So many people have turned to me over the past year and suggested that it is not possible to home school and work from home. Those nay-sayers have had me question every systems engineering and business analysis skill that I had developed in the past decade as I looked to make the best of both being a home educator for my children as well as remain the leader of my business interests.
Taking a systematic approach to managing a home education career and working at home is key to being able to successfully provide education for your children and manage your business successfully. When implementing systems to manage your chosen lifestyle there are several factors you need to consider. This includes:
- multi-tasking madness,
- love-centred learning,
- step-by-step solution implementation,
- expecting the unexpected.
It can be very easy to think that multi-tasking might be a skill that will come in handy, it is a skill stay at home Mums use all the time. However, please heed my advice against any attempt to juggle business tasks with the learning tasks of your children. Emails do take longer to respond to than you anticipate, children do get restless when left without supervision, support or direction for any extended period of time and phone calls do come across as unprofessional when you have the noise of restless children in the background.
Determine for yourself the times of the week where you will be focussed on business activities and those times that you will focussed on home schooling your children and give each one hundred per cent focus during those times. Your business and your children will thank you for not giving them only divided attention.
Home education pioneer, Beverley Paine, wrote a short piece on her web site that boldly declares that, to be able to effectively home school, the only thing you need is love. What she means by this is that love will naturally drive you to seek out the best for your children in all things. This includes giving them undivided attention during times of direct involvement in their learning. This actively shows that you are interested in their learning and their growth as individuals. This is the time to turn on the answering machine, turn off your laptop or maybe even hire a virtual assistant to take messages for you for a few fixed hours a week.
Of course, when you are working on your business tasks it is important that you time it around those times when your children will need your love and attention – including meal times and during bed times routines. However, giving your children a time for indirect independent learning activities as well as planned social or play time is a great way to make time for your business without guilt because you have completed the focussed tasks already.
Teaching your children how to undertake tasks independently can start from a very young age. When you have a newborn baby to feed or change, even a child from two years age can learn that at times during the day you are not available for direct response to their desires. In the same way, a child can learn that business time is the same. (If only we pressed this issue when going to the toilet too. Imagine the privacy!) It is important to provide your children with the gift of having independent time, not only for those extended phone calls but also in preparation for adulthood where not everything is always responded to immediately upon request. Even young children can work independently for a short time and they can extend this ability over time.
Step-by-step Solution Implementation
When it comes to managing business tasks set aside time for each business function you need to complete. Set time to responded to communications, time to actively develop your business and time to do support tasks such as book keeping. As new tasks pop up, build step-by-step solutions. For example, if you get a trend of inquiries then be sure to set up a frequently asked questions section on your web site or answer questions through an informational leaflet for clients. Build and implement solutions that will lower your work-load in the longer term.
By implementing step-by-step solutions you will continue to both optimise the time that you have available for developing your business as well as preserving the time that you have with your children so that business will not encroach on the special role of educators that you have taken up. Isn’t that making the best of both worlds?
Expecting the Unexpected
Even the best laid plans do not always work out as hoped or anticipated. Sometimes life throws obstacles, clients insist they can only meet during scheduled home schooling times, children become unwell or tragedy hits a family pet. Think about setting up a list of back-up strategies such as a list of people who can be called to assist in supervising learning time or taking your children on a different learning adventure for a period of time for you. Other learning activities that can be exchanged in the time table can be used to free you up for unscheduled business needs, as can using a friend, relative or paid assistant to help out by taking phone calls or serving clients during times when family need you most or having your partner utilise leave for when you really need that extra support. Having back-up tasks for your children to work on as fun challenges such as puzzle books or board games can also make a world of difference for when smaller challenges get thrown in your path.
Successfully providing education for your children as well as working from home is possible for those who actively choose to take a systematic approach to managing both. Considering the needs of your children and your business for times of undivided attention and then providing alternative solutions for your business when you are not working on it and activities for your children when business is in focus will enable you to be effective at both. My experience of this over the past year has only re-enforced the good decade of skills in systems engineering and business analysis that I developed and proved that developing these important business and life skills only serves to assist you to achieve more in each and every day.