7 tips to strike a balance between work, school and home life during COVID-19

By Delvene Neilson

It’s a situation many of us find ourselves in for the very first time; working, parenting and homeschooling primary school-aged children from home. Simultaneously. To help keep your sanity intact and the kids learning while you navigate work commitments, here are 7 tips to help you find some all-important balance amongst it all.

1. Set realistic expectations

Begin by cutting yourself some slack. We can’t expect children to get as much work done at home as they do at school. The sooner we all acknowledge that learning remotely is a different experience, the better. Children really do feel it too. Rather than seeing yourself as a replacement teacher, try to think of your role as one that keeps the learning momentum going. You also have other important jobs right now, like keeping your kids happy and safe. Encourage independent working where possible, to replicate the kind of experience they get in the classroom. Set your children up with an activity, go to your desk for 30 minutes, then pop back to check on them. If you’re after some support with remote teaching, we’ve got resources to help you out.

2. Structure helps many children

Primary school-aged children are very familiar with structure. It helps them know what’s coming next and removes some of the uncertainty present at this time. There are many practical ways you can create a structure at home.

  • Create distraction-minimising workspaces for everyone, complete with stationery and the essentials.
  • Use colour-coded timetables on the wall, so kids know what’s coming (it might also save you from fielding quite so many questions throughout the day).
  • Stick to the same rough times as school for breaks and snacks.
  • Plan a mix of written work, online activities and decent breaks (incorporate a walk or play in the garden if you can).
  • Block out time in your diary to give each child some undivided attention.

3. Use everyday activities as learning opportunities

So much learning happens in the everyday. From making the bed to unstacking the dishwasher and creating a shopping list, think of your everyday activities as valuable learning experiences. Get your child involved with making their lunch and snacks, have them interact with and hunt for nature in the garden or rearrange their bedroom and belongings in a new, creative way.

4. Support children to follow their interests

What a fantastic opportunity you have to encourage your child to pursue their interests. From learning to animate or creating a book about space, let kids take the lead with their learning. Encourage older students to hand write an outline of their learning idea and list the tools they need – on and offline. By working with your children’s interests, rather than forcing things upon them, you’ll probably find they’re happy to engage with the activities.

5. Take advantage of fantastic online resources

  • Many organisations that are not currently open to the public have moved online, offering fantastic resources for children. Educational live streams are available from Melbourne Zoo, Sea Life Aquarium and the Australian Reptile Park.
  • Local libraries are live-streaming their story-time sessions, ideal for younger children.
  • Dolly Parton is reading bedtime stories, on GoodNight With Dolly on YouTube.
  • Jamie Oliver is hosting daily cooking classes, Keep Cooking and Carry On.
  • Kids can enrol in online Harry Potter classes like Charms, History of Magic and Potions at Hogwarts is Here.
  • Captain Underpants author and illustrator Dav Pilkey is hosting free virtual readings and drawing classes. Check out his YouTube channel, Dav Pilkey at home.
  • UK sports teacher Joe Wicks hosts PE with Joe daily on YouTube to get kids moving.

Sea life

6. Share the load an be flexible

Despite your best efforts, there will be days when things don’t work out as planned. If you can, take a short break. A change of scene might be just what everyone needs. Time outside in the fresh air or cuddling up for a 1:1 story are some ways you can reset together. Also, you may not realise it, but many classrooms contain tools for emotional and sensory regulation. If your kids are unsettled, you could try some of the following:

  • Squishy balls
  • Bean bags
  • Slime
  • Quiet background music
  • Fidget spinners

If you and your partner are both working from home, try to tag-team where you can. You may need to catch up on some missed work in the evenings or on weekends. This way of working and living is temporary, so you’ll need to be flexible and make some compromises.

7. Encourage communication with friends and family

Just like any time of significant change, this will feel unsettling for both adults and children. Make sure you give kids opportunities to connect regularly with friends and relatives. Zoom, Houseparty and FaceTime are all great ways to chat, catch up and connect. Use technology creatively when you can. Grandparents could host a story time session on FaceTime or Skype or supervise an activity while you make a phone call.

It’s important to remember you’re not alone during this time. If you can, reach out to your primary school for advice or join one of many Facebook community groups sharing ideas. You can achieve some balance at home, but it will feel imperfect. Lastly, whether you’re a parent, teacher or both, we’re here to guide and support you through this unprecedented period. If your child’s school has ClickView, check out our remote learning page for lessons and resources you can access from home, and follow us on Facebook and Instagram for all the latest updates.

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