Five MORE Top Tips To Creating a Geeky Bunker at Home!
Well that aged well!
I wrote a blog last week, before the lockdown but crucially also before the schools were closed. And all bets are now off!
What are we to do now whilst many of us are trying to balance work whilst also managing childcare duties?
I usually write for Geek in the third person but not today. I want to emphasise to you that these are my thoughts in dealing with my own situation and may not be the views of other geeks or be useful for everyone. My wife is a Teacher, who is classed as front line worker (even though teachers are supporting front line workers). These are strange times indeed – when even our terminology is out of sync and lacks precision. I guess not many others noticed this and even less care – but now you know that Secret Geek is a pedant!
Any way I digress. Because she is still working, it means I am trying to work from home whilst the kids are around and I thought I’d share a few thoughts I have about that experience.
Lower Your Expectations
Well that’s pretty much the polar opposite to every piece of business or sales advice that has ever been given. But these aren’t normal times. If you are looking after the kids at home it is absolutely impossible for you to produce the output you normally would. And when your expectations outstrip what is actually possible, that becomes a dangerous place to be for your mental health!
I’m sure many ‘gurus’ will be advising that we keep our focus and find the extra effort to make sure we squeeze every last drop of what we have from this time on our own. But let’s face it, most of us aren’t trying to be the next Jeff Bezos or make a million in a month. We are trying to navigate uncertainty whilst still providing for our families. So, be kind to yourself, lower your expectations of what you can reasonably achieve in this situation and be comfortable in that. It might take a while, but relax into it, safe in the knowledge that most people understand your situation because they are in a similar one too!
Screw Home Tutoring (for now)
This comes from a former teacher here. There are a number of reasons why my position is this way and why I’m comfortable with it, whilst I perfectly understand that many of you will disagree (I’m an adult, I remember when we all used to disagree with people but still respect them enough not to scream abuse and block them on Twitter.)
- You are not a teacher (unless you are). Teaching is hard, it’s made doubly difficult when you aren’t a professional – and have to tutor your own kids – in their home surroundings – with material you are unfamiliar with – and without the general routine and ebb and flow of a ‘normal’ school day. Phew, it’s exhausting just thinking about it. Don’t do it to yourself – you are setting yourself up for mind-bending frustration and worse, transferring that to your kids, at a time when they need love and support more than anything else.
- Not even teachers are teaching! They aren’t, they are specifically not allowed to. So those kids that are still going to school aren’t all sat at their desks for literacy hour, your kids aren’t ‘falling behind’.
- Your kids are worried, let them chill out. You know when you watch Boris in the evening and you feel the enormity of the situation facing our country? Or when you brave the supermarket and all of a sudden feel scared at how many people are there in a confined space? Times that by ten! That’s how your kids are feeling. They pick everything up, absorb everything. Even if they don’t show it, they are stressed and aren’t yet in the right frame of mind to focus on long division. Cut them some slack, especially in these first couple of weeks. They are kids.
- There are other opportunities for your kids to learn. You don’t need to follow the National Curriculum for your kids to learn and for them to enrich their lives. Let them discover stuff and explore the joy of learning – or in other words, become philosophers. That sounds like a great end product from all this doesn’t it? For the record, my kids love P.E. with Joe Wicks for a work out every morning and as they are competitive sods, they thrive on the online work that has been set by school that pits them against their class-mates and the rest of the school: Spelling Shed and My Maths (my kids are still at primary school). These are things that my kids want to do with just a nudge rather than a nag. Find that trade off with your kids wherever you can.
- Get them to teach you stuff. Back when I did my teaching practise we were introduced to the Learning Pyramid which was a rudimentary insight into retention rates following different types of ‘teaching methods’. There are some flaws in epistemology but the fundamentals are solid – people learn best when teaching others. So sit down and ask your kids about what they have learned, ask them to explain their maths problems to you. Use this as a time to consolidate their learning rather than introduce new stuff – it’s difficult enough for you as it is.
Nice Work For Vampires
Never have I been more grateful that I’m not a morning person! I’ve always taken the stand-point that there are 24 hours in a day and used each and every hour at certain times when deadlines are tight. However, that isn’t sustainable for any length of time. My modus operandi is to push the heavy work (when I need a clear block of time to complete it, like this blog) to the evening. Once the kids are in bed there is a clear 2 hour window that I can be productive in and I just can’t resist it: I love vampire working. When else do you get the chance to have a drink at work (don’t tell the boss)? We are all different, but maybe we can all find two hours in the day where we can work uninterrupted? How easy is that for you?
Embrace Working Like Robert Kelly
Everyone in the world has seen the clip by now. I’ve included it below because it’s just gold dust. But the reality is that this is all of us now! We might as well embrace it. If we are home workers and child carers, then the video conferencing interruptions are inevitable. Embrace it – everyone is in this together. If someone judges you for having your kids around, then do you really want to be working with them? Let’s give ourselves and everyone else a break, these aren’t normal times. And you know what, if it allows us to lighten up at work, just a little bit – that is no bad thing?
I have a feeling that might be naive, but I really think that as individuals and as a country we are going to emerge out the other end of this, stronger and just a little bit kinder to each other and to ourselves.
Doesn’t it feel like society has become too self-absorbed? That we’ve all become too quick to share our opinions, especially unkind and hurtful ones? Doesn’t it feel like we’ve forgotten our sense of community as we’ve drawn lines in the sand and ostracised people who don’t believe in our very individual world view? The irony of our enforced isolation in combating Covid-19 is that it will, in the end, bring us just a little closer together.
We’ve already seen a wartime spirit come to the fore. HALF A MILLION people have volunteered to help the NHS!!! Where was that when the NHS was buckling under austerity? The truth is we come together in crisis. The deeper truth is that, the British thrive in a crisis. It almost defines our collective national identity. Isn’t that uplifting? We are going to face increasingly challenging and desperately sad situations but COLLECTIVELY we are going to make it through and come out the other side just a tiny bit kinder, a tiny bit more tolerant.
So I say, embrace that spirit now. In the midst of the chaos of trying to balance work with childcare, take on even more. Volunteer to help the NHS, put a note through a neighbours door, paint a rainbow for your window. Let’s open our hearts when we can’t open our door.
Above everything else, whether you are working from home, on the front line, or in complete isolation, please acknowledge that things are different. That might seem obvious, but I worry that the biggest killer in all of this won’t be Covid-19 it will be the pressure we put on ourselves, the stress and the strain it places on our mental health. This is a massive challenge for us all; whether we have previously suffered mental health issues or not.
So my one take away from all of this; whether you have managed to wade through all the crap that has gone before or just skimmed to the end: