“This back to school season is unlike any other,” says “The Upbeat, Organized Home Office” author Darla DeMorrow. “Parents like you and I are trying to make sense of it all and help our kids the best we can. If you haven’t gotten the memo, we are definitely over perfectionism parenting, and survival parenting has gone, um, viral. We are making adjustments, building our flexibility muscles, finding and inventing shortcuts and hacks, and doing our best for today and today only. Tomorrow will have to take care of itself, because today is already booked!”

Even schools that have opened for in-person instruction may need to suspend in-person classes at some point this year. If that happens, parents working from home will be dealing with how to hack their work day with kids in the house. And with many districts and companies eliminating snow days altogether, learning to learn at home is the hot new skill this year.

Here are Darla’s tips:

  1. It’s easier to talk than type. Give your kid (or yourself) a break and introduce them to a dictation app, or the built-in dictation tool in their word-processing program (most have them). This can make in-school writing work or homework flow more smoothly. They’ll still have to edit a bit, but it sure beats staring at a blank screen! And parents, while you may be used to using talk-to-text, did you realize you could use it for work writing, too? Give dictation a try and save yourself some valuable time.
  2. Give yourself work boundaries at home. Like many of you, my work-from-home time and space is constantly being invaded with kid-sized interruptions. Toddlers still need constant supervision, but kids who are in upper elementary school (about 8+ years old) should be able to stay out of your home office for at an hour at a time. I had to literally spell it out for my kids and post a sign at my home office door. If this would help you to get an hour of work done at a time, be my guest and print your customizable Mom’s work-from-home office sign here.
  3. Communication is key, and never more so than this year. We have a whiteboard in the dining room, and during each mealtime we list things we need from each other. (We still have a kitchen wall calendar for appointments, but this is just for the things we need to know right now.) I listed how to plan a meal (leftovers first, then opened packages, then perishables from the fridge, and cans and frozen foods last). We also list which parent is going to be “on duty” during the day. Writing things down makes them real, much more than just saying them.
  4. Headphones are essential. Make sure all family members have headphones that fit comfortably, include a microphone, and are tested with their devices. A $20 version can work great; you don’t need an expensive pair. Headphones keep the overall noise level in the house down and can help kids focus on their classes or enjoy music of their choice for a break. Have a spare set of headphones or earbuds on hand to reduce fatigue, discomfort, and headaches.