During the month of September, we asked three NextGen parents how they were balancing their children being back to school virtually and working full time from home. Mike Cutler, Director of Delivery, Sam Bowden, Client Services Manager, and Crystal Barrios, Payroll Specialist, gave their tips on how they are making things run smoothly around their homes.
Here are a few suggestions, funny stories, and an inside look at how some of NextGen’s parents are balancing life in the current situation.
NextGen: What have been the biggest challenges so far?
Crystal: Coordinating E-learning times with a third grader, kindergartener and my work. I have to be close to them so they can stay focused!
Mike: How loud it is in the house. I am constantly changing rooms to where it is most quiet for my calls. Spent one day working in my creepy unfinished basement where it was quiet; only thing distracting down there are the spiders and Freddy Krueger.
Sam: Figuring out a schedule that works. Both of my kids require a little bit of extra attention so I have to sit with them while they do their homework as well as while they are in Zoom to make sure that they are focused, all awhile I try to focus on work!
NextGen: What type of routine have you found works for you?
Crystal: Food prepping on Sundays and getting up early to get ready and make breakfast before the kids wake up.
Mike: We give the kids breakfast at 7 and then get them organized for the day. We then take a morning walk/bike ride, so they get a little exercise before their virtual learning and I start work. During their lunch hour they eat quick and then go outside and play sports or have Nerf gun fights.
Sam: We are still trying to figure that out, but usually its morning meetings, split up time between each of my girls to help with homework, catch up on work, eat breakfast at 5pm and then go to bed at 7pm (joking but semi-serious).
NextGen: What are your children’s thoughts/feelings about distance learning?
Crystal: They like the material that their teachers are sending, but they are having a hard time not being able to socialize with other kids and being in the same room most of the day.
Mike: They don’t like it; they want to be in school with their friends. But they are managing it well so far.
Sam: My youngest (6 years old) hates it; she misses her friends so much and gets so bored looking at a screen even if it is only 2 hours a day. My oldest gets bored but she would much rather be at home.
NextGen: What do you do to keep your children engaged?
Crystal: I make sure I work in the same room to check up on them constantly, if I walk away, they will lose focus and start playing with whatever they find.
Mike: During their breaks/recess we get them outside moving around as much as possible since they are sitting down a lot of the day. I think getting their “wiggles” out helps them stay engaged when they go back to their devices for class.
Sam: Work with them individually and take lots of breaks so no one gets frustrated.
NextGen: How did you setup your children’s “workspace”?
Crystal: Unfortunately, we don’t have much space so depending on what they are doing the kids have to alternate between working on the dining table or the living rom.
Mike: The older 2 are in the office that is now a classroom and my youngest is in the kitchen. The school provided all their devices and so far, my Wi-Fi has held up! Thank you, Verizon!
Sam: We are in an apartment so unfortunately for the time being we are all piled in the living room side by side. This is to help me personally be able to assist them/ ensure they are concentrating.
NextGen: Do you have any funny stories you would be willing to share?
Crystal: I had to scold my oldest son for making faces in his meeting and being disruptive, I just didn’t realize that the mute button was off! I think I took the prize for being the most disruptive that day.
Mike: Checking in on my Kindergartener’s Teams calls and seeing kids picking their nose in front of the camera without a care in the world ?
NextGen: How are you balancing work and being a “teacher”?
Crystal: I keep alarms on my phone for everything! I have two kids that have meetings at set times as well as my own for work and school in the evenings; the alarms help me remember it all!
Mike: I am lucky that my wife is a stay at home mom at the moment and she is a former teacher, so she manages the older 2. My mother in law is a retired teacher, so she comes over and helps with my youngest who is a Kindergartener. When they need technical support, I am there to help with their devices.
Sam: Extra beer.
NextGen: Do you have any tips for other parents going through the same situation?
Crystal: Hang in there and make sure you leave some quiet time for yourself to reset the button and start fresh each day! Having the kids go to bed early definitely helps!
Mike: For Elementary school kids since they are on devices all day, I would cut out the TV and videogames the rest of the day and get them outside running around after school. If the weather is bad, indoor games like laser tag or Beyblades are fun for the kids and very quiet so you can focus on work.
Sam: Just laugh about it. You’re not a teacher for a reason, and that is okay. We are all doing the best we can.
At NextGen, we understand times are tough right now and there is no better time to come together as a team, appreciate each other’s values, and most importantly lift each other up. We want all our NextGen employees to know that as an organization, we are committed to being flexible with parents as we move through the early stages of this new and unique school year.
Stay tuned for upcoming blogs about our NextGen team and how they are navigating the “new normal” we are all dealing with. If you have any tips or tricks on what is helping you balance life right now, please share them with us on our social media channels!