Working from home while supervising your children’s education in a virtual classroom is a big juggling act.
“Remember this is a big life change for everyone, and you won’t get it right the first time,” said Kelly Haney.
Kelly is a homeschooling mother of a young daughter in Silver Spring, Md. Her husband, Brian, is founder of The Haney Company, a financial services firm. The Haneys shared the lessons they learned from working and schooling from home during a webinar for the National Association of Insurance and Financial Advisors on Tuesday.
One of the biggest mistakes that parents make when preparing for virtual learning is thinking that school at home must reproduce the classroom experience, Kelly said. In her family’s case, they live in a small urban condominium without room for classroom space. So learning happens at the kitchen table. Or on the sofa. “That’s one of the perks of being at home,” she said.
School at home does not mean your child must sit down in front of a screen or a book from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m., she said. In fact, you may find that you can accomplish a solid day’s work at home in less time than it takes in a school classroom. “Let your kids enjoy some non-curricular activities,” she said. “Just let them be kids.”
Getting set up for success is crucial for a good virtual school experience, Kelly said. She advised the following:
- Routine is helpful, but keep it flexible.
- Create a learning environment that supports focus and concentration.
- Kids need breaks. Take a walk outside or participate in an online exercise class.
- Encourage independent learning and thinking. For example, if your child loves dragons, let them check out a book on dragons from the library, or watch a video about dragons, or do a dragon-themed art project.
In a two-parent household, both parents must be involved in order for the school-at-home experience to be a success, the Haneys said. “If you are good at math and science and the other parent is better at reading, you each can help your child in the areas where you are strong,” Kelly said. “It’s a lot easier if everyone is involved. This way, one parent isn’t resentful because they are sharing the lion’s share of the load.”
If you need to work from home yourself, “find a happy medium,” Brian said. One advantage of virtual school is that your child’s teacher should carry most of the responsibility for conducting the actual learning, he added.
Other advice the Haneys shared included:
- Find a rhythm that works best for you.
- Empower your kids to get work done independently.
- Have patience with your kids – and yourself.
Virtual school is the ideal way to understand how your child learns best, Kelly said. Is your child a morning person or not? You will find out which subjects are easy for them and which ones are hard.
“Don’t prepare your children for a test; prepare them for life,” she said.
Taking care of yourself also is crucial, Brian said. This is a difficult and stressful time for everyone; find meaningful ways to rest and take a break, he advised. Some suggestions he offered included:
- Build in time for free play.
- Build in time for exercise.
- Be sure to get rest.
- Be mindful of your own mental health during this time.
- Don’t drift into isolation.
“Don’t let your concerns about your practice and your income overwhelm you,” Brian said.
“You want to look back on this time and find evidence you had fun and found ways to be with your family.”
Susan Rupe is managing editor for InsuranceNewsNet. She formerly served as communications director for an insurance agents' association and was an award-winning newspaper reporter and editor. Contact her at [email protected]. Follow her on Twitter @INNsusan.
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