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We’ve covered strategies for working with kids in the office several times. In our household, though, there’s an additional challenge: our kids are not only in and out of the home office all day, they’re also homeschooled.
On one level, having a home-based school is just a natural extension of having a home-based job: it’s one more way to bring freedom and flexibility to your own life, and to make your own decisions. But on another level, it’s a tough balancing act: not only do you have to strike an appropriate work-life balance, but you also have to balance making money against educating your kids. Here are five ways that we cope with these issues.
1. Have a daily structure: Our kids are at an age where they need supervision for much of their schoolwork, though they also do work on their own. We keep the parental-supervised work to a couple of fixed-time blocks each day. Not only does this let the kids (and parents!) know what to expect, it also makes it easier to block out time for work clients: they know that I’m not generally available between 7 and 9:30 AM, for example. This saves hassles and missed phone calls all around.
2. Involve both parents: I think that’s generally a good idea for homeschoolers, though I recognize that it can be tough. In our case, we have two work-at-home parents, so we can divide the teaching duties and stagger hours so that only one parent is tied up with schoolwork at any given time. That also means that it’s possible to be more flexible on client-contact hours: if one of my customers has something really important come up during what are normally my blackout hours, I can take the call and hand the schoolwork off to the other teacher in the house.
3. Bring the classroom into the office: Our kids are growing up in a computerized household, and it’s natural for them to want to know what mom and dad are doing. So we use plenty of online resources for our classes, and use the nice monitors on the work computer when we do so. Miro is a great little application for finding and automatically downloading videos on any topic; we use it to find our daily dose of animal video for a child studying biology and ecology. One tip: turn off your IM notifications when using the office computer for schoolwork, as any reading child will get distracted.
4. Be prepared to take days off: This works in both directions. If I’ve got a critical meeting or a pressing deadline, we can always declare a “no school” day: the kids love it, and they get plenty of instructional time even with the occasional day off. Or, if we want to take a field trip to the local museum, it’s ok to have a “no work” day (using Grand Central means I’m still transparently available to clients on the phone if it comes to that). If you’re enjoying homeschooling and home working for the flexibility, it’s silly to never make use of it.
Homeschooling is a big decision – but then, so is working at home. We do the things that work for us, and if our experience helps others, great! But like most things in raising kids: take what works for you and leave the rest. Just know that it’s possible to run life this way, even if it is a challenge.