Do what you can, accept what you can't: Homeschooling in a pandemic


  • TECH
  • Sunday, 03 May 2020

A boy learns at home on a laptop. — Ulrich Perrey/dpa

Parents are in an especially tough situation as schools stay closed due to the coronavirus. One expert suggests that parents implement a daily schedule – as well as considerably lower their expectations.

Your eldest child needs help in physics, his little sister doesn't understand her English grammar exercise, and neither is the least bit interested in studying. Meanwhile, you may have a preschooler raising a ruckus because the nearby playground is cordoned off.

In the wake of coronavirus-related school closings and instructions that employees work from home, parents of young children face particular challenges, notes educational therapist Stephanie Kaye.

She says these children should be made to clearly understand the rationale behind the extraordinary measures being taken to brake the pandemic.

"Using simple language, you can explain even to young children why they have to stay at home," she remarks, adding that the flurry of recent events has made many children anxious. "For this reason you should take things easy at home and establish a daily schedule for the time of self-isolation."

This means setting wake-up and learning times, for example.

"You can explain that the stay-at-home isolation period can only function well if everyone follows certain rules and agreements," Kaye says.

In households with multiple schoolchildren, the kids can do their schoolwork in different rooms, if possible.

"The older ones who've gone through primary school are perfectly capable of studying on their own," Kaye says. They may also be able to explain some subject matter to their younger siblings.

Children with learning difficulties or disabilities, on the other hand, are often unable to focus on their work and study effectively alone. They require support and motivation from their parents, who can quickly feel overwhelmed by the task. Kaye's advice to them is to stay calm and composed. The greatest help, she says, is to "provide emotional support, love and security, and to display confidence."

Young children can't study without parental assistance. "Even though you may be working from home, you should take time out and devote perhaps a half-hour to the first child, then a half-hour to the second," Kaye suggests. "But you should also accept the result – not having accomplished everything you wanted to, for example, or frustration over things that weren't understood."

In other words, you've got to lower your expectations considerably.

Parents can't be substitute teachers, in the view of Kaye, who says she sees many schools assigning large amounts of homework that not every schoolchild can digest. "Parents and children have to cut corners and decide what to do and what to leave out."

Besides, she adds, the primary concern of many parents at the moment isn't how well their young schoolchildren do their homework.

Educational programmes on television and educational games online can make learning at home more enjoyable. And breaks are necessary – just like in school.

"Activities such as taking walks outdoors, if possible, should be integrated into the day," says Kaye, who also recommends cooking together. "This puts the little things in life in the foreground again."

And playing quiz games together, for instance, can get everyone to exercise their noggin and have fun at the same time.

"When all's said and done, it's 'only' schoolwork," Kaye says. "The main thing is staying healthy and getting through the day smoothly. Having to jointly use a confined living area for an extended period of time pushes many families to their emotional limits."

So do what you can and accept what you can't – this, in a nutshell, is Kaye's advice. And make it clear to the kids that what they're going through "isn't early school holidays, but an exceptional situation that the family is doing its best to cope with together – considerately and calmly." – dpa

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