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What can Parents Do in the Online learning Crisis

Promise, I am not going to ask you to find online resources to educate and entertain. You already know that.

Also, I promise, I am not going to ask you, dear Parent or person in charge of a little one and their learning, to make sure they are disciplined and sit in on their sessions with schools. You are already trying your best to make it happen.

Shall I make a third promise? They normally come in threes, or was that wishes? Fine, we shall make 3 wishes too, here. But first, the third promise. I promise I will not tell you what to do, because, you know the secret – nobody, not one parent, not one expert, not one book has the answers to great parenting. We all muddle along as best as we can. We read, we practice, we try it out, we stretch ourselves, we learn to be different. But truly, children are sent to teach us humility, and as a mother, and as a teacher, I humbly acknowledge that there will never be the perfect answer. (Unless rote learning is your thing, and we are bringing up photocopier robots).

That said, we can still help each other with what we figured out, and hope our good stuff works for you too.

So, let me wish three things for you –

One, let me wish that you have a lovely circle of friends, teachers, parent groups and social media sources who point you in the direction of online resources that amaze and delight you and your child. The world is limitless, and some of us can soar with the round the world solar flight, others dive down the Marina Trench, some wind lazily through the Amazon without any of the dangers – and some, just watch the wonders of how the earth grows things that feed us. We will find stories, strength, and best of all, things to do that we might enjoy.

Two, let me wish for you, like a fairy godmother, the gift of patience. It is not easy to work with little children, and with the lockdown, the anxiety, the office work, the lack of outdoors – it’s all a bit too much for everybody. Be kind, both to yourself and to your children. One rule helped me survive – never actually shout in anger. Anger will pass through your system in about 70-90 seconds, it’s physiological and you can train it to go faster. Wait it out, let it go. Then pretend to shout if you need to, or find smarter ways. But whatever you do, don’t do it in anger. Only mistakes are made in anger. Your little one is not to blame, and you’ll feel sore in your heart later if you give in to shouting. I wish this gift for you, of being able to let the anger pass, and to come back to the moment with the right thing to say. Learning happens when you model behaviours for your child. How you deal with anger, how you organise the day, how committed you are to quality output for work, how you respect yourself and others, how you share out the work – all of this is learning for work, and life. They will prosper in life when they learn this from you.

My third wish for you is that your children’s schools are good at what they do – even with initial glitches. Help them figure it out and make it better, if you can. But if the school connects at least once a day, and is able to create some excitement about something worth exploring, you have made a good start. Now, if the school is maintaining it’s ‘timetable’ and delivering only lectures, then it is time to gently give feedback – carefully, consistently, and collectively. Teachers are also figuring out what works, and what does not, in this new medium, and they need the feedback to be able to achieve efficacy. I’m not saying they will like to hear it, but they need to know.

So, if my third wish has failed, then here is one more – a bonus wish for you. May your school community reach a place of togetherness and trust, where you can work together to make this messy covid pandemic situation better, and help each other to keep the children progressing in true learning, (p.s., also pssst! remember, all assessments and tests are really tests of whether the teacher could teach it well, not a judgement of your child as a student! It’s meant to help everyone do better).

So dear parents, let’s acknowledge that we are doing the best we can, and then try a bit more than that. As long as we survive this pandemic with love and patience, we have done enough and more.

(For those who still want a top ten of advice on learning, here it is:

  1. Find a routine, even if you wake up late. Do not be perfect in managing the routine, but be firm in analysing the outcomes, and ensuring the catch up work is done. Our kids will need to schedule their goals and tasks all their lives. Start now.
  2. Do support the schools and teachers in doing their jobs well – tell your kids this. It’s funny to prank them, but not now, when they are so anxious. Bring empathy to learning, and recognise that the school needs the student’s to have their back as much as the students need the schools to support them. Do this for your teachers.
  3. Find stuff you like to read. If you cannot find it, write something you would like to read.
  4. It’s not easy, but do engage with your kids in a performance everyday. Maybe, everyday, they can pretend to be one professional, and act it out! Or maybe read out something they liked, or even wrote. A silly joke is good too. We are headed for a world where communication will become more important, this is a good time to start.
  5. Create, build, solve. At least once a day, do something that will make the world a better place. A drawing by a child, a lego aeroplane, a toy that pretends to be something else, a book that becomes a tent – all are amazing. Do one thing, everyday,
  6. Cook. All children should cook. Age 3 is good for making a mix of milk and water – cool of course. Age 12 is great for cookies, cakes, roti rolled out, a salad – anything. Cooking teaches critical project management, operations management, time management and resource management skills. I’m not even starting on customer satisfaction and product development. Materials, measurement and more.
  7. Great chance to work on self discipline and responsibility. They hate it when you say it like that, so don’t. Never ever ever use those words. (and while we are at it, never use that horrible word ‘important’ either). Just let them know that you rely on them – and be consistent in being reliant. It’s not weak of you, it takes great strength of will to not do that task that belongs to the kids. Self Efficacy is a critical skill for employability and leadership.
  8. Boredom. Boredom is good. Let the mind lay fallow for a while, it is the soil in which great ideas will be created. I heard you – the empty mind is a devil’s workshop! That’s true too. But you already knew that there was no winning as a parent. In any case, if you can, do encourage some boredom.
  9. Sustainability – Our kids are awfully aware of the problems of the planet. It’s a great time for them to practice sustainability. Reduce kachra. Compost. Plant tomato seeds. It’s a great time for them to lecture the adults on how we have messed up the planet and how they can manage it better. Yup, we should shut up and take the lectures, we messed it up. (And did they realise, they were taking responsibility there?!)
  10. Celebrate. This is the one that wins each time. Celebrate every little thing you want repeated. If they put away their screen on their own, celebrate it (gently there). If they took a bath on time, show them appreciation. If the clothes were put away, a hug is certainly due. And if they are doing well at school – that deserves a celebratory meal, does it not? Who should cook it, you think? Celebration is a skill, as we learn in these difficult times, and they will need it to keep their lives on an even keel. Especially when they go back to school, and the new normal feels nothing like the old school. A great attitude, fuelled by the internal ability to celebrate little wins is a great starting point. Thats on us, parents, to build.

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