they are not being used. This helps to keep the bandwidth free for mine and my husband’s work, especially for calls, and for the times when we need the internet for learning. Get a decent headset for sound clarity and mute yourself when you are not the one talking; it generally keeps the line clearer and means that you can yell at your kids when they start fighting when you are on a call…

Chores; I’ve been specifically asked about these, so I’m going to drop a note in here. My kids help with chores. I’d even go so far as to say that I couldn’t keep everything going if they didn’t. They feed animals, they tidy rooms, they sort their own laundry, they change their own sheets, they take the bins out, they get their own breakfasts and lunches and they tidy away after themselves. I usually have a cleaner, but the times when she can’t make it (and unfortunately, due to circumstances beyond her control, there have been quite a few recently), I make a list of all the tasks to be done and I split them up over the week. I then get the kids to help me with them. Usually if we are working together, it only takes 10-15 minutes at a time. I don’t pay them for doing any of this, but screen time is dependent on the house being clean and tidy. It’s just The Rule.

Routine. Ok, so I think that this is super important when you are working from home. I’m not talking about delightful rainbowed schedules (they look beautiful, but apply far too much pressure for me!), but rather about getting up at the same time each morning. Ensuring that you make time for exercise, eating proper meals and checking in with your work colleagues. If you are working from home and you have kids at home, you are going to have to be flexible with your time because the kids are going to need your attention too. Your workplace is simply going to have to accept this; these are strange times for everyone.

This is how our WFH current routine works;

My husband gets up at 6am every morning. He feeds the horses and brings me a cup of tea in bed. He then does some sort of workout whilst I get on with my social media. At 7am, I get up and wake the kids (13, 11, 10 &8). I shower and then call the kids for breakfast at 7.30am. I read to them over breakfast and then they go to get dressed whilst I eat my own breakfast. My husband has usually showered and changed in this time and is already working. My kids get dressed, do their ablutions and feed their animals (chicken, ducks and cats) until I marshal the troops (around 8.15am) and drag everyone out (including husband), to walk the dogs around the field (exercise people!).

Once back, my eldest feeds the dogs and my husband gets on with his work. I can take this time to answer emails. Around quarter past 9, I call time for lessons and we work, with breaks, on academics until lunch. I can, if need be, get on with a client if I need to at this point because I have various things that I can set up that the kids can get on with independently, but I prefer to be with the kids.

I am trying to get lunch eaten together for the good of my husband’s mental health as he struggles without the social interaction of the office (he is one of life’s extroverts), but it is worth remembering that you can stagger lunches so that one of you has time to work peacefully; today my husband had lunch with the kids as I was on a call. After lunch, husband is back on his computer, the kids and I muck out the horses, and then we do *something* together for a couple of hours. We ride the ponies, play games, bake, completely sort the garage out (that was today’s fun activity)... If you are both in full time jobs, one of you can take the morning slot and one the afternoon slot. As it is, with my husband in a full time job and me working for myself, I take both unless I have a specific call set up.

At around 4pm, once the house is back in order and they’ve sorted their washing, they have screen time (yippee!). At this point, if I’ve not handled any calls or sessions during the day, I’ll answer emails, or take calls. Husband calls it a day around 4.30pm, so he’s around for the kids, whilst I might keep going until dinner time as I’ve had time during the day. Dinner is at 7pm, showers etc afterwards, with chill out time for all. Kids head to bed between 8 and 9pm (at some point I go out to the ponies and medicate my old horse, do the evening routine with hay etc to set up for the morning and put the poultry to bed). I try very hard to keep the evenings free for relaxation, but if you have needed to take time out during the day to be present for young children, then you can continue in the evening too. The flip side of this is that if you HAVE to be at your desk during the day, you can spend time catching up with the kids in the evening. Perhaps let them sleep in during the morning whilst you work so that you can get stuff done and then have more time in the evening.

Or whatever. Please don’t run yourself ragged during this time: This too shall pass. Give yourself AND your children grace during this uncertain time. Much love here from the Tidy Coo household, hang on in there, you’re doing brilliantly.

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