COVID-19. Isolation. Work from home. But with the family. How?

So, here we are – ALL together, all cozy, all quarantined. And this is what it looks like –

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Trying to get my work done with a 6 year old at home

The good news is that this is not my first rodeo, working from home with children, so I already have some work from home “mommy-muscles” (shout out to my sister for coining that phrase). However, as with anything new, I have to find what works through trial and error.

Here is some edited footage from my first remote lesson to show you some of what doesn’t work 😆 :

I began working full-time in 2017 (almost 3 years ago). As an adjunct professor, I had a little more time to be able to keep up on home and family needs (though it took me a while to develop those mommy muscles). But now, I am finding that I just can’t do for my youngest what I was able to do for the older two. This last week was draining – with everyone in the family trying to do “their stuff”:

  • my older two working on homework and virtual lessons,
  • my husband working from home in a continuous virtual meeting
  • I had to teach remote lessons – it got so bad that at one point, I had to set up my lap-top on the bathroom counter because that was the only “real estate” left in our two-bedroom apartment.
  • Ruby (our 6-year-old) was at a loss – and anytime I tried to get her to work (on the homework that she has been assigned) it went up in flames.

So, this weekend we had a re-boot with the family and Ruby now has a new “teacher” that she has chosen for every subject.

  • Math ( her 12 year-old sister)
  • Language arts – reading and writing (me)
  • Arts and Crafts (her 15 year-old sister)
  • PE (her Dad)

The plan is that everyone will work with her daily for at least 20 minutes in the subject.  I have also posted a schedule for my family so that they will make sure to help with her during the times that I have to meet with students (see the video above).

I wrote that first part of the post a few weeks ago, while I was still working things out and excited and fresh – ready to tackle the situation.  Now, our governor has announced another 2 weeks of lockdown. Our schools have announced that they will not reopen for the end of the school year. The new virtual semester at the college I teach at starts again on Monday.  And, we’re getting a bit stir crazy here.  My awesome plan (as outlined above) sometimes works, but more than not doesn’t. **Sigh!** So, here are some of my …

Tips for Working with Everyone Home –

  1. Work when you can – sometimes that means that I pull really late nights or really early mornings while the family sleeps.
  2. Forgive yourself and move on – it will not be perfect. You are doing the best you can in the moment, and you won’t be able to fix all of the mistakes. But you are getting it done. Pat yourself on the back and move on. It is about learning the skill of doing, expanding, and growing. “You are expanding your capacity to do!”
  3. Don’t worry about what others think – they will think what they want to think. You can’t change that. If they truly understood what you were going through they would probably be in awe of the juggle that you are doing.
  4. Spend quality time with your family – sometimes you have to let some aspect of work pile up a little (grade, prep, or answer emails later) and be present with the needs of the family. Give them the gift of you in the present moment. We’ve done Sugar Easter Eggs, watching old movies, playing board and card games, teaching them knitting, (here’s my youtube playlist to quarantine fun), etc. It is good to have time together! 😉
  5. Time to retrain everyone – At the beginning of this quarantine, family members were coming to me for everything (can you help me do this homework, can you get me this, can you …).
    • Now, I meet with my older children each day and ask what they need/want to do with the day.
    • I forward their teachers’ emails to their inboxes and make them responsible for their own homework.
    • For my older kids – they can’t do “fun” (screens, movies, etc.) until the work is done, and they’ve been productive.
    • The youngest (6 years) has some “attitude work” that we are trying to retrain with punishments/rewards systems and a lot of love. When the oldest two were young, I only worked part-time and so I was able to train them, but with the youngest I’ve had to work full-time, and she has developed some unfortunate habits. It’s been a huge blessing to be able to work with her in such a “hands on” way.
  6. Home chores  – We’re all working on meals and clean-up together. Again, some days work better than others, but little by little, we’re getting into better habits. This (the balance of tidying, chores, and meal prep) is something we’ve been juggling for YEARS! It takes the time and effort of everyone to keep things tidy, to create healthy meals, and to do the heavier Saturday cleaning jobs).
  7. Make sure that they are creating, not just consuming –  Yes, there are times when I hand over my phone and times when I turn on a movie to my youngest – such as when I have a particular deadline that I have to meet. However, the TV and devices can’t be on all of the time. Even in a small apartment in quarantine there is time each day for creativity, reading, play, etc.
  8. Scheduling at home  – I have certain teaching times in which the older girls watch the youngest. Each night we discuss what hours we have virtual meetings and what needs to be done. Mostly, the older girls play with the younger during my virtual teaching time, and I end up working with Ruby on her school work. That’s okay. I’m blessed to have a little more flexibility with my job (as I said before, sometimes I get my work done in the early mornings or very late at night).
  9. Adding more – Yes, we started up virtual piano lessons again. It’s tough to juggle, but as with anything, you have to practice, sometimes the balls fall, and sometimes you add another one to improve. It’s been good, and my kids have loved having another things to do with their days to keep them busy (and I don’t mean that sarcastically – they need schedules, they need to keep busy, they need to get up and dress and do their hair each day. It keeps them happy and feeling good during this time of uncertainty. )

No, it’s not ideal, but then, neither was the chaos of our weeks before quarantine. My hope is that this time will help me find a happy medium (post quarantine) with my family in the future.


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