During this period where everybody is in “Working From Home” (WFH) mode, the kids are undergoing home-based learning (HBL) too.
If you’re a parent, you probably have experienced the struggles that come with it. It could be your child refusing to do work or trying his/her best but not being able to catch up. Worse still, should your child have dyslexia or ADHD, he/she might not be able to get the necessary intervention from the school’s learning support programme (LSP) or school-based dyslexia remediation (SDR).
It’s a rough period for everyone, and to be honest, there’s no easy workaround to this.
In fact, I’ve been getting calls from many older students telling me how bored/depressed/angry/irritated they are, how much life sucks, etc, etc. What’s an educational therapist to do except just play the role of Uncle Agony and listen?
What I could surmise from chatting with the kids is that (to no one’s surprise) they lose focus or disrupt lessons because they’re not able to keep up. This is by no means the teacher’s fault. Already, it is a challenge to deliver a quality lesson to 40 students in a class. What more through a platform where video and audio don’t always sync up?
How can parents help, then? You’ve probably seen countless articles discussing how best you can support your child during an ongoing home-based learning session, so let’s skip that. I’m here to talk about guiding your child after each HBL session. These are equally important to ensuring your child doesn’t burn out, throw in the towel, or act up at home while you’re in the middle of an important Zoom meeting.
Without further ado, let’s go through them!
Spend more quality time with your child
Find opportunities to spend more quality “we” time with your child. In the long run your child will appreciate it, and will become stronger and more positive for it.
During this circuit breaker period, at least two of the following things should be happening at home:
- You’re busier than ever;
- Your kids are more restless/annoying than ever;
- Everyone is grouchier and tempers are getting shorter;
- It’s difficult to do anything meaningful;
- You’re seeing every member of the family for more than 10 hours every single day.
Conflict is unavoidable, and your kids getting stressed out by HBL probably makes it worse. Find opportunities to spend more quality “we” time with your child. Although it is easier said than done, it will help your child to cope better with HBL. Likewise, in the long run your child will appreciate it, and will become stronger and more positive for it.
In fact, quality time doesn’t necessarily mean sitting with your child all the time while he/she is doing home-based learning. While it is possible to turn that into quality time, it may also add to your child’s stress level. Instead, quality time means doing things that can bring you and your child closer together, so that they will have someone to turn to for emotional support.
That means having meaningful interactions.
Activities with meaningful interactions may include: video games, tabletop games, art, home projects, reading (together), cooking, watching a movie, working out, eating as a family and chatting, crashing another person’s room, etc. Even just chatting about stuff is spending quality time.
Let’s dive deeper into some of these activities:
Thanks to online platforms like Steam and GOG, there are thousands of family-friendly games you can easily buy and play with your child. Titles like Overcooked, Minecraft and Stardew Valley are great fun to play in multiplayer. Need recommendations? Just drop me a text! Or ask your child if they’re of the older age group; I’m sure they already have a few good ideas in mind.
If video games aren’t your thing or you prefer to have your child stay away from digital devices, there’s always trusty tabletop gaming! This is the perfect opportunity to try out some new board games with your child, or even role-playing games. Many of these games can be downloaded online as eBooks and printable materials (also known as print-and-play games). I highly recommend Risus: The Anything RPG as it can be used for any genre and is super easy to learn and play. If you need good board games in a pinch, our friends at Games@PI have opened up a web store to deliver games straight to your doorstep. If your wallet’s a bit tight, there are the aforementioned print-and-play games which you can get for free too. As usual, you know where to reach me should you need recommendations.
Many activities can be turned into fun little projects to do as a family. From chores to making slime, it’s really up to you to decide what works for everyone. At the end of the day, the idea is to foster positive and meaningful interactions.
Arts and crafts
Most kids like to create, so long as the process is not too complex. Doing arts and crafts with your kids can be fun, especially when everyone starts getting hands-on. Not sure how to get started? Don’t worry, Spotlight is selling polymer clay which can be baked in an oven for permanent rock-hardness. That’s all you need to start making dioramas with the kids.
Talking to your child builds rapport and trust. It shows your child that you have taken an interest in not just their learning, but in their emotional well-being too. Talk to them, find out more about how they’re feeling, and most importantly, listen. They may not open up immediately, but they will at least know there’s someone that they can talk to. In the long term, this will have a positive effect on your child’s performance, even beyond the HBL period (Mo, Singh, 2015).
Doesn’t matter what activity it is, so long as it is quality time spent
Try out some of these suggestions and see what floats your boat. Don’t overthink it — we gamers call it “analysis paralysis”. At the end of the day, what’s important is to spend quality time with your child. Prevent that burn out! Maintain or punch up their positivity and motivation levels. And, speaking of motivation, that brings me to my next point…
Reassure your child
During HBL, your child’s probably going to be confused, irritable, or lost (maybe even all three). They will most likely not be paying attention a lot of times. Some will try to listen to the teacher, only to drift off halfway through. They may even misbehave and try to disrupt the HBL session (in which case you have to be firm and set boundaries).
It’s even worse for students with learning challenges like dyslexia. In such cases, despite the best intentions of the teacher, they will likely not be able to keep up.
So, unless your child’s actively disrupting the HBL session, guide him/her through reassurance. Let them know that this HBL arrangement is temporary, that it’s ok so long as they’re trying their best. When the circuit breaker is lifted and support programmes can step in once more to help them properly, they’ll be able to get the support they need.
The worst that can happen is for your child to feel helplessly inadequate while their efforts are not being recognised. Of course, boundaries still need to be set and students must take responsibility for their learning. At the same time, giving them positive affirmation will go a long way towards helping them manage their emotions better. This applies not just to HBL, but life in general.
As a parent said to me recently on WhatsApp:
Often we think our milestone is the PSLE, esp with M, but I think teaching her and us to cope with the volatile and unknown might be the better lesson for now cos it teaches adaptability, as much as we may not like it.
Finishing assignments may be important, but it’s also transient. Keeping your child’s fighting spirit up is just as important, if not more so. This period of HBL is the perfect opportunity for them to work on their fighting spirit and not give up in the face of adversity.
Work with your child’s teachers
If your child is struggling to keep up despite his/her best efforts, it may be a good idea to politely let his/her teacher know and to come up with a joint, feasible solution. Do remember that teachers are struggling during this period too, as it is difficult to teach through apps such as Zoom and Google Meet. Even Discord (which Swords & Stationery is using) isn’t spared from bad latency every once in a while. Most teachers should be more than happy to accommodate where possible, especially if your child already has a psychological assessment report.
Final thoughts: be that awesome, unwavering pillar of support that your child can look up to
Your child could be constantly losing focus during HBL sessions or disrupting them. Likely, this is because they can’t keep up and/or are trying to get some sort of emotional gratification. For this reason, they need an unwavering guide, someone to instruct and lead them down the right path.
It is alright if you can’t be at their side during HBL sessions. However, it is crucial to build rapport with them afterwards and establishing yourself their pillar of support. Guiding them to do their best, to be confident, and to maintain high levels of motivation are key to winning the war at the end of the day.
Follow Swords & Stationery, the world’s first game-based specialist tuition programme, on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram for the latest learning tips, strategies and discussions.