Q: “Denise, I usually work between my office and home office. I just learned that my child’s school district has cancelled classes for the next two weeks to corral the Coronavirus and I am stressed out about trying to sell real estate and entertain my child at the same time. Any suggestions?”
A: Yes! Two words will get you through the next two weeks – structure and rewards. Remember, there are plenty of employers who are encouraging working from home, so real estate agents are not the only ones in this situation.
When your child is in school, he or she has structure. I recommend to the best of your ability, emulating your child’s school schedule. Some classes and districts are trying to provide that structure through online learning or subject packets. Learn what you can about your teacher or schools expectations as well as the time blocks for online learning that was in place during a regular school day. Try to keep your child as engaged in the learning environment as much as possible. In terms of creating that schedule, if your child attends school between 8:00-2:30, create a schedule that is reasonable for the age of your child and emulates the school schedule – get a white board and write up the schedule. It could look something like this for someone in, say, 3rd grade:
8:00-8:40 – silent reading
8:45-9:15 – writing exercise / vocabulary – provided by school
9:15-9:55 – Khan Kids – Khan Academy has created a guide for parents whose kids are out of school. You can get more information on this here: https://khankids.zendesk.com/hc/en-us/articles/360040315632-How-to-use-Khan-Academy-Kids-for-at-home-learning
9:55-10:15 – break/snack and recess
10:15-10:50 – Math – provided by school
10:50-11:35 – Art project
11:35-12:20 – Lunch and recess
12:20-1:00 – Khan Kids lesson
1:00-1:30 – History/Social Studies – provided by school
1:30-2:00 – Science – either provided by school or there are plenty of resources for science experiments online. Here is just one example: https://www.weareteachers.com/3rd-grade-science-projects/
2:00-2:30 – Free learning time – if kids have finished everything, they can learn about something more, self-directed
With a schedule like the above, although it is unrealistic to expect that a 3rd grade student can take this whole day on themselves and you can hide away in your office, it is reasonable to expect an average third grade student to work independently from 8:00-9:15, check in with you before working on Khan Kids, check in from their break at 10:15 and you can get them started on the math if they have questions. You can take lunch together but then at 12:20 you can get them started again – set up the expectation for the afternoon session and review what you expect them to get done and when. Have them check in between history and science. At 2:00, they should review the day with you, what they got done, and discuss the independent learning period and what they hope to accomplish. This gives you a structured chunk of time with which to conduct business.
Creating the schedule will help them stay on track…and you! You would be surprised at how much more efficient you will be if you have a specific end time to your work.
That takes care of the structure. Now let’s talk about rewards. Just like you would use treats to train a puppy, I advise using a system of rewards for helping keep your kids on track, but you need to tune into what motivates your child. Is it an activity such as a bike ride? Time playing a board game with you? Getting to go to the library or book store to pick up a book, or getting a meal out or ice cream? Making something like cookies? Allowing music for certain segments of the learning the next day? You can also get something like this ice cream ball which will not only provide a treat, but will also keep them occupied and teach them a skill: https://www.rei.com/product/878285/yaylabs-softshell-ice-cream-ball Provide a reward for staying on track and getting their tasks completed.
If this is not realistic for your child either due to age or ability to work on their own, consider hiring an individual such as a tutor or early learning person to come to your home and facilitate. Maybe even a substitute teacher who isn’t getting hours right now. You may even find there are neighborhood children in the same boat and parents can come together to help facilitate a small group. There are options – it just may require you to get a little creative. Good luck!