By Fatema Agarkar
Since the first lockdown in March, many Indian schools were either concluding their academic year milestones (international schools) or starting with their new academic year (namely CBSE schools). The initial expectation was that at some point schools would re-open, and the world would become normal again. Six months later, there is a talk of continued school closure till Diwali, and perhaps a little after, especially since news around the world is about the second wave underway, and a vaccine expected only after the first quarter of the next year, if at all.
Homes have transformed into office-units, recreation, and fitness centres, not to mention ‘classrooms’ have changed routines at home. There is a pressure on parents as they balance household chores, WFH routines, and their children’s routines, especially those that are either opting out for a gap year or those in virtual learning programmes.
While the initial euphoria has led the way to a bit of fatigue setting in, here are some simple ways to channelise all that energy:
*Respect the school schedule around class time (treat it as a regular school day) and plan the children’s schedule before and after, such that they get into bed at a particular time. While the physical world school day built-in is flexible, this variance between bedtime routines cannot be four hours later to what they did before March!
*An adequate amount of sleep i.e. eight to 10 hours is the key to an alert child, and this seems to have been compromised to a large extent during these lockdown times. So, re-think some of those decisions, and ensure that your children are sleeping enough!
*Virtual learning allows you to make your children follow some sort of fitness routine in the morning prior to the class. A simple 10-12 exercise routine to get them into a school day that can help to get the adrenaline going, not to mention energy as they log on. It is necessary and treat this as a non-negotiable.
*Concentration levels get heightened when the child has eaten a healthy breakfast, and this is important because ‘kids are at home’ and can eat anytime, which cannot be the flexibility required. Let the child realise that ‘just as they were in school in the physical world’ in the virtual world as well they must have their three meals at regular times. A snack after virtual school gets over is normal, and this does not change.
*Depending on the school schedule for classes (most will range from two to four hours), ensure that the lunchtime is adhered to. You must plan for a quick healthy option, as opposed to an elaborate meal, and pack in plenty of fruits if possible.
*Create a quiet space where your child can place the computer/laptop, or any other device which they use to work for virtual classes. This place must have natural light if possible, should be ventilated well, and avoid changing this location unless it is necessary so that the child gets into a routine of thinking it as a school. It can help more if it is a desk, comfortable chair, a place to store all the school books and notes, and a place for the child to find all his/her belongings including the time-table set by the school. Orient your family members to avoid loud noises, entering the room, and instructing the child in any form so that they concentrate when in session.
*Just as you would have done in the physical world, check-in after the virtual sessions with your child about homework and expectations for the next day in terms of submissions, as clarity is required. Ensure that your child gets some time off the gadgets in the form of physical activities even if it is a walk around the building. Natural settings are best, and perhaps a play routine in the building or nearby park, if it is possible.
*Allow your child some downtime in the form of ‘his-her’ space to unwind, and remind them before dinner (which needs to be at a set time only every day) about preparing for school the next day.
*Avoid stepping in on classes during the live sessions and avoid prompting the child to give the right answers during their assessments. It helps nobody, and especially not your child.
*Check-in with your child’s teacher in case you have a doubt but that should not be during a live session. In case, you were not happy about something, it is best to discuss it directly with the school instead of WhatsApp messages, as this leads to great confusion.
*Avoid comparisons with other schools. Trust your son or daughter’s school for the direction they have taken, and respect that every child is unique and likewise for the schools, and every school has its rationale depending on their available resources
* Discipline in attending classes is critical, and this needs to be emphasised by you from time to time at home as well. Use a system of alarms?
* After-school activities virtually add to the screen-time challenges after a prolonged period, so limit these to ‘essentials’ such as a hobby class that the child enjoys, instead of ‘must-haves’ because another child in the class is also doing it. The focus on the school routine should be a priority, instead of loading the child with different classes. Some of this can be ‘off-screen’ activities if possible, especially like art, reading, music, or exercise.
*Weekend routines can be flexible and allow your children some unstructured time with reminders about homework and submissions but essentially, the children need downtime to channelise their energy for the week ahead.
*Communicate with your children about what is happening, discuss news, or developments, and also ensure that your children can express their fears and reservations about anything as their mental wellbeing is essential.
*Reach out to the counsellors in school when you sense a challenge or mood swings so that you get the necessary advice to manage your child’s emotions.
*If play-dates in the building are possible or at home where you are confident of the sanitation, create such opportunities, so that children get that bonding time with their friends.
*Focus on learning and not ‘achievements’ as children take to virtual classes, and try to help the child, in case they are struggling with their course by reaching out to the school.
*Try and pack in some family-time together either cooking, watching a movie, or playing games that bring everyone together.
As they say, your wellbeing, fitness and health are critical. You must allow your child to be homeschooled until it is safe for the schools to re-open. Allow yourselves some flexibility and keep the rest of the family in the loop for the scheduling as well, and to support the child at home. Laughter and conversations will make this a more seamless process, so always remember and ensure that children are loved that much more!
(The author is educationist and founder, ACE.)
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