Suddenly homeschooling? How to balance running your business from home while educating your child in the time of COVID-19.
Dr. Vicki Nienaber-Meadows launched her new company focused on homeschool science education the day the COVID-19 pandemic was declared. Here are some tips she is using to balance business challenges with “suddenly homeschooling” her own child.
On Friday March 13th, the world changed overnight! We were launching our new science education company, XplorStem at the first homeschool conference of the season. By the end of the first day, that conference, and all seven subsequent conferences, were cancelled along with the revenue we were banking on! Like many small business owners across the country, we had to pivot to digital marketing and take our business virtual with a new path to revenue. And, unexpectedly, I became the very first client for the business. As I was learning how to remarket our homeschool education product, I became, along with millions of others, a “sudden homeschooler.”
It is generally accepted that entrepreneurs are not rule followers. If this is true, my ten-year-old daughter, Aby, will be an amazing entrepreneur. My husband and I got a glimpse of this during back-to-back parent-teacher conferences highlighted by Aby’s 12-point presentation defending her use of long division versus the teacher’s recommended approach. Suddenly, her quick mind and thirst for knowledge at the expense of scheduled, organized daily educational activities was MINE to address!
Instead of trying to impose a rigid schedule on Aby and ourselves, we landed on an approach that is well-suited to the situation, our schedule and Aby’s personality. Here are three ways we are balancing running our business with teaching Aby in this unprecedented time.
- We encourage her to explore her own interests: What do Abraham Lincoln, Thomas Edison, George Gershwin and Benjamin Franklin have in common? They were “unschooled,” but had a life-long love of learning that was self-nurtured. Aby loves computer programming and had taught herself several languages over the summer using Kahn Academy. The first day of homeschool she announced she was going to learn HTML and CSS and ultimately delivered her California mission report as a webpage. Now she’s learning digital lighting for computer animation. We enjoy watching Pixar movies together as she describes landmark technical achievements of select scenes. Yes, she still completes her public-school assignments, but we conserve her energy and ours by not obsessing about it being perfect. Instead, we are nurturing something that is not taught in school: self-learning skills that will serve her for the rest of her life.
- We engage her in the business: The modern world views education as a rite of passage required for achievement. But as business owners, we know that the talent to succeed in life is not always taught in school. Why not turn your new business challenges into a family problem-solving activity? Explain the challenge in terms your kids understand. Have them do research, write a paper, or make a presentation to you after dinner. Who knows, they may spark your next great idea! As business owners, we know that real-world problem solving is an invaluable and hard to find skill. And face it, kids, like Aby, know digital marketing better than many of us because they consume it on a regular basis!
- We embrace the opportunity and give ourselves and her a break! I’ve accepted that neither Martha Stewart nor Bobby Berk are coming to my house. In fact, right now, no one is coming to my house! The social norms imposed by society have changed. Kids are appearing on zoom calls and stars like Willy Nelson are doing concerts from home with their children playing back-up in place of professional musicians. What an amazing time to be a parent and an entrepreneur! Make that home-grown marketing video rather than hiring an expensive firm. They are closed anyway! You and your child can take center stage, and everyone will understand! This is the perfect time to try new things, make a mess, experiment, be brave! Everyone is doing it, so everyone understands. Embrace the opportunity with your children and we will all come out of this just fine!
Since the pandemic was declared, with our manufacturers closed, we refocused XplorStem on education packages to help kids and their parents navigate the science of preventing and understanding viral infections, like COVID-19. There is a green screen in our living room and a homemade lightbox on our dining room table. Not only is Aby helping us with that digital marketing, but she’s also starring in home-based videos with me on XplorStem’s new landing page, www.xplorstem.com. We hope you’re inspired to take advantage of your kids’ wisdom as well and good luck homeschooling!
Vicki Nienaber-Meadows, Ph.D. is a career scientist, executive and entrepreneur beginning her career with Dupont-Merck and Abbott laboratories then transitioning into biotech and eventually her own drug discovery company, Zenobia Therapeutics, focused on Parkinson’s disease research. Known for technical innovation in robotics and drug discovery methods, she has received grants from the National Institutes of Health, National Science Foundation, Michael J Fox Foundation and California Institute for Regenerative Medicine. A year ago, after receiving funding from the NSF, she launched XplorStem, with the goal of providing a quality science education to the homeschool community. Connect with Vicki on Linked-in/ in/vicki-nienaber or firstname.lastname@example.org. Learn more about XplorStem’s homeschool science programs including the science of staying safe during the COVID-19 pandemic through hand-washing and social distancing at www.xplorstem.com.