I’ve been working from home since 2009 when my kids were 4 and 6. For two of those years, I also homeschooled while working full time. It wasn’t easy and let’s be honest, some days were just a complete cluster and I put them in the front of the Disney channel for hours. However, I did find a few things that when I did them made the day go so much smoother and everyone way more productive.
Get an early start.
I woke up at 5 am every day so I could get a couple of hours of work in before my kids needed anything. Then I could take a break and do breakfast and get them set up for the first part of the day
Have a designated workspace.
For years, my desk was in my bedroom. It wasn’t ideal but it was a way for me to have a designated space to work where I could close the door and concentrate. I’m lucky now to have an office space that I just completed – it doesn’t have its own door, but it’s upstairs away from the kitchen and where most of the activity happens and when I’m at my desk it’s go-time.
Have goals for the day, but let go of having a perfect set structure.
I’ve never been able to stick to a strict schedule or make any charts that I actually filled in and used on a consistent. My workdays fluctuated a lot, and our schedule depended on what meetings I had and what workload I had as well. You have to take all of that into account and with so many changes, it was impossible to have a set schedule every day. So I didn’t put so much pressure on me to have everything perfectly mapped out. If you can do that I am in awe of you. I just set goals that I wanted to get accomplished in that day. I made a plan for what needed to be done at some point, and then let go of the timing. One writing assignment, one math assignment, one art project of some kind, etc. Every day doesn’t have to be exactly the same and you don’t have to beat yourself up for not following a super strict schedule. Name the five things that need to get done that day, get them ready to go, do them in whatever order works out that day, and call it good! Remember, all the homeschooled kids I know do school for about half the day and they’re done. You don’t have to entertain your kids for 8 hours and try to work at the same time.
Mix up their favorite activities with their NOT-SO-FAVORITE activities.
If your kids love to draw, then have them do chores and let them know that drawing is coming next! If your kids hate math, have them do the math sheet and then they can watch a discovery channel video or whatever fun activity they love. If they hate reading, set the timer for 30 minutes to read, followed by a game. I would oscillate back and forth with activities that they didn’t like, with things they enjoyed, so we got everything done but it wasn’t all at one time. Mix in the fun stuff in between the not-so-fun stuff.
Have activities on hand that they haven’t seen before.
Kids attention spans aren’t that great. and everyone likes new activities and new toys. I’m not suggesting buying a new toy for them to open every day, just find new activities and don’t show them right away. I would print new worksheets, puzzles, coloring activities, stories, and have them on hand for when I could see they needed some redirection. I’d buy a few books that they didn’t know about so when I saw that they were losing interest in one activity or one set of toys, I brought out something new.
Have the kids choose when possible.
My life was always easier to manage when I gave my kids a choice and let them choose. I would let them choose a new book every week from the store, choose a new game they wanted to play, choose a new card set or card game, choose a new Lego building set. When you get buy something new for them to construct or read, let them pick it out. I know we only have online shopping at this moment, but that’s still fun knowing that a new lego set or new puzzle it on its way, and when it arrives, have it on hand when you see them get bored and new redirection.
When all else fails, throw them in water!
And by water, I mean if all you can do right now is give them a bucket and a hose in the back yard, then give them a bucket and a hose! I had a cheap little round kiddie pool forever. I also bought a cheap used small bouncy house and gave them the hose, and they would jump in there for hours.
Let them dig in the dirt.
Let got of having a perfectly landscaped backyard and give them a little shovel. Little hands and little minds need some good dirt to play in. I had a sandbox with a roof and I would drag the hose out there where Brandon would play for HOURS. Dirt with water, even better! Hose them off before they come inside, throw them in the bathtub, and you’ve got another 30 minutes to get something done.
Play games in the backyard.
We played catch, frisbee, and throw the football around, but my favorite backyard game was the donut game. You tie the string in between two different poles and then tie donuts to the string. They hang down and you have to eat the donut without using your hands. It’s hilarious and so fun!
Give yourself a break.
If you have a conference call, let them watch TV. It’s not the end of the world. Do the best you can. Be kind to yourself. It’s not easy to work from home when your kids are home. It’s hard to feel like you’re a good mom and doing good work. Use the TV as a babysitter when you need it. It’s all good! You’re doing great!
Make everything a game.
My kids had the most success in learning something when it was masked as a game. I bought games at the teacher supply store about money, math, even grammar. We had a board game that taught them the parts of speech. It wasn’t their favorite but they loved games and I would set a timer with the game I wanted them to play, followed by the game that they chose to play.
I know working from home is nuts, and it can be overwhelming at times, but I found it so rewarding and felt so lucky to work and be there for everything my kids needed. I wouldn’t work 8-5, I worked in chunks of time, and I stopped putting so many rules on everything, Take a day at a time and do your best! Not every day will be perfect, and pretty much zero-days go as planned. But as they say, we plan, God laughs. It still can be a great day even if it doesn’t go as planned! And have fun. Your kids are only going to be this age for a very short amount of time. When they turn seven, they won’t want to do six-year-old things anymore. My kids are teenagers, and they don’t want to spend that much time with me anymore, but we still have game nights and play cards and board games. Now that school is canceled and they’re home all day and can’t leave the house, I got more puzzles and more lego sets for older kids, and we play cards every night. It’s been awesome. I hope these tips helped, and I hope you find ways to enjoy managing all the “new normal” during this crazy uncertain time.
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