If you want to change the world, go home and love your family.Mother Teresa
Work life balance has been a “thing” in recent years as the demand on our time for family, work, and school has gotten stronger. I’m single, and even for me, life is a juggling act of how to make all of the pieces fit together in that perfectly shaped pie. For families with school-aged children who are all learning to adapt to a #WFH environment, it’s more about simply getting the pie on the table than how perfect it looks.
The coronavirus pandemic has been anything but predictable. I have so many friends who are still struggling, adjusting and settling into this new normal of a more routine at-home lifestyle—which is anything but normal. And for those who have school-aged children, this means back-to-school is back-at-home. It’s not easy.
Thankfully, teachers and parents are doing their best they can using their resources and adapting to the changes. Still, this upcoming school year poses many challenges for families balancing work, school, and life at home. After some thoughtful conversations with friends and some contemplation and research on my part, I’ve learned of a few smart tips to keep the family balanced and thriving while learning at home.
Technology is Your Friend!
2020 has made one thing crystal clear: we thrive on technology. While there have been some downsides to our tech addiction, the opportunities that the online world offers us—and our kids—outweighs many of them.
Along with the online learning tools your child’s teacher is using in the “classroom,” there are even more options to consider to help keep kids engaged with school. Here are a few fun, extracurricular learning tech tools I have found by age group:
Preschool & Kindergarten
- The But Why? Podcast: A podcast that answers those never-ending questions
- Sparkle Stories: Enchanting audio stories for kids
- Cosmic Kids Yoga: Kids can stretch and meditate to some of their favorite stories
Elementary & Middle School
- Duolingo: A game app that makes learning language fun
- Scratch Jr.: An introductory computer programming course
- Outschool: Online courses for kids to spark their interest in new fields
- NoRedInk: Online writing courses to help kids perfect their prose
High School & College
- Coursera: A great tool for older kids and adults alike to take free, college-level courses
- Blue Tent Online: Resources for high schoolers in advanced math and English courses
- Domestika: Virtual art and creativity classes for beginners as well as art prodigies
Prep-Ahead with Healthy Snacks
Living, working, and learning at home can be hard on the whole family. But, stopping and starting your own workflow to help them (and you) find something good to snack on doesn’t have to add stress to the day. The best way to make sure everyone has healthy, happy bellies during the school/workday is by prepping ahead.
Focus on foods that have a healthy balance of carbs, protein, and healthy fats to make sure the brain has plenty of fuel. Swap processed grab-and-go snacks for simple treats that can live in the fridge. Kids can help prepare these, which usually adds to their interest and investment in what they have made. Here are a few snacks that take little time to prep and last well in the fridge.
- Make fruit skewers with melon, strawberries, and grapes.
- Cut up bell peppers, carrots, and celery ahead of time, then dip into hummus or black bean dip.
- Ditch sugary snacks and make a smoothie for the whole family.
- Roast chickpeas in the oven with olive oil, salt, and a sprinkle of paprika for a satisfying chip-swap.
- Make trail mix with nuts, dried cherries, and a few dark chocolate pieces for an after-lunch treat. And try this recipe for “3PM No Bake Energy Bites.” You can make them and keep in the freezer or refrigerator for a couple of weeks.
- Slice chicken and veggie wraps into pinwheels to snack on throughout the day.
- Pack in the protein with a hard-boiled egg
For added stress-relief after hectic homeschool days, get comfortable with the crockpot or Instant Pot. Many meals can be started in the morning with little prep-work. Come dinner time, you’re all set!
Stay Focused, Take Five
Parents and kids both need to take a break during the day. Now that so much of life takes place on screens, we need regular breaks now more than ever! Studies show that our capacity to learn and focus diminishes after two hours. Set an alarm for regular breaks during the day for both you and your child(ren). Use your time to do some stretches, go for a quick walk outside, or listen to a 10-minute guided meditation.
As a parent, you can be a good example for your children by showing them how to take a productive rest from work. While too many hours behind the computer can wreck your focus, so can too many breaks. Some studies suggest that it takes up to 23 minutes for our brains to refocus after stepping away from a task. This is a great teaching moment to show children the beauty of balance and help keep them on track.
Learning As We Go
Today, September 16 is “National Working Parents” Day. Hats off to all of you who are still learning how to steer the horse race of happily learning/working/living from home trifecta. It’s been a challenge for teachers, students, and parents alike.
One thing life has taught us over the years is that we’re resilient and have an amazing ability to adapt to change. Be kind to yourself. Take the time you need to adapt, respond, and troubleshoot—allow the same margins for your children, too.
Hopefully these recommendations are a start to simplifying your life at home this Fall. The rest you can learn as you go!