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Finding a balance: how to home-school successfully while working

Schools in a number of countries are closed due to the COVID-19 pandemic, leaving parents to home-school their children for the foreseeable future.

This task can seem daunting at the best of times, but with the rise in social distancing – or physical distancing — and working from home, it can be more challenging than ever.

To help you balance your work life and support you as you continue your child’s  education, read our guide to home-schooling for professional parents and stay-at-home parents alike.

How does home-schooling work?

Teaching and supporting your child with their schoolwork while schools are temporarily closed due to COVID-19 is not the same as making a choice to home-school your children at home, full time — also known as elective home education (EHE). For those suddenly faced with home-schooling their children rather than having made a conscious decision to do so for lifestyle, religious, geographical access or other reasons, there are several challenges to overcome — and quickly. This article provides home-schooling tips for parents juggling work or other family commitments. Similarly, those who follow — or are thinking about adopting — an EHE approach to education will also find this article useful.

Guidelines relating to EHE vary around the world. In the UK, for example, there are no minimum hours that must be spent educating a child, nor is there a set curriculum to follow or examinations that must be taken. It is, however, possible to enrol your child externally for exams. Schooling laws vary state by state in the U.S. India has no authority that regulates home-schooling, and so the methods of teaching and curriculum are subject to each educator.

While schools in many countries around the world are currently closed in response to governmental mandates relating to physical distancing, the faculty are continuing to work — albeit remotely — providing children with daily schedules and setting work via email, or teaching classes virtually. The general mantra seems to be to do the best you can to help your children learn during these difficult and unusual circumstances. But, the most important thing you can do is to make sure your child or children are supported emotionally.

Can I home-school and work from home?

If you are having to home-school during the current pandemic, while also working from home, you might be facing a number of challenges. But there are ways of making it work.

When teaching and working from home, consider how to manage your time. It may seem like there aren’t enough hours in the day to be an employee and a teacher, as your child usually spends several hours at school. In China the average school day is around 9.5 hours, while in the UK and Dubai, the day is shorter at 6.5 hours. Brazilian schools only tend to teach for five hours. However, direct tuition can be more efficient than teaching groups, so your child will probably learn faster in a one-on-one session. You may find you only have to spend two to three hours teaching them per day, leaving you time to get on with your work. When it comes to teaching, quality is more important than quantity.

Can I hire someone to home-school?

If you want to home-school your child but feel like you don’t have the time or skills to do so, you can hire someone to educate them for you. You can employ a private tutor to teach our child, whether it’s their entire education or a specific subject they may be struggling with.

However, if you are looking to hire someone to teach your child during the COVID-19 pandemic, it may not be possible due to social distancing — or physical distancing —- measures implemented in many countries. As everyone is encouraged to work from home and have as little contact with others as possible, employing someone to come to your house everyday will not be possible. This doesn’t have to be an issue as there are many tutors who use video calls — many of whom were prompted to do so by the current situation.

Tips on home-schooling your child while working

Whether it’s a short-term fix or a long-term decision, you will need certain information on how to home-school your child while maintain your job. This section offers useful advice and guidance to make the most of home-schooling.

Join virtual classes

Many schools have been closed due to the pandemic but are still hosting virtual classes. By using these, you can stop being teacher for an hour or so, to do some of your own work. Museums and wildlife centres and theme parks around the world have also begun launching virtual tours, allowing children to still explore the globe from their home — both fun and educational!

Online curriculum

If you’re worried about what you will actually teach your child, there are plenty of resources online. Sites such as study.com, Wolsey Hall Oxford and MyOnlineSchooling offer a range of courses. Many charge fees, but if this is within your budget, it can be a great option. Online resources can also be useful if there is a specific subject you struggle with — for example if maths or English language aren’t your strong suit you may have difficulty teaching them. There are also resources sites that offer a wide range of curriculums, for children of all ages. For example, Twinkl.com covers curriculums from around the world, including South Africa, India, the Middle East, France, Italy, Australia, Canada, Brazil, the UK and the U.S.

Talk to your employer

If you are having to home-school for a short period of time, talk to your employer to see if they can support you. Even if you have a strict work from home policy, they may be more lenient. For example, they may allow you to change your schedule temporarily. Maybe you can work longer hours most days in order to take a couple of afternoons off to home-school. If you are still having to work every day, maybe you can start work earlier to allow you to have a longer lunch break in which you could fit in a couple of hours of teaching.

Scheduling

If you have to fit in both teaching your child and working from home, build a routine. When scheduling, remember that you can teach your child at any time of day that suits both of you. You may also want to build a weekly schedule — some days may be solely dedicated to work, with no teaching at all.

Flexibility is one of the main benefits of home-schooling so your schedule doesn’t have to be concrete. However, you and your child could find a little bit of structure helpful. You can always veer from the schedule if you need to or find that some times of the day work better than others for certain activities.

If you want to both work and school every day, you may find that by waking up earlier in the morning, you can get a few hours of work in before you start teaching your child at 10am.

Take it in turns

If you live with a partner who also works, take it in turns to teach. By sharing the responsibility, you can both still get on with your work and have time to spend schooling. There is also a likelihood that you will have different interests and abilities, making one of you a better teacher for certain subjects and the other more suitable for the others.

Create working and schooling spaces

By creating separate spaces for work, school and home life, you can have some real downtime at the end of day. This may also help your child with understanding when they have to do work, if they are not used to learning in their home environment.

Have a break

Ensuring you make time to take breaks from teaching and work will be beneficial for both you and your child. Setting aside time, even if it’s just five minutes, to meditate can do wonders for stress and can help your child stay calm, focused and improve sleep. Read our guide to meditation techniques for children here.

Going for a walk and enjoying the fresh air or doing an at-home exercise class can help refocus the mind and improve yours and your child’s mood. Why not combine exercise and mindfulness, and use a site just as GoNoodle.com, which can help your child’s overall wellness.

While working from home and home-schooling may be difficult, it is not impossible. Utilise all the resources you have available and share the responsibility if possible.

This may be a change for your household, but it can be fun and incredibly rewarding. Just remember you need a home to relax in at the end of the day, before it goes back to being an office and a school tomorrow.

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