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March 16, 2020

Working from Home with Kids - A Montessori Schedule

One part of my life that I haven't talked a ton about here on The Kavanaugh Report is how I'm a work-from-home parent. Eight years ago I started to work at home while parenting full time. For the first several years, I worked as a legal writer while maintaining this space on the side. When Gus was born, I moved into working on sharing our Montessori life full time. It has blossomed into a full time career sharing content here, teaching courses, and now the podcast! Through it all, my kids have been home with me. 

This all seems more relevant to so many of us now that Covid-19 has closed schools and forced parents to stay at home and work while caring for children. I'm not going to lie - it's tough. It's hard to balance work and kids, especially when children are used to a completely different routine. But, it's not impossible! And, it can even be enjoyable. 

As I talk about in my podcast Shelf Help, we block our days into 3 hours groups. It helps me remain flexible to my needs, but also the developmental needs of my children. Maria Montessori proposed that 3 hours was actually the perfect amount of time for children to spend in a work cycle. They need long chunks of time to get deeply into work and move through their days. Taking influence from that, I think of my own days in those blocks of time. I thought I would share what we do here to schedule our days and how that looks for my job. 

During these blocks, I'm flexible about what has to happen. I just need to make sure the things I have to get done, get done. You can find some sample activity ideas in the image below. I generally pick a few to get done during those work cycles depending on the day and how my kids are feeling. If I'm super prepared I will have a plan for the week - but that's not often 😅 

Now, I fully understand that this schedule won't work for every work situation. I know that my job is extra flexible, but during these difficult and uncharted times I think having examples of what works can be helpful. Here's a look at what we do. 

Early Morning - Getting Ready (6:00 a - 9:00 a)

Now, I didn't include it here but when I'm busy, I will get up earlier to work (usually between 4 and 5). But I consider 6 to be the time when I absolutely have to start my day. This time of day is for getting myself ready and do some work. I try to make breakfast as independent for the kids as possible - prepping the night before if needed. This gives me time for starting work, checking into what I need to get done and crossing off anything I can accomplish during that time. By 9, I want everyone up, dressed, fed, and clean.

Work Cycle 1 (9:00 a - 12:00 p) 

This time is for connection! This is when I put work aside as much as possible and try to engage with the kids. This is when we will do work together, when I'll pull out new projects, sensory experiences, movement, or practical life work together. This is when we will bake. I still check in with work, but try to focus as much on the kids as possible. When they get engaged in something, I can work too. 

Rest Time (12:00 p - 3:00 p) 

During this time it's time for the kids to rest and for me to focus on work. This isn't a time for housework, or entertainment. This is when I set up audiobooks, or put kids down to nap or enforce quiet time. We don't do screens, but this would be when I would most likely use them. Once the kids are settled, I get to work. I don't feel guilty about anything else happening, just try to zone in and get stuff done. This is when I schedule any important phone calls, emails or work I need to get done while others are awake. 

Work Cycle 2 (3:00 p - 6:00 p) 

This work cycle is when the kids are up and around and I'm with them but not focused on entertaining or presenting something new. This is when I'm most likely to take work outside while the kids run around, or play with open ended toys. I still work during this time as much as possible and don't feel guilty if I can't immediately engage with everything the kids are doing. This is not a time for me to get out messy sensory play, try to introduce something new, or work with the kids in the kitchen (outside dinner prep.) I work as late as I can before starting dinner and encourage the kids to be as independent as possible. 

Evening Time Together (6:00 p - 9:00 p) 

This is another time for me to be as connected to the kids as possible. We eat dinner together, read books, play games, and wind down from the day. We stick to a similar night time routine most days. Once the kids are in bed, I will sometimes work if there are still things I need to get done. Otherwise, I try to use this time for some self-care, and to rest for the next day. This includes doing a quick pick up of toys/materials, and setting up anything that I want to accomplish tomorrow. 

Now, it's not always looking this perfect. Baby naps mess things up. Cranky toddlers mess things up. Big kids coming running through the house in muddy boots. Life happens. I just try to give as much grace as I can to myself and to my kids to make it work. Each day is a new day. Flexibility is our friend.

Working at home with kids can be difficult when it's a sudden adjustment. Here is a free Montessori guide for parents working at home with kids.

If you are looking to schedule your days into 3 hour blocks, I have created a little downloadable PDF with this guidance, the same activities and a blank sheet for you to create yourself! You can use this daily or weekly. List the things you want to try to do, and check them off as you get them done. I hope it helps get through this uncertain time. 

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Ali said…
This is great! Thanks so much for sharing. I am already using it today and everyone seems really happy to have this structure to help organize our day.
Unknown said…
Thank you!! I gave up social media for lent and I have to say, I miss seeing your Instagram posts! So, I look forward to your reports and podcast!!