We did it last year, and now we’re here again. Families at home together trying to work, study, and access schooling – all at the same time. I know many dread this and feel stressed by the need to teach their children. Please don’t stress. You don’t need to be your child’s teacher! Yes, you need to be more hands on and supervise your children while also trying to work, but that is more than enough. In this post we’ll look at how to make online learning during lockdown easier, rather than harder, for families. I have heard many people talk about home-schooling during the lockdown. I want to be clear: what families are doing currently with online learning during lockdown is NOT home-schooling. Home-schooling is a valid schooling option that involves parents choosing and planning to educate their children at home. It includes social activities and sports. It is a far cry from the forced choice, short term situation created by a pandemic that additionally prevents children accessing sports and social activities. This is much harder! Living through a lockdown is tough. So, our kids are engaging in temporary online learning, and most of us (parents and children alike) are unprepared for this situation. What can we do to make the best of it for our kids and ourselves? Two important things: don’t stress about it, and embrace the benefits! A school day is made up of more than desk-bound academics; it also includes social interactions, art, play, sport, investigation, and more play. During this season of temporary online learning, we don’t want our kids doing worksheets and academic tasks from 9am to 3pm. Children are always learning, especially through play, and it’s important that we value this. Relax and trust in the natural processes of children. Embrace what may seem like ‘distractions’ as expression of their curiosity, investigation, and learning. Best of all, these times are usually when children are most self-directed and not in need of our assistance. When it comes to their actual online learning tasks, there are several positives and benefits. The benefits I most appreciate are: Connection Lockdown isolates all of us. Online classes provide much needed connection for our kids, with their teachers and their peers. Most online sessions involve time for the children to talk to each other. Structure Days in lockdown can easily blur together. Scheduled online classes build structure to the day and week, with weekends being different. Having children wear school uniform for online classes can also help with this structure, as it differentiates school time from the rest. Engagement Kids need to learn and have their minds stimulated. Online learning provides opportunities for their teachers to engage them in learning activities and set them up with tasks to extend their learning beyond the scheduled lessons. One benefit from this style of learning compared to the classroom is that children can learn at their own pace, going back and re-reading, skipping, or going into more depth and detail. While there are great benefits to online learning, this style of learning and interaction will suit some children more than others. Kids learn in a variety of ways. If your child has no interest in doing any of the suggested activities or tasks, don’t stress about it. Not engaging in formal schooling for the temporary period of lockdown is not going to have any major negative impacts on their long-term education and development. When school goes back teachers will recap, revise, and ensure all students access needed learning. Outside of online learning, what can we do to keep our children engaged and learning? Use their interests Set kids up for independence by setting them challenges: build something with Lego, create a video, perform a play, learn a new dance, design a vehicle that moves without wheels, make a marble run, or build a boat that floats. The important thing here is to challenge them with something they’re interested in and motivated by, and not doing it for them. If they get side-tracked into something else, fantastic! They’re self-directed and engaged. Involve them in daily jobs Have the kids help you with gardening. It’s almost spring, the perfect time to start a veggie patch! Kids can decide what to plant and prepare a patch. Involve kids in meal preparation: kids can find a recipe, write a list of groceries, do an online order, and help cook it! Don’t try to do it all yourself Embrace technology and the connections it can bring. Set up online dates with family and friends. This might include family reading books online with younger kids, or older kids playing Minecraft together (in safe created spaces – for more info on keeping your kids safe try https://www.esafety.gov.au/parents). This graphic created by Miller Public School also offers ten simple ideas for engaging kids in learning:
So please, don’t put added pressure on yourself to teach your children or keep them occupied. Allow them to follow their interests and even get bored. Embrace the ideas and activities that help your child and family and let everything else slide. This is a pandemic, not a competition. The only way to ‘win’ temporary online schooling is to find what works for your family – what reduces stress, increases connection, and engages your kids in activities they enjoy.