Juggling working and supporting learning — top tips

01 April 2020
Chris Budhi
Chris Budhi is a primary school teacher from Cambridge with 2 pre-school children. 
As many parents find themselves working from home (maybe for the first time) and home schooling their children (definitely for the first time) during these unsettling times, Chris, a primary school teacher from Cambridge — who is also working from home with his wife and 2 young children — shares his tips for juggling priorities and finding some balance.
  1. You’re not supposed to be a teacher. Teachers don’t expect you to teach your children like they do. When your child is at school, they do a lot of thinking and talking to partners about what they are learning and the different concepts. If your child doesn’t have a sibling at a suitable level then they are likely to want to talk it through with you. There is plenty of material online to ensure you don’t have to teach” your children in the formal way. The curriculum has been around long enough that there are so many resources online to help your child out. Many schools (if not all) are preparing material and work that your child is able to access without the need for you to spend hours of your time teaching. You’re not expected to, this is a time for your children to be independent and conscientious learners. Let them explore and discover by themselves. If it all goes wrong, reassess and see what changes you can make so it doesn’t take up your work time.
  2. Have a timetable/​schedule. Children have a timetable when they are at school, so it’s a good idea to set one up for them that is easy to follow (this could be a nice activity to do together?). Children are used to routine. The longer that this goes on for, the more routine is going to serve you well and your children will get used to the flow of the day. Try to allow 3 days (9–3ish with plenty of breaks for primary children) to do all activities you are set, and allow 2 days to finish” off activities and add in some fun” activities that will enrich your child further. The more you keep your days with a similar routine, the more independent and used to home schooling they will become.
  3. Don’t do your child’s work for them! Children don’t learn by having their work done for them. This is the perfect time for your child to learn to make mistakes and to have your input on how to improve. I would let your child interpret the task the way they want and then once they have done it, talk them through how to improve maybe just 1 thing, not lots of things, you don’t want to crush them but guide them. Your input is valuable but let them make mistakes and then correct after, this should give you time to work while your child independently gets on with their activities.
  4. Work in teams. If you have more than one child, you may want to get them paired up to work together or even be each other’s teacher, depending on their age gap. Alternatively, perhaps they have a friend they can work with on an online call? The more they can get help from one another, the less time you will need to spend going through their work with them. This means you can get on with your work.
  5. Allow some down time. If you need to work an 8 hour day and it is constantly being interrupted by your child, that’s going to cause you added stress. After 3 o’clock, let your child have a few hours of them time, doing the things they love doing, if that means time on the PS4, watching a film, playing in the garden, let it happen. Don’t feel guilty. These are times like no other. Don’t feel guilty for letting your child watch TV for a few hours after they have worked.
  6. Let your child be bored! Don’t try and entertain your children all the time, it’s not healthy for them or you. A bit of free time gives them the chance to test new things, use their imagination and be creative! 

Life at this time can be stressful, but hopefully these tips will help you to create some order. And don’t forget it takes time to get to grips with new things, so if you don’t get it right straight away, don’t worry, keep trying!