Seven Strategies for Balancing Work and School at Home

Here are seven simple practices for making this challenging time more manageable for parents and children

Kelli Harran

Director of Program Support at Higher Ground Education

Many parents are adjusting to a new temporary reality where we are trying to work from home and balance the needs of our children who are also home. While acknowledging the inevitable stress inherent in this change of routine, we can come together to embrace this time as an opportunity to connect with family, make some memories, and enjoy the perks of remote life. 

Without lunches to prepare, drop-offs and commutes to work, your family might be able to sleep in a bit and benefit from extra rest. You and your children may be able to indulge in a more leisurely breakfast, with a simplified start to your day, allowing for an extended time to connect in a way that is not possible in the rush of typical school or workday morning.

You may be unsure of how you and your child can both attend to your work and how to set boundaries with your children to minimize interruptions. First, give yourself a lot of grace. This is not an easy feat, and it will take some trial and error to find the right rhythm. There is no perfect way.

The good news is there are practices to make life and work more manageable! All suggestions can be adapted, so do what will work best for your family’s dynamics and needs. 

First, you do not need to become an overnight homeschooling expert. “The teacher’s task is not to talk, but to prepare and arrange a series of motives for cultural activity in a special environment made for the child,” Maria Montessori wrote in “The Absorbent Mind.” You can modify this concept for your home.

  1. Help your children create a space for their work and activity. For young children, they may be in the same room as you, so you want to be thoughtful about preparing a comfortable area for them and a limited number of accessible activities on a low shelf. If you have a child-sized table and chair, that is ideal. You could also use a rug or even a towel in a pinch. Separating children is key to keeping the peace!
  2. Set up a snack preparation and water break area that is accessible to your child, so they can independently take care of their needs when they are hungry or thirsty. Even young children can manage this. Have several snack options available with accessible child-sized glasses, dishes, and cutlery.
  3. Older children can also prepare their own lunch and help their younger siblings with food preparation.
  4. With elementary-age children, you can be more direct about times when you are available and times when you are not. You might consider a marker board in the kitchen with time blocks recorded in which you need to focus and times when you will be on calls.
  5. Talk with your children about how they can appropriately get your attention if they do need to speak with you. They may place a hand on your shoulder and wait quietly for your attention, as an example.
  6. Create a list of activities along with your children that they are free to do when they may have finished with schoolwork or the structured part of their day to accommodate your long hours.
  7. Remember that boredom breeds creativity, so allow for that to happen with older children who do not need supervision and know the parameters of acceptable choices. Children can understand that you have work to do and need space to concentrate, even if their work day is over. It is not your responsibility to entertain! Let that be liberating.
Meet the Author

Kelli Harran

Kelli Harran is the Director of Program Support at Higher Ground Education.

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