Being in the tech industry, which is currently changing with thousands of companies digitizing, Yashmita Bhana (49) says she is in survival mode as she tackles staff, clients while homeschooling sons Karan (17), Nihal (13) and special needs daughter, Dhiya (7). But, admits Yashmita, she and husband Vernon (50) is not managing. Balance in the life of an entrepreneur with three kids, is a total myth, she tells GAVIN WILDSCHUTT-PRINS.
You are CEO of Nihka Technology Group managing staff all over the country. How do you juggle managing staff and still together with your husband, do homeschooling?
I have never enjoyed multi-tasking because I feel it does not allow you to focus on a single task and produce quality output. However, during this time I am forced to run online meetings while overseeing online classes and homework. I’ve had to enlist #hothusband who helps considerably in managing the little girl but as he says, “I’d rather eat my arm than do Grade 7 Mathematics”. I tried.
What is your daily family routine like?
As a family, routine never worked for us. It was easy to do routine when there was an actual school to go to and “real” life. It also does not help if you have a 17-year-old that does online gaming till 2am in the morning. We have tried though and since Lockdown Level 4, #hothusband and I have done a daily 4km work from 7am. We then feed two of the three kids (the eldest is still sleeping after gaming) and then we launch straight into work, online meetings, checking Google classroom and the school communicator for new work and supervising homework.
What help do you have to assist you with homeschooling?
Very little. Both my sons are at a public school and they are trying their absolute best to send work over various platforms for the kids like Google classroom. We do however oversee the work. Thankfully both my sons are very independent and self-sufficient. My daughter, however, has Down Syndrome, and her school unfortunately did not respond so we have deregistered her. Teaching a child with special needs requires an understanding of how that child absorbs information. Tactile, auditory, visual, a combination? We have had to adapt very quickly to developing a method that would work for her.
What have you learnt about your kids during the process of homeschooling?
If left alone, the boys will become online gaming professionals! I have however seen a newfound independence in both boys in how they are tackling their work. I’ve also learnt that forcing routine on them will never work in our household. They have their own bio rhythm and they learn in their own unique way. I’ve also learnt that eating is a substitute for geometry. My daughter we’ve learnt absorbs information through play. The minute something gets boring or repetitive, she has zoned out. We have also learnt with her that ice-cream can be used as bribery.
What is the one thing you wish you knew about homeschooling before lockdown?
Who invented this concept anyway? “Home” + “schooling” should not be a single word. I had delusions about neat worksheets, a schedule that looked like a school day, planned outdoor activities, etc. I wish I knew that life (and homeschooling) does not come all neatly wrapped up with a pretty bow.
Children are known to have minds that are wondering off while in class. How do you get your children to focus?
“Nihal put down the cat!” What, oh you asking me about distractions? Bribery works. No, seriously it does. Call me a bad mom. It’s like a barter system, you see. Two hours of concentration on schoolwork buys you two hours of online gaming. Or empty and load the dishwasher for one hour outside. My boys are doing an online coding class and the instructor is as boring as watching paint dry. They constantly put themselves on mute and walk up and down to the kitchen looking for snacks. I believe that it should also be teachers responsibility doing the classes to make it fun and engaging, we are after all still paying school fees.
Would you consider homeschooling after lockdown?
No. Maybe… uhm…. No. Had a slight moment of mommy guilt there but then it disappeared. No!
Which moments about lockdown in your house are you going to remember for the rest of your life?
Dhiya has made a few unplanned (and certainly unwelcomed) appearances on my video conference calls with clients. Fortunately, my clients understood. Once they acknowledge her, she starts telling them about her dinosaur toys (her current obsession. Dhiya is an absolute mad hatter so we must learn with her dinosaur toys and they of course must also know their ABCs while she is dressed in her Wonder Woman outfit because how else would you dress for school. The boys also want to register themselves as “Reconnecting…” on their online profile so the teacher thinks that they are having connection issues. Teenage boys are also not known to adhere to personal hygiene protocols so I’m constantly saying, “Your teacher can smell you through the computer screen”.
But surely, there are some good that comes out of homeschooling?
It’s been an opportunity for #hothusband and I to teach the kids “real” life and business lessons. I launched a new company and my eldest has been listening to online calls of me talking to partners in Eastern Europe. I’ve been explaining partnerships and contracts to them and the real challenges entrepreneurs face. I’ve also forced them to read business books and autobiographies of successful entrepreneurs because I want them to learn stuff they would not ordinarily learn in school. With Dhiya, it has sometimes been stressful. Deregistering her from school has been a major decision because she loves socializing and her friends, and she sometimes feels claustrophobic at home. However, through all this the one thing that sees us through is an overwhelming sense of gratitude that we can homeschool, able to spend time with the kids and are safe and warm and well-fed.