It’s been more than two weeks that I am under lockdown with my two daughters, in a town where we have just arrived – a month before. In the last few days I have received more than a dozen calls from parents across India, some of whom are close friends and some not so close, asking for suggestions around home education of their children, as the schools are closed.
When I listened to their stories, it quickly became apparent that children initially welcomed the lockdown as an unexpected but welcome vacation. Parents were anxious how their wards would catch up once schools reopen. I also realised that even before the game had begun, many of them had accepted defeat by subscribing to all the children’s channels across TV and the Internet!
If you are wondering why did they ask me, that’s because my 10 year old and 6 year old have never been to school. The first thing to do in this situation is to accept the situation. That there is a pandemic lockdown. That it can go on for quite a while. Accept that for some time, children will treat it as vacation. Accept that children are as worried as their parents.
Every time, the parent goes out for panic buying, the child picks up a cue. Every time, a Coronavirus news item gets played, the child also hears it. Every time, the parents talk over phone about the impending doomsday, the child gets a hint. It’s really upto the parent to maintain calm, because only then will the child feel comforted.
‘School from home’ is a bigger and relatively a much newer transition than ‘work from home’. Neither the parents nor the children were ready for this. Copy the school routine and you have asked for disaster. Accept that children would need time to ease into the home environment.
Unless your child is a super self-directed learner, don’t even fall for the online pro- grammes being recommended all over social media. If any education expert or homes- chooling parent is sharing with you his daily schedule, don’t get trapped – just take inspiration and design your own rhythm.
The rhythm must be flexible. A schedule with every minute planned out just sets you up for failure. What may take place from 9am to 9:30am today, could just as well happen from 10am to 10:15am tomorrow.
Don't get too hung up on a routine either. One day, your kids may want to spend all day exploring the cobweb in the balcony (life sciences), or spend the next week trying to make a brand new dish at kitchen (that's STEM - science, technology, engineering and mathe- matics). Let them discover and love learning.
Doing schoolwork at home does not take as long as a full school day. Classrooms have many kids and transition times, lunches, recess, etc. that takes up so much of the day. My elder daughter spends less than an hour a day on what we call academics, yet she is at par with most children of her age.
Seasoned and experienced homeschool par- ents know that a child needs about 100 hours to gain all the basics they would normally get in elementary school and seldom do more than one hour of "schooling" a day. Know your child. This is a great opportuni- ty to know more about your child; what do they like doing, what are their fears, how do they learn and so on.
Many of the parents assumed that as unschooled children, my daughters spend long hours at home. That is usually not the case. They go out. To the playground, to the pool, cycling, skating, dance school, crochet teacher’s house, to their friend’s home, to the market. They perhaps spend more outdoor hours than school-going children. At this time of pandemic lockdown, they are also reeling from the restrictions.
Now is the time to make stuff together – even jugaad types, cook, make and play games, do laundry, do dishes, mend things, watch documentaries, read to each other, dance, sing. Do all the things that you never really have time for. Stop watching news on the TV and getting consumed by the myriads of WhatsApp mes- sages. As we have just moved to a new house in a new town, together with my daughters, I am spending time in organising the house. I am sure there are such opportunities at your home – to reorganise.
It will make you feel good. We sometimes forget how much learning takes place just by living life and playing games. With the world so stressful right now, it's important to remember to enjoy each oth- er’s company as much as possible. Do whatever it takes to bring you all through this well and you will have given them a far greater education than they can get on a mathematics or a physics website.