Home office meets home school

It’s one thing to work from home.  When you add in the need to homeschool children, however, a workday can feel like the stop and go of 5 o’clock rush-hour traffic.

Whereas some people have been intentionally working from home as entrepreneurs or employees prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, few have been homeschooling children at the same time.

Whitney Hutten, a home-office entrepreneur, has been running her real estate investment business, Ash Wealth, in Boulder for about a year.  “It used to be just me and a 12-year-old dog,” she said, describing her work day before sheltering-in-place became the way of life.

Her husband, Colin Hutten, a full-time forester, has now set up his office in the living room, and her 7-year-old daughter, Avery Hutten, is in second grade at home.

Avery went from nine hours a day of school and after-school activities to one hour a day of direct contact with her teacher.  “She’s never been in a position where she’s had to manage checklists because in the classroom the teacher is always saying ‘ok, we’re working on this now,’” Whitney said.  To keep her daughter on task now, she and her husband are having to take over the teacher role.

That means rescheduling their meetings and reducing their workload expectations.

“I got her on Facebook Messenger for kids yesterday, and it’s been entertaining but I can see already that we’re going to have to put some bumpers on it.  I’m not sold on it yet but it did give her a level of autonomy because she can’t just pick up a cell phone and call her friends.”

Christina Kiffney has run Christina Kiffney Photography from her Boulder home for 18 years.  Her husband Andres Bajadali also works from home for his work with a professional cycling team but he used to travel more for business.

When BVSD schools closed in March, their 6-year-old daughter, Camille Bajadali, became a stay-at-home student.

“The first week or two didn’t go so well,” Kiffney said.  “My husband and I are used to negotiating since we both work from home but it was turning into every 20 minutes checking in to see who could stop what they were doing.”

Their solution was to trade off half days with each other to work with Camille.  One day Christina focuses on parent/teacher duties in the morning, and the next day it’s the afternoon.

“I also got her a desk this week, which makes her more interested in doing schoolwork now that she has an official place to do it.”

On nice days, the parent-in-charge takes Camille’s classes out to a blanket in the front yard.  “It makes things more interesting, and we see people in the neighborhood.  It’s hard for her to not see other kids.  At least this way she can see them even though she can’t play with them.”

Nancy Holder has been running Smart Mark Branding from her Boulder home office since 2009.  She swears by checklists as the way to make sheltering-in-place work for her and her daughters, Claudia Holder, 15, and Sloane Holder, 12.

She starts the day with clarifying everyone’s priorities — who needs and wants what and what needs to get done.  “I think the most important thing is foreseeing what’s going to happen next so I can have it scheduled.  If I have an important call coming up, I make sure they have what they need beforehand.”

Her daughters are responsible and want to get good grades, she added, and that helps.

Social interaction is more of the challenge for the Holder’s.  Group school projects that require peer-to-peer conversations and Zoom meetings help meet the need as well as FaceTime.

Outside of that, Nancy manages her daughters’ non-academic screen time to make sure it doesn’t swallow the day.  “I set it up that they have to take breaks from their phones.”

To keep her own work on track, she’s shifted when she works to allow for time with her family.  “When I get overwhelmed, I just remind myself to do something on the list because if you keep moving forward, you’re not going to stay behind.”