How to Make Homeworking and Home-Schooling Work During Lock-down

Posted in : HR Updates on 30 April 2020
Olga Pollock
firmus energy
Issues covered:

With schools across the UK now closed to the vast majority of pupils, thousands of students have temporarily become home-schoolers while we wait and watch to see how the COVID-19 outbreak evolves. The working world have been turned on its head with many of us now struggling to simultaneously balance homeworking and home-schooling. Working parents now face the same dilemma; how to keep our kids entertained and up-to-date on their school work, all while working from home.

It is a question I continue to ask myself every day since lockdown began some four weeks ago, or is it five? As the weeks have passed I have certainly adapted and tweaked my approach but let’s just say it’s a work in progress! A typical day involves some short words or at worst me turning into ‘mumzilla’, for which I later regret. I am the proud mother of a nine year old and twelve year old, each at different stages in their education. Adapting to working from home alongside my kids has involved me trying a lot of things that didn’t work before finding something manageable for the whole family. That said, I can only imagine how much more difficult it must be for working parents with younger children demanding so much more of their time away from the laptop. And of course we can’t forget all the front line workers who would give anything to be in the fortunate position of being at home every day with their children. Thankfully most employers seem to have adopted a very flexible approach to enable working parents to juggle parenting around their workload and given in to the likelihood that there will be varying degrees of disruption to the working day. And with a bit of flexibility, most of us are probably bending over backwards to make things work for both our employers and our families.

As I say, I am still adjusting to my new working arrangements and often struggle with the constant interruptions as expected from my Primary 5 child, not to mention the frequent bickering between the two (this is where ‘mumzilla’ steps in). On the whole, as the days and weeks go by I think I am probably not doing too bad after all. I thought it might be helpful in that case to share what I’ve learned so far about making it work.

Give yourself time to adjust

Only a few months back none of us expected to be in this position so it is only to be expected that suddenly being thrust into being at home will take us time to adjust. Figuring out a new way of working whilst also trying to get to grips with Google Classroom and Joe Wicks workouts was certainly a shock for all of us. But after the first couple of weeks things seemed to settle down a bit as we established a bit more of a routine. So we need to allow this time to find our new, albeit temporary ‘normal’ and not get too annoyed when things don’t go as smoothly as we’d hoped.

Have a timetable

It may be stating the obvious, but without a routine everything takes so much longer and becomes impossible to manage, so have a timetable and stick to it as best you can. My working day starts and ends as normal but I try to base the kid’s timetable around their school day, starting at 9am and finishing up at 3pm including generous breaks that we have all earned! As tempting as it would be to let the kids have a lie in it only serves to have a knock on effect on the rest of the day as the next thing breakfast is coinciding with your morning Zoom call. Most schools seem to have done an amazing job in scheduling work remotely and so we make sure that the work set for the day gets done around our home timetable. Then by 3pm I know I can catch up on my own work once the children have finished up.

Be available

This is probably where I have faced the biggest challenge. My job, like most, requires concentration which becomes next to impossible when being asked for help on a problem-solving worksheet. I learned quickly however that by not giving my child the attention she deserves that everyone struggles and homework takes so much longer to complete. So I now make a conscious effort to let go of my mouse and divert my full attention having become used to ‘dipping in and out’ of my own work. At the start I would get snappy and come off with responses along the lines of, “Do you not know I have a job to do?”, only to realise that I also have a job as a teacher. Back to my first point, I am still adjusting! You’re probably wondering where my twelve year old fits into everything. I would like to say he studiously works away with little to no supervision but there tends to be more encouragement from me to stay focused and to stop antagonising his sister. Thankfully he is a little more self-sufficient by Form 1 and his questions are limited which is a relief to me given my knowledge of physics or Latin is next to nothing.

Plan the night before

My nine year old has a pretty clear timetable of work scheduled for each week. While I trust my son to work through this himself, time will tell whether or not this was a wise decision. Each evening, I plan out work for my daughter for the next day so that I’m not scrambling in the morning trying to figure out what needs done. It saves a lot of time and helps everyone to feel focused day to day.

Do something you enjoy every day

For me, my one form of exercise has been really important and something I look forward to each day whether it’s a run or a walk on my own or with the family. It allows time to switch off and enjoy the fresh air. We have been blessed with a pretty decent spell of lovely weather which definitely helps. I also love to read, which I find is such a wonderful form of escapism, allowing time to switch off from the nightmare that the world is currently living through. Spending time in the garden is now also a real treat and like walking in the evenings, was probably something I had little time to do in the past when most evenings were spent rushing to some after school activity with the kids.

Don’t beat yourself up

Most days, especially at the beginning of the lockdown I would feel guilty at not having devoted enough time to my kids. I work in a job that I love so it is important for me to do my best every day but then I worry that that is at the detriment of my children’s education. Then I remember that I am not the only person in this situation and there are thousands of us up and down the country, doing the best we can in very difficult circumstances. As long as I accept that while things may not be perfect, they could be a whole lot worse as I get to spend every day with my kids safe beside me. And when all this is over I hope that I can remember these times fondly, of a time when we worked together, exercised together, talked, laughed and made memories. I hope that we can continue to stay safe and come out of this having learned lessons about what’s really important in life with health and family at the top of the list.


This article is correct at 30/04/2020

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Olga Pollock
firmus energy

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