As of this morning we’ve got six people working from home in our 2.5 bedroom house — and one them is a child with a cough who’s taken over the master bedroom because she’s in quarantine. Thus, picking back up with our intermittent penance, my office now looks like this:
Photo: Yes, I fled to a corner of our crammed-full “garage”, because it is the one space that no one else wants, and there’s a solid door separating me from the rest of the house. I’m happy about the arrangement:
Photo: Me just finishing up morning prayers in the warm, consoling presence of the water heater, perhaps a little too smug in having stolen the SuperHusband’s folding lawn chair from his exile in the camper (because: we’ve been evicted from our bedroom by the sick child). I need a folding chair, not one of the good lawn chairs from the patio, because I need to be able to clear the emergency exit out the back door of the garage when I’m not using the chair, and we’re not working with the kind of spaciousness that lets you just put the chair somewhere else.
This would be why there’s a construction project in my yard.
At least until everyone starts remembering I can now be found hiding behind crates of books and a table saw in my 16 square feet of personal space, this move is game-changer. I’ve been struggling for the last two years with no office space of my own, and due to construction the SuperHusband has been working from home several days a week all fall, therefore needing during the day the small, cluttered office we previously shared in shifts. Many colleagues can attest that this has not had a winning effect on my productivity.
Hence my one recommendation for those now embarking on the everything-at-home lifestyle: Even if it means setting up your office in a closet or a bathroom or behind stacks of crates in the corner of the garage, get yourself your OWN space.
Think about the work that you do. When SuperHusband works from home, he has two needs. One is the big computer with all the monitors (which I kinda need too, buuuut . . . some office chores are going to have to wait), and the other is the ability to pace around while he conducts phone calls in his booming made-for-the-choir-loft voice. Our shared office is, acoustically, in the same space as our kitchen and living area — in which living area our college student is now going to be doing all his classes online, since the university shut down.
The boy is already a pro at claiming the 11pm-2am shift for getting work done, and since we have all teenagers now, SuperHusband can pace and exclaim on the phone all he wants before noon, the dead aren’t rising unless they absolutely must. Once the kids emerge from their slumber and start needing to do schoolwork, though, we agreed that the Dad is gonna need to go out to the dried-in construction zone and do his phone calls there.
Just as well I cede that space, which I’d been using as a day office when too many people were home and I had a lot of editing to knock out, because it is possible for contractors to keep on keeping on without spreading contagion (not a real touchy-feely profession), so SuperHusband’s planning to take a few vacation days this spring to accelerate construction.
Notes on separating kids during illness: In the past, we didn’t strictly quarantine sick children for cold-type symptoms. We did our best to keep actively ill children out of the kitchen, but beyond that to an extent we accepted the inevitable. With COVID-19, however, the parents decided that if at all possible, we’d like to not have two parents sick at the same time. Yes, our young adults living at home can run things in a pinch — we have two now old enough to wield a power of attorney if it comes to it — but it would be better not to have to lay that much responsibility on them.
For our kids, the decision to make the master bedroom sick-central is victory. Many many years ago we did start strict quarantine for vomiting children. We have the luxury of a second bathroom, and once we began the practice of setting up a camping mattress, portable DVD player, and a collection of easily-bleached toys in the spare bathroom, and insisting ‘lil puker stay put until the coast was clear, we stopped having stomach viruses run through the whole family.
That arrangement is just fine for a clearly-defined illness of short duration; a nasty cough, in contrast, can linger ambiguously for weeks, and COVID-19 is growing notorious for its waxing and waning. So our current exile is thrilled to have her own bedroom for the first time in her life, with private bath, big bed, space for all the Legos on the square of open floor (I insist a path be cleared before delivering room service), and even a sunny window seat on top of a big ol’ storage box.
If our system works, corner of the garage is a small price to pay.
The Darwins are blogging about many aspects of pandemic-living, including some pro-tips on homeschooling. If you aren’t already a regular reader, that’s something you need to change in your life.
Looking through my years of homeschool-blogging, here are a few that may be of help:
- What Can You Learn from a Homeschool Dropout? Some thoughts on the reality of homeschooling and why it is stressful for some parents, so you don’t feel insane if this isn’t easy for you.
- Time Management and the Kinds of Time Reality check.
- Putting Together a Last-Minute Curriculum Exactly what it sounds like.
- Mythical Mom — Slay the Beast! On cultivating realistic expectations.
- Homeschooling While Sick A few things I learned about holding together your child’s education at home when you yourself are not at your best. Since I heard there’s a pandemic and you might catch the thing.
- Homeschooling and the Art of Living Together A little encouragement, and it’s a follow-up on the homeschooling-while-sick theme, but maybe helpful in other stressful situations as well.
- A Homeschooling Tune-Up for the New Year On how to stay sane homeschooling when quitting is not an option.
- Escape the Winter Doldrums with Homeschool Science Some of y’all still have snow.
- Summer Sanity: Give the Kids a Checklist Technique you may find helpful for motivating your kids to become independent learners during your forced staycation.
- Is it the Book or Is it Me? How to know if your school-at-home is crashing and burning because you need a new curriculum or because you’re doing it wrong.
- Four Books for Building Language Arts Skills Personal picks you might find helpful for phonics and spelling. If you’ve got a little one at home (K5-3rd grade), work the reading skills at a developmentally-appropriate level and you’ve done the one thing needed most, academically.
- Help! I’m Homeschooling a Six-Year-Old! First grade is my favorite to homeschool, but . . . there’s something you need to know.
- Homeschool Planning: You Can’t Do Everything In which I talk you off many, many ledges.
- In Defense of Pretty Good Schools You don’t need to be perfect at this.
- On the Forming of Young Christians Some philosophy of education.
And finally, Finding Writing Time, Homeschool Mom Edition. Two things to learn from this older post:
- No, you really cannot work full time from home and homeschool simultaneously;
- Scheduling is everything.
At the time I wrote this one my kids were younger, so the natural flow was kids in the morning, mom-work in the afternoon. With teens, I’d say it’s the other way around. If you’re Simcha Fisher and have it all? The job from home, the morning shift getting littles out the door, the big kids trickling home in the afternoon, the babies hanging around all day, and the dinner on the table? I don’t care if your kids do wear odd mittens and think that’s normal. You’re my hero.
Listen people: You can’t fully-totally-amazingly homeschool and work a full time job from home with no adult help. Childcare is work. Educating people is work. Work is work. There’s no magic. Pandemic season is going to be hard. Drop your expectations. Hold together the absolute minimum and you’ll be ahead of the game.