We asked three parents of ASW elementary school students to tell us about their experience of virtual learning.
Our questions included: What does your day look like as a parent with kids in virtual learning? Do you have any routines you stick to? What kind of learning works best for your kids? Do you have any advice for other parents with kids in elementary school?
As a parent of two daughters (12 and 8) I found myself in the situation of having to deliver two totally different tasks - Nino, my little one, needed full time attention because, in the beginning, she was scared and in general she gets frustrated with new things and challenges. I have to admit that I also felt confused since I had never done any home learning myself. But new challenges are my thing! And we have a saying in Greece - "either you drown or you swim"!😄 So I decided to swim!
Science Lab in the Kitchen
At first I went on YouTube and looked at some online tutorials, then I tried to make our home learning as fun as possible. Nino knew from the start that we are in this together. Our kitchen became our science lab, we learned fractions by making pizzas, we worked out together while making funny PE videos! Recess time is all about dancing, singing while also doing the house chores! For her virtual market day we used a wall and created an art gallery with all her art work.
The question is, why didn’t I do this before? This period of virtual learning has been, in some ways, a blessing! And Seesaw has been a huge help! Zoom has also helped her to catch up with her friends and to remind her that we all in the same boat. I carefully followed our teachers instructions and Nino, after one month, was feeling confident and ready to complete each task. She even discovered talents that she never believed she had! Being with her all the time made me realize that each kid has different needs and there are different strategies to learning!
With my eldest, things were much easier. She is in middle school and she definitely knows how to cope with new challenges. Nevertheless, I decided to follow a different tactic. I focused mainly on her positive psychology. After virtual learning we go biking and we take long walks... the best time to reflect on our day and our feelings. For her projects, I made sure I was there whenever she needed me and in the evening I was more relaxed with bedtime so we had the opportunity to watch our favorite Netflix series and talk.
Never Tell Them Not to Worry
I also decided to follow a mindfulness online seminar to help me cope with my own stress! Times of uncertainty create a lot of anxiety! What I learned from this is to accept our feelings and the changes in our lives. I never tell my kids not to worry. I just let them know that it’s ok and we can worry together. We have a Deezer account with our favorite chill-out songs and whenever we feel depressed or anxious we just shake out the stress!
Better days will cone sooner or later... and we are going to welcome them with more gratitude.
When we started VL (Virtual Learning), a typical day in our family was quite hectic. With trying to get the kids at the start of each day working on their various activities on zoom, seesaw and flipgrid, we quickly realized we couldn't do it all. We then decided to just do what works for us. We have a weekly calendar with both kids information on it (Zoom times, Flipgrid codes, suggested activities, etc).
Divide and Conquer
Usually, we take a 'divide and conquer' approach... one parent takes one child, the other takes the second, and our third child just sort of 'tags along' to whichever activity her brother or sister is doing that she is interested in. Once we get the kids involved in their activity, we are usually able to get on with our own work (for a very short period of time until they need us again). Repeat. We just do the best we can. Our child in PreK needs complete adult supervision when doing Zoom, Flipgrid or Seesaw activities. We have to be ok with not completing all activities when there are times we can't sit next to her.
We make sure both kids are available and present for their Zoom sessions. Also, we use our weekly schedule to guide us and help with organization and time management.
They both enjoy hands-on activities, as well as any activities provided by music, art and PhE classes. We've also noticed that when teachers give one-to-one feedback (special shout out to the PreK who usually send a daily individual video, which my daughter loves), our kids respond very well. We've seen the most engagement during small group sessions and individual feedback.
In order to get the most our of this process, just be flexible. I was quite stressed at the start of VL seeing several students in my childrens' classes posting numerous entries and completing many assignments. Some days, we're lucky if they get through one Zoom session.
Since this started, my wife Ciara has turned our bedroom into her office. Charlie, who is in Grade 6, has his 'own room' and Olivia, in Grade 5, shares the living/dining room with me. Olivia is quite independent but every now and then I hear 'Dad, can you help?'. Having Ciara at home gives me the freedom to leave them at home after lunch to get the necessary groceries before school ends.
Virtual Walking Race
After each day, we go for a walk, which can vary in length from 30mins, doing a long circle around our housing estate, to longer ones, with a bribe of an ice cream halfway through. This has led to us taking part, as a family, in a virtual race across Tennessee; more than 1,000 km, which must be walked by the end of August. At present we are all 'walking in Memphis' and the kids are getting annoyed at my singing of the Marc Cohn hit...
The best kind of learning for my kids is anything that doesn't involve 'Dad's help'! Apparently I am the worst teacher ever, which has led to me recalling tales of my own experiences with teachers - to be brief - it was not very PYP! What works best for Olivia seems to be the visual aspect of home learning - making videos etc. Charlie, on the other hand is running smoothly according to his teachers and is self-motivated.
Just Have Fun
We have taken the view that what we are going through will not last forever and that most importantly, it has to be memorable for the right reasons for our children. Of course, they miss the camaraderie of their friends, the movement between locations in the school that we cannot change or replicate but what we can do is other stuff. You don't need to be musical and artsy-crafty, just have a laugh with them and spend good-old quality family time, which is more plentiful in these lockdown times! Blending in some domestic family time and thus, skipping out on some school work for 10 or so weeks, in our opinion, is not a game changer for them.