IB Educator Alethea Bleyberg shares tips on how to manage home learning while kids (and possibly you) are housebound
With the EDB’s closure of schools until 3 March, and possibly beyond, Hong Kong’s schools, teachers and parents have been handed the challenge of managing students’ education through distance and online learning for an extended period of time. While this presents some significant upheavals to daily routines, especially when parents are also working from home, there are ways to manage home learning for your kids so that students can still continue with their studies and get the most out of the current situation. Here are my tips for managing schooling in a home environment.
1. Set up a supervised work space
For students of all ages it is essential that they are held accountable for doing the work that they been assigned by their teachers during the school day. The best way to do this is by providing a work environment that is similar to the school setting. Your child might even enjoy wearing their school uniform at home.
Set up a work station at the dining table, and if working from home yourself, consider working alongside your child. This will help to keep them focused, and model good working habits. For older students, working in a public area of the home might not be practical, but check in on your child regularly and ask them what they have accomplished. Ask to see their work and their communications with their teachers so that they know they are answerable for their daily progress. Restrict phone and social media usage until after the work has been completed.
2. Have supplies on hand
Make sure your home work station has the supplies your child will need to complete the work set by teachers. For younger students this might mean having an array of crayons, pencils and crafts materials on hand; for older students this could be a graphic calculator, an upgraded laptop or iPad, textbooks, and a printer for printing worksheets.
Ask your child if they have everything they need, as some of their usual resources may have been provided by the school. If they need something they don’t have, try to find a solution or contact the class teacher to ask for alternative ways to complete the set work.
3. Stick to a schedule
Kids do better with a routine and there is no reason why they can’t follow their regular school time table at home. This might, in fact, be necessary if teachers are teaching synchronously online (i.e. teaching a live lesson for which students are expected to be present in a forum or on an app to follow the lesson). Even when this isn’t the case, splitting students’ time up into the lesson lengths they are already familiar with will help maintain a sense of normalcy, and provide structure to students’ learning. Be sure to also schedule regular break times for playing, eating and relaxing.
4. Be aware of important deadlines
For students facing externals exams this year, school closure does not mean that deadlines set by exam boards such as the IB, CIE or Edexcel do not need to need to be met. If important deadlines for coursework, mock exams or orals, were scheduled for February, make sure that your child knows what the updated arrangements are.
For most, schools students will need to submit assignments online, but they may also need to provide additional documentation to authenticate their work and allow the school to upload it to examining boards. Please follow the guidance given from school very closely and adhere to all submission dates as these are not flexible. Orals that are rescheduled may well need to be done in the first days that schools are back in session; make sure that your child is prepared.
5. Use this time to find out how your child learns
Take this opportunity to be present in your child’s education by finding out exactly what your child is learning at school, how well they organise themselves and manage their time, what learning activities they enjoy best, and where any potential gaps in their knowledge or skills might be.
You can then take the opportunity to discuss any issues with them, find them a tutor that offers personalised support, or an extension class to meet their needs. This period can be a useful stocktaking exercise to supercharge your child’s education armory for the rest of the school year and beyond.
6. Focus on well-being
Don’t neglect your child’s needs for fresh air and exercise, down time and social interaction. If your children cannot go outside, try finding a yoga sequence or other exercise class on YouTube to make sure that physical movement is built into the daily routine. You could also try making some healthy recipes with your child to increase their awareness of healthy habits in a fun way. If your child’s regular after-school activities have been cancelled, make sure their needs for social interaction are being met through family activities, play dates or home tutors.
7. Take the chance to extend their learning environment
If your child finishes their set work with time to spare, stave off boredom by using online resources as extension material. You can use this as an opportunity to show your child that learning doesn’t just happen in school but is a lifelong pursuit.
Websites such as Ted-Ed, edX, FutureLearn, Coursera, Khan Academy and MasterClass offer a variety of engaging online courses aimed at students of different ages including adults. You might even consider taking a course of mutual interest with your child to model good learning habits.
8. Address the current situation honestly
Children might be anxious during this period, not only because their daily routine is being disrupted, but also because they are hearing the news and are aware of the health threat the novel coronavirus poses. Students facing external exams this year may also be worried about how the interruptions to learning they have faced this year may impact their exam results and university entrance.
Ask your child if they have any concerns and discuss their worries honestly and openly. Reassure your child that the measures the government has taken are in their own best interest, that they are not at immediate risk, and that things will be back to normal soon.
9. Practice patience and understanding
Having your kids at home all day can be trying to say the least, especially if you are also working from home. At the same time, our kids are also facing a new reality and may be hard to motivate and corral them into action.
Teachers, some also working from home with their own children to manage, are working flat out to transpose their teaching into formats such as videos and online resources while still having the usual duties of marking, reporting and the responsibility of preparing students for external exams. Assume all parties are doing their best in difficult circumstances and breathe through any frustrations.
In short, students’ schooling needn’t suffer during school closures, and they could even benefit from the opportunity for self-directed study. And remember, this too will pass!