Homeschooling as a Work-From-Home Mom with Courtney Opalko

Working from home can already be challenging at times, and working from home while homeschooling your child? I have so much admiration for you. 

I chatted with my friend Courtney Opalko, Owner of Courtney Opalko Etiquette and Certified Etiquette Coach, about the challenges of homeschooling and some effective ways to find the balance between homeschooling and working from home.

Xi: Hi Courtney, tell us why do you do what you do, and how did you get started? 

Courtney: I am a certified etiquette coach and I teach etiquette and communication skills to children, teens and adults! I combine the best of modern etiquette with positive psychology and communication skills to help instill confidence in my clients at any age.

Xi: Such an interesting field! I know building a business is full of challenges, and I'm curious what the most difficult thing you did in your business was? And what did you learn from it? 

Courtney: The most difficult thing I've done so far is just get started! I put my dream of becoming an etiquette coach off for a long time out of fear and listening to others. Once I finally decided to go for it, I've been amazed by the response and only wish I had started sooner! I've learned to trust my inner voice and to keep taking steps forward no matter how small.

Xi: I totally feel you, trusting our own inner voice is so important. So, I know you also work from home. What are three things you must have when you do? 

Courtney: Good Coffee, Airpods playing Pandora 'The Killers' radio and functioning internet!


Courtney working from home
Courtney working from home // Photo:  @livinthemomentphoto 

Xi: A big part of designing our clothing is to allow women to be comfortable and confident in their everyday, so they can more easily navigate between the many aspects of work and life. Tell us a bit about what a typical day looks like for you and how you find balance between work and life. 

Courtney: As a mom to two young children, I am constantly balancing work and life. Comfort is key, because I'm often chasing after the kids in between emails and meetings. I rely on the rhythms of our day and set aside time to work when I know the kids will be napping, playing with their dad or otherwise occupied. Most days I am up early to enjoy quiet time for myself and work on social media before the kids are up. Once the kids are fed and dressed, I'm usually able to work until lunch and then we do homeschool in the afternoon until dinner. After the kids are in bed, I'm back on the computer to work!

Xi: That's a lot of things to manage in a day! So let's talk about homeschooling. What struggles or mistakes have you seen with homeschooling, especially when the mom works from home herself?

Courtney: One mistake I made in the beginning, and often see others struggle with, is creating restrictive routines and schedules for the days. What I've learned from my own experience and the advice of longtime homeschoolers, is to embrace rhythms over routines. I no longer worry about what we're doing from 8:15-8:29 am and so on. Instead, we have a general rhythm of the day that allows us the flexibility to navigate changes and embrace what the kids are interested in that day. Rhythms and themes keep us on track without the stress! Since my children are young (2 and 4.5) we spend more time on life skills like manners, hygiene and responsibilities like feeding the family pet and cleaning up our belongings than we do on strict school subjects. These cornerstones, along with reading, playing outside and sharing meals together, are built into the rhythm of the day. Children are constantly learning!  It's important to remember that children don't need to constantly be in front of a screen or worksheet to be learning. Every activity, every moment, every task, can be a learning opportunity with a little creativity and a dash of patience.

Another common struggle I see is the decision exhaustion we all face. When we are constantly making a million micro-decisions throughout the day, we become fatigued. One way I work with my clients is to help them organize their time so there is less decision making! Whether that's through weekly meal planning, a capsule wardrobe, or simply working through their day to find more time for joy, a mindful approach helps to elevate the everyday and creates more time to savor the details of life.

Xi: That's so so insightful. These principles work not just for homeschooling, but pretty much everything else. Do you have any other advice to share?

Courtney: Here are my top tips for balancing homeschooling and working from home:
1. Embrace rhythm over routine; What makes the good days good? What can you remove or let go of to make space?
2. Focus on life skills; children will model your behavior (eventually!) and life skills like manners, communication, and mindset will set them up for future academic and personal achievement.
3. Carve out cornerstones in the day for connection: for us, that's 2-3 meals together at the table each day and reading books before bedtime.
4. Schedule "Me" time: set aside at least 15 minutes for a walk around the block or a cup of tea to recharge and reconnect.
5. Plan ahead: weekly meal plans save time (& money) and themes for school will keep your mind on-track when it comes to thinking up activities and lessons. A capsule wardrobe and efficient beauty routine will help you feel polished and confident!


Xi: I love that so much. And I totally agree that c
lothing decisions are part of the stress, so building a wardrobe that minimizes decision making but still make you look and feel good is so key. Is there anything else you would like to share with us?

Courtney: Many people associate etiquette with a narrow definition. Etiquette is actually a broad term for the life skills that help us to connect and create long-lasting relationships. As an etiquette coach, I help my clients find ways to increase their confidence and elevate their every day with a positive, mindful approach.

I offer virtual etiquette courses for children and adults. Registration is now open for the Winter 2021 Virtual Children's Etiquette Academy, which is a 5 week program designed for children ages 5-11 starting again in January! I also offer virtual etiquette courses for adults in business and social etiquette as well as private coaching. Check out my website for upcoming courses or to email hello@courtneyopalkoetiquette.com to inquire about personal coaching or corporate training.

You can follow Courtney on Instagram @courtneyopalkoetiquette.

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