Home school finding the balance - Sharon Morse
21 April 2020
Posted by: Written by Sharon Morse
Much like remote working, children across the world are having to adapt to home schooling.
Young adults and children have been brought up in a fast-paced technological world and are often quick to pick up the new and latest tech. These agile young minds are inspirational in the way they can adapt quickly and relearn new and different ways of getting things done.
Change is not always easy - especially when our routine gets turned upside down overnight - so how are families, working parents and students adapting to this change?
How are you stopping those distractions, encouraging that motivation and finding that work/school/home life balance?
We asked some working parents who have shared their challenges, techniques and tips on LinkedIn to see how they are managing the changes.
Sharon shared her top five learning points from her first two weeks of home schooling, and we asked her if we could run some questions by her to share with our community. https://www.linkedin.com/posts/activity-6651750042715643904-lzBZ/
Executive Coach and mum of two
I am an Executive coach and I work with individuals and organisations to empower them to be successful in all aspects of their lives. I have a deep understanding of how organisations work, making leaders and teams more effective and resilient. I know what it takes for businesses and individuals to be successful. My last corporate role was at RBS, where I was Head of Leadership & Talent for Corporate Banking, leading an agile team and designing award winning talent programmes and successful initiatives to enhance leadership effectiveness and culture change.
How are you balancing work, school and home life?
The best time of the day for me is first thing in the morning. I get up before the children and this gives me some quiet time to focus on important and creative tasks as well as do some exercise. This time is crucial to set me up for success for the day mentally.
The key to balancing everything is through preparation and communication. As a family we talk each day and agree who is doing what and review how things are working. It is essential to ensure the children are happy and have activities to do. There are so many resources available online, provided by schools, Twinkl and similar websites. I find if I make time to do activities with my children they understand when mummy or daddy needs some quiet time on their own to do some work. If you are able to share the schooling with a partner, discussing schedules at the start of the week enables you to plan who needs quiet time at certain times of the day and you can plan accordingly. You probably won’t be able to work your normal hours but if you chunk the day down, you can still achieve what you need to by focusing your attention in the right area. This is where having a plan for the day is incredibly important. I do a list of what needs to be achieved in that day for the children and me. The other important point to note is that everyone is juggling at the moment whatever their home situation so if a child or pet runs into a video call everyone understands and actually, we get to know colleagues better.
Challenges and mistakes
- Making time for yourself - I know it sounds like another thing to fit in but if you make time for yourself you will create the mental capacity to handle the day whatever challenges are thrown at you.
- Not having a plan for how to tackle the day - Children are used to having structure in their school day. The brain likes routine so if you go through the day without a routine for them and you, it’s more likely to be a tense day where little is achieved.
- Don’t worry that you need to fill a whole school day. Your children are getting one to one attention from you and as one of the teachers at our school said to me, they will learn different things with us that they wouldn’t get the opportunity learn at school. The time you spend with them is valuable.
- Younger children in particular will constantly run into your working space and want your attention. If you can make time to talk them through activities and your schedule at the start of the day it will help them to understand when you are unavailable.
- Communicate regularly as a family and if it all goes wrong one day get outside in the garden if you are lucky enough to have one or do your one walk of the day. It completely changes perspective being outdoors and you can refocus and start again when you get back inside.
Tools and techniques that are helping to motivate, engage and keep track of school work?
Preparation is crucial if you are going to be effective in both schooling and work. Plan each evening what you want to do with the children and what you want to achieve in your work. A plan means when you wake up your brain is focused on the task ahead and if the children throw curveballs you are able to handle the challenges with a clear head. Use a whiteboard or schedule on the fridge to write this down so the children understand their daily activities.
Key learning points and top tips for other parents.
- Know yourself and when you are going to be the most productive and schedule your work around that time if you can. For most of us we are more creative at the start of the day but night owls might prefer to work later into the evening. Getting up early ahead of the children makes a huge difference to my day.
- Re-set boundaries with yourself, your family and your employer. Realistically you can’t work the exact same hours with home schooling to do as well, so agree your working schedule and discuss with your boss. You are not working from home you are at home during a crisis trying to work and home school. This might mean you split your work day into chunks throughout the day. Agree with your family when you are available and unavailable. My children know when mummy has an important call and really mustn’t be disturbed.
- If you are able to share the home schooling with your partner, agree a schedule in advance. Discuss who needs to be on calls at certain times so you can plan your day. Use diaries or a schedule on the fridge so you can understand who is on home-schooling duties at certain times.
- Be kind to yourself. You are going to experience a mix of emotions yourself adjusting to the daily challenges as well as the anxiety and uncertainty COVID-19 presents for us as parents, carers, business owners. Some days you won’t feel yourself and accept you are not teachers or super-heroes and practice self-compassion.
- Create space for yourself to exercise, meditate, read, have creative time. Usually the best time to do it is first thing in the morning. I find getting up a few hours ahead of the children gives me a head start and puts me in the right head space for a successful day.
- Use video calls with relatives or friends as an opportunity to get 30 minutes focus time. My children will ring their grandparents for a chat or to have a bedtime story read so I can get things done.
Download Sharon’s weekly schedule template