Oh holy cow. Really? Kids in Singapore are going back to full-time, home-based eLearning? Rah.
I get it. The cases are up. Kids are getting sick this time. Many cases are unlinked. I truly feel blessed to be in a country where the government is trying to keep us safe. I appreciate that. I'm glad people here are watching over us. I really am.
Even so, the stress of it all is a bit much. I want to scream and then maybe drink some wine, climb back into bed and pull the covers back over my head – just for a day. Of course, that doesn't really do any good because, sooner or later, I'll have to get up and face the music. I'm not even sure what I'm whining about. I love spending time with my kids. I think it's juggling every day life, work and home schooling that gets so hard. I just know I'll be on an important work call when one of my kids will come barging in with a life-or-death question about math. It's also really tough managing their boredom. How many hours on an iPad a day are okay? 24? Seems right. (Here are the actual recommendations.)
The real rock stars
No matter the challenge parents have, it can nowhere compare to what the educators must be facing. Imagine being an admin at a school just now. They likely worked all weekend to figure out the no-more-than-two thing and now they have to figure out on-line lessons instead. I suppose the silver lining is that schools and teachers have been through this all before. The teachers know what to do — but it's still hard on them. I really admire how they soldier on and continue to educate our children. They are all rock stars, plain and simple. I'd like to send them each a pint of ice cream — or a virtual one anyway.
Helping our kids
And then there are our kids, those wee little people we love so very much. Remote learning is just plain tough on their mental health. Lots of studies have been done about how eLearning affects children and none of the results are rosy. A few things can help set them on a good path.
Establish a routine as children do better when they know what to expect. The school will provide some structure, but you need to also set a schedule for the in-between times.
Give them a designated space to "attend" class so that they know when they sit down at that table, they are in school. This area should be free of distractions. No toys. No televisions. No electronics except for those needed for class.
Keep them connected to friends via Zoom and phones during these tough times. We are social beings. Children need to be with their friends in whatever form they can connect.
Set aside time for play. Kids need to let loose and have fun. They're still kids after all. Make sure you leave time for your kids to play, have fun, and just enjoy being kids. Truth? Adults need time to play, too, so maybe take a walk or play a game together.
Practice mindfulness by trying to focus on the good things about being home together. It may be tough to find them in the heat of the moment, but they're there if you look hard enough.
Keep up healthy habits such as bedtimes and eating well. Well-rested, well-fed kids do better at school which will take the pressure off you.
Help kids recognize what they achieve. There are a few silver linings to eLearning, too. For example, children learn at an earlier age to take responsibility for their learning, to manage deadlines and self-regulation. It's important to help them recognize these accomplishments.
Reward children when they meet their goals. Somebody once told me rewards are not bribes. Adults get paid for work we do. We just pay our kids for work they do with other forms of rewards such as extra time on their devices or a chance to bake cookies with mommy.
The American Psychological Association also offers a few great tips specific to helping with schoolwork over these next few days.
Ask your children what they are learning online and talk about why the subject is important and interesting.
Guide them through breaking down assignments into smaller tasks so they can feel successful along the way.
Help them organize their time and set short-term, achievable goals for shorter school days or during independent study periods.
Give children choices about how they accomplish the tasks to encourage their sense of autonomy.
Offer personalized, genuine feedback about the work they are doing in online school.
And what about us adults?
We need to be kind to ourselves. It's not only just okay to steal a few minutes to ourselves, but it's a must. It's like the airplane. You need to put your own mask on first and then put on your kid's mask. Take a walk. Watch some bad TV. Soak in the tub. Call a friend. Do whatever you need to do to cope. And realize you are not a superhero which is perfectly okay. You are a parent doing the best you can which makes you pretty heroic in your own way.
10 tips for assessing and monitoring students’ academic progress during COVID-19 (PDF, 344KB)
9 tips for motivating children to learn at home (PDF, 67KB)
8 tips for fostering children’s self-regulation and promoting creativity (PDF, 1.04MB)
Fostering children’s emotional well-being during COVID-19 (PDF, 171KB)