Homeschooling During A Pandemic: I Am Out of My Depth – and I Know that I Am Not Alone!
Thoughts and tips from a full-time-work-from-home-CEO-founder-hands-on-parent-home-schooler.
This pandemic has simultaneously brought out the worst and the best in us. We’re in a constant state of worry and unease. It’s a state of limbo where the monkey wrench thrown into our best-laid plans landed squarely on the pause button.
Given time to introspect, the rush of the months before it seems surreal.
In Q4 2019, we announced our Series C2 funding and celebrated milestones like expanding into Africa and Australia, just as we were about to embark into the Middle East. Just this January, I was in Germany giving a talk at Burda’s DLD on the tech ecosystem in Southeast Asia to a room packed with visionaries.
Today, our new normal is Zoom calls and company-wide guided meditation. And while our biggest concerns involve a full move to telecommuting and making sure all our employees are safe, well, and provided for, what drained my energy reserves was adjusting to the role of a parent whose child is homeschooling during a pandemic – a role I wasn’t trained or prepared for, but one that has immeasurable value.
Despite being very busy parents, we’ve always handled our child’s education with so much thought and care. Recently, I wrote about how we built a system around immersing Shan in three languages. But facilitating all my four-year-old’s lessons and extra-curriculars is something else entirely.
To be honest, we saw lockdown and school-at-home happening inevitably, but were still neither emotionally nor mentally prepared for it. I felt this lump in my throat and massive anxiety when it was announced. I couldn’t imagine how I would hold down a full-time job where I am the boss and can’t afford to be checked out, and at the same time be a full-time parent and educator.
In those first few days of homeschooling, it was clear that I was out of my depth. So I stopped pretending to be a teacher or a parent and donned my CEO hat.
Steps For Homeschooling During A Pandemic
Step 1: Set Things Up for Success
Creating a quiet, comfortable space for work and learning was such a boon to our productivity at home that we offered reimbursements (up to $SGD100) to our mum/dad employees anywhere in the world for printer, ink, and paper for their kids’ worksheets and art projects.
And even though we spend the whole day at home, our family dresses for school or the office. Work/learning mode is just that much harder to achieve in jammies. We also each have our own workstation, and when we are in that space, none of us are allowed to enter without knocking and getting permission to enter.
To give Shan something to look forward to and work towards, we agreed to have a home puppet theatre show of Goldilocks and the Three Bears on the last day of lockdown. This means devoting time to stage design, props, and even memorising lines! We also incentivise her to be on her best behaviour every week, and if she manages not to get three strikes in the week, she gets a present every Sunday.
Step 2: Strive for Efficiency
We put effort into planning our tasks and goals with Shan. Together, we created a regimented schedule and we stick to it. Before she sleeps, we go through the schedule for the next day with her. This allows her to “buy in” to the next day’s activities, and minimises disruptions.
We also use technology to help her learn while having fun through free online content. With the mileage online classes get, we decided to offer Ticklers three free daily 30-minute tutoring sessions for their kids aged 3-10. This helps our parents free up 90-minutes a day and is now the best time for us to hold meetings.
Step 3: Achieve Balance
To ensure that all her learning isn’t done purely online, we borrowed 100 library books and bought over 100 DVDs from Carousell pre-lockdown. This prevents Shan from running out of books and shows, as we don’t let her watch Netflix or YouTube unsupervised.
As a family, we set aside exercise breaks to keep our energy and fitness levels up. We are so grateful to MyGym for their free online kids’ gym classes on YouTube, which we tune in to watch twice a week!
It’s also been wonderful (and only slightly maddening) to have all our meals together. Shan loves it when she’s on dessert duty. Thankfully, we stocked up Betty Crocker mixes, food colouring and kid-friendly recipes from theAsianparent app, so it’s easy and fun for us to bake at home.
Step 4: Delegate
Share the load with your husband and anyone else you’re doing quarantine with. You may be hesitating because you feel like this task falls on your shoulders simply for being the recipient of the lesson plan emails. So I’ll say it again – and this time, hear a clap punctuating every word: Get your partner involved.
I am fortunate that Darius is also a full-time-work-from-home-CEO-founder-hands-on-parent-home-schooler. But for many mums across Asia, it’s a different story.
“Japan’s Working Mothers: Record Responsibilities, Little Help from Dads”, an eye-opening read on The New York Times, details the vastly disproportionate share of housework and childcare in Japanese homes. Women with almost 50-hour workweeks average 25 hours/week fulfilling domestic responsibilities, while their husbands do less than five.
It’s no surprise then, that as Anu Madgavkar, partner at McKinsey Global Institute, shares on “The Future of Women in Asia’s Workforce”: 4% or even less of C-suite positions in Japan (and in India) are occupied by women. The statistic is 25% in Singapore – markedly better but not ideal, given that 40-45% of entry-level employees in Asian companies are female.
Of course a lot of factors go into this drop-off, but one thing that would help close the gap is levelling the playing field at home.
That home may be a strange, wonderful, and chaotic place in this curveball of times, but even with the complications of it being both HQ and place of rest, remember that it is the safest place to be right now, for you and for everyone around you.
None of us are alone in the fight against COVID-19, in the struggles it brings and in our intent to be part of the solution. So let’s work together and lighten each other’s loads, whenever and wherever we can.
Do check those out and if you’re reading this between the hours of 9am and 9pm, change out of your jammies!