How We are Juggling Working from Home and 3 Kids
I have been working from home for 14 years… but not with my kids in the background.
I will admit to being relieved when our school district announced closure on Friday, at least through April 6th. My husband and I saw the writing on the wall, so we opted to keep our kids home that day. By early afternoon, we had received an email from the school superintendent announcing the formal closure and a few hours later the governor of Illinois announced the statewide shutdown of schools.
The relief came because now we knew the answer: the kids would be home, now we can prepare. We have a 4th grader, a 2nd grader, and a 2.5-year-old. Even though we would have kept the toddler home regardless, my day care formally announced that it would close on Monday, for at least two weeks. I suspect that all of these closures will last much longer.
My husband and I are fortunate that we both already work from home. We have dedicated home offices and all of the equipment that we need. We wouldn’t have to simultaneously make that adjustment. At the same time, other than the occasional sick day, we’ve never had our kids around while we are working. They have always been in full-day day care, and camps in the summer.
Our school district only approved e-learning this school year. E-learning would mean a “formal” curriculum in the event of the occasional snow day. Certainly something like this was never envisioned, but at least all kids in the school from 2nd grade up have school-issued Chromebooks and access to a huge number of resources. In that, we are also lucky. I know some parents are in districts that only have “remote learning” and so teachers are trying to come up with ways to continue to teach with much more limited resources.
Since the approval for e-learning days only happened during this academic year, we’ve never had a chance to test it out: we had no snow days this year. Yesterday was the first official day of e-learning. Nothing like trial by fire!
I am a planner by nature: I like organization and routine. So when the formal closure was announced on Friday, I took a deep breath and said “I’ve got this.”
I quickly realized that I have no idea how to entertain a toddler for days on end. This might seem like an exaggeration, but since my children have always been in a formal day care setting, I have relied on the teachers to be the source of learning and entertainment. Our weekends often involve trips to the zoo or other outings, not sitting at home for hours on end.
From the electronic recap of the days at day care that I always receive, I tried to piece together what the day looked like. Centers, reading, fine motor skills, outside play, crafts. I asked my older kids to outline for me what their days look like: how much time do they spend on one subject?
Armed with that information, I came up with a daily routine, making sure that recess, lunch, quiet time, and art all overlapped with all kids. I then divided the day into the parent that would be responsible for all three kids while the other one worked, so that my husband and I would each have time to try to do our jobs, knowing that we might have to play catch-up in early mornings or evening.
Wednesday, March 18th: Day One
It is kind of like herding cats. I put Sesame Street on for the toddler and had my school-aged kids copy their assignments from their teachers into their notebooks.
I manage to sit on a work call at 9:30, with the person on the other end working from home for the first time. She had her kids, her husband, her dogs, and some people ripping up carpet in the background.
My older kids love audiobooks but tend to listen to the same thing over and over. I told them that they could earn a carry-out meal from a restaurant of their choice if they listened to a NEW audiobook.
They also have “Free Choice Time” in their days, for when there are breaks or they finish their other work. I told them that they have to complete at least five different activities in the week, preventing them from doing the same thing over and over each day. These are their choices:
- Khan Academy
- Scholastic Learn-at-Home
- National Geographic Kids
- Google Arts and Culture
Outside recess was cancelled yesterday due to rain (c’mon Mother Nature, give us a break). We had watched The Metropolitan Opera stream Carmen earlier this week, so I blasted opera in the kitchen from Amazon Music. The kids loved it. My husband sent me a text from his upstairs office telling me to turn it down while he was on a call.
We made it through the day. In the evening, I was beyond exhausted. While the kids did what they were supposed to do, and my husband and I managed to juggle work, it was constant motion between one thing or another. I have always had an enormous respect for teachers, and all I can do is try to provide the right environment for my kids to keep learning over the next few weeks/months.
Teachers, we love you. We can’t replace you. We will do the best that we can.