The COVID pandemic was gathering steam just as the little ones finished off the school year. The first casualty of the lockdown was our annual shopping expedition to buy a new school bag, uniform and lunch box, which on first thought was postponed only for a few weeks. But well, our little ones have not needed the new bags since, as they navigate through the school year with online classes.
Setting Up The Learning Space
Much like our home offices, your child’s study area needs to be chosen with a lot of care and consideration. A designated area that is well-lit, clutter-free, and devoid of too many distractions with a work desk is an ideal home-classroom. Wherever possible, a bedroom that is associated with naptime or a play area with favourite toys strewn around should be avoided. Provided with the right environment, kids will soon begin to associate the space as an extension of the classroom and behave accordingly.
For seamless and glitch-free online learning, a dependable wireless connection is essential. A continuous session helps a child to follow the class better than one where they keep getting disconnected midway. While selecting a screen, choose one that is large enough for the text to be viewed from a comfortable distance from the eyes without having to strain. So while a laptop or a tablet may work, a mobile phone screen is a no-no. Make sure you check your camera and sound settings and sign in at least five minutes before the class begins.
Routine And Discipline
Probably the most important, this takes both time and effort from everyone. Since the lockdown began, regular family routines have changed significantly, and things have slowed down. Unlike its brick-and-mortar counterpart, the online school doesn’t have a school bell signalling the beginning of work or recess. So taking it easy is tempting! Set a routine to get children awake and ready on time, with breakfast or a quick snack before class begins. Display the timetable prominently (creating a colour-coded one with younger children is a ready-for-school activity they love) and ensure they are ready with their books as per the day’s schedule. Discourage bathroom breaks and stepping out while the class is on. Once done, set aside some time for homework or clearing doubts later in the day. Yes, this discipline isn’t easy, but it makes life easy once it becomes a habit.
Most schools have designed classes of a manageable duration so that children can concentrate without having their attention waver. For younger children, the average attention span isn’t more than 25 minutes. During breaks between sessions, encourage students, irrespective of their age, to get up and take a short walk or play with the family pet if you have one. This much-needed exercise breaks the monotony and refreshes the mind for the next class.
Adjusting The Pace
Every child has a different learning curve, and while some may take to the online form of education like a fish to water, others need more time and guidance. Many schools get kindergarten students to check in once in the morning and begin the day together with a group activity or song, share and introduce the topics to be covered during the day, and have another live session in a few hours to mark the end of the school day. In the interim, children attempt the day’s activities at their own pace and share their experience with the class when done. As a parent who knows your child’s learning style best, you can opt to break down a lesson into shorter segments or choose to shift study time to the time of day when their mind is most alert and focused.
Reduce Strain On The Eyes
One of the biggest concerns parents have with digital learning is the amount of time children have to spend staring at the screen, which can be the cause of complaints of headaches, eye strain and stress. 20:20:20 is an easy rule to follow for this. Every 20 minutes, stare at an object 20 feet away for 20 seconds. With outdoor play options out of the question, children are turning to screen-based forms of entertainment. Instead, alternatives like board games, art and craft or a short walk are easy on the eyes, relaxing and fun for everyone.
Work Out Your Level Of Involvement
As parents, we are naturally curious to know what happens in our child’s class, and the current online-class option gives us a way to do just that. However, figuring out where to draw the line is almost as tricky as walking a tightrope! Ideally, help your child log in to the day’s class and let them manage once you are sure the logistics are functioning properly—Check-in during breaks or when something needs fixing. For younger children, parents often need to be the bridge between the teacher and the student. In these cases, it’s best to let the teacher guide your level of involvement; they will communicate whether they need the parent’s help to make sure the child is following a particular activity, or let them be.
These are unprecedented times, where everyone is learning to do things differently. Teachers, parents, and children have made homeschooling and online education a new way of learning. Change can be confusing, so be positive and patient. Talking to them about their learning experience allows children to share their thoughts and ask questions. Together, families can make the most out of the online learning module using it as an opportunity to bond and grow together.