With Arkansas schools closed, many parents are balancing working from home, homeschooling and parenting for the first time. We chatted with JoBeth McElhanon, owner of Lilias & Olive, for a few tips on her work from home life. 

Three Questions with Little Rock Family: Working from Home … WITH KIDS 

LRF: What’s your top tip for balancing work and parenting? 

JM: Give Grace! Give grace to yourself. If there is ever time to forget striving for perfection, it is now. You don’t have to wear all the hats all at once. No one planned to spend spring managing a business and running a small school in their home simultaneously. A pandemic is new for everyone. You can’t do it perfectly. 

Give grace to our spouses who are experiencing their own stress as they process world events. 

Give grace to our kids who may not know why things are so different now. 

LRF: Do you have any tips for adjusting schedules, routines and expectations for parents new to the work from home life? 

JM: Here are a few ideas: 

Number 1: Create a daily schedule that works for you. Some days we follow ours to a “T”, other days are more free flowing about our activities. 

Number 2: Practice meal planning and prepare more meals that will yield leftovers for lunch or dinner the next day to reduce the amount of time you spend in the kitchen. I use an online meal planning service that provides menus and recipes and sends the grocery list to the store for pick up. 

Number 3: Lastly, be sure to schedule time for yourself. Whether it is to get in your exercise, to pray or to journal, we all need a break to breathe — especially in this season of 24/7 togetherness. On nights we have leftovers, I use that extra time to work or catch a solo walk while my husband and son play. 

LRF: How are you now adding homeschool responsibilities to your day? 

JM: I reserve the first two hours of the day for dedicated school time. I do my best not to look at my phone. I answer texts and emails while he colors, has free play or during his nap time 

My son is in preschool. Preschoolers are a unique population for school, because they are not self directed as older children can be. To keep things simple, we are following our son’s preschool schedule by teaching a letter of the week. The key is to make it feel more like play and less like work. For Q week, we had a picnic on a quilt, searched for quartz in our yard and sang duck songs while we waddled down the street. For V week, we made a vegetable pizza, listened to violin music and played vet. 

Each afternoon, we take a walk around the neighborhood and have a scavenger hunt looking for specific things that relate to his suggested lessons. The fresh air does us both good.