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The School Of Life: What Our Children Can Learn From Covid-19

Credit: Photo by K. Mitch Hodge on Unsplash

If you’ve been paying attention to parent chatter during school shutdowns, you would’ve noticed two camps of parents: those who are tearing their hair out over the demands of home-based learning, and those who’ve quickly found a sense of equilibrium. The latter group of parents have already been asking themselves: what are the learning opportunities for my children during this time?

Of course, one can hardly fault parents for fretting over academic disruptions, especially if their children are facing national exams this year. Yet, this may be the push that we parents need to finally change our mindsets about education and academic achievement.

In a Facebook posting, former Nominated Member of Parliament and social entrepreneur Kuik Shiao-Yin (a parent herself), offered her thoughts:

“This is not a singular country’s crisis. It’s a global crisis. If we were in the middle of World War II, would you be saying ‘how about Ah Boy’s PSLE ah?’ Or would you be hunkering down with Ah Boy and teaching him about what really matters now?”

What really matters to our children now? Our realities have shifted since the advent of the coronavirus, and it’s understandable if parents are still trying to find their footing. Read our guide to embracing this period of uncertainty, and using it to school your children in lessons that will last a lifetime.

Self-Care Is A Priority

Don’t assume that because children are young, they are naturally more adaptable than adults. As we adults grieve for the familiar — our freedom of movement, social connections, and job security — children may be mourning their losses too. Talk to your children about what they may sorely miss right now, from their friends to cancelled activities. Let them express their feelings of sadness and disappointment, without jumping in with solutions. And remember to check your own emotions too: emotions are contagious, especially within households, but it is a contagion that we can control.

As a family, you can use the extra time to enrol in an online course on mental wellness. A popular option currently is Yale University’s “The Science of Well-being” course, which is free, and has seen a surge in sign-ups during this period of global lockdowns. Conducted by Yale psychology professor Laurie Santos, the video lectures are family friendly and accessible, with science-backed tips and activities to help participants build better mental habits for a happier life. Even Singapore’s education minister Ong Ye Kung has taken the course, and he says its insights have helped the Ministry of Education to shape its character and citizenship and digital literacy curricula.  

Pick Up “Adulting” Skills

With everyone at home, this is the opportune time to teach your kids basic survival skills for adulthood, such as cooking, home chores and repairs, and budgeting. Take the time to search for quality free resources and you’ll find plenty to enjoy, such as celebrity chef Christina Tosi’s “baking club” videos on Instagram, or household skills “study plans” shared by homeschooling parents. 

To teach budgeting, you can show kids how you track your expenses. Also, if it’s not a stressful topic for you, highlight any changes that may be happening with your finances, and share your contingency plans for tiding over challenging times. It’s also a good time to help older children set up expense trackers (this can be a simple Excel document) to monitor their spending, and teach them to put aside money for savings and donations. Set your own guidelines, or use the 70 (spending)-20 (savings)-10 (giving) distribution to help your child apportion his or her funds.

 

 

Adopt A “Gap Year” Approach

If it helps, you can view 2020 as a gap year of sorts for your children, especially if you have teenagers. Unless students are burdened with home-based learning assignments — and this should not be the case — they will likely have more time on their hands, especially if social distancing measures continue to rule our lives for longer than anticipated.  

For a start, get your kids to think about something that they would like to learn, or a project that they might like to take on during this period. If they don’t have clear interests, you can ask questions such as:

  • What subjects do you like the most in school?
  • What do you like doing in your free time?
  • What would you like to learn more about, or get better at?
  • Of the adults that you know, who seems to have an interesting job?
  • Is there an activity or event that you would like to start for your friends?
  • Is there something that you would like to do to help others?

Note that some children will draw a blank when asked these questions, so do temper your expectations, and be ready to provide support without judgement. If your child seems hesitant or reluctant to try something new, find out why. For instance, children may be intimidated by the thought of joining a “live” video class with strangers, and this is perfectly valid. Look for ways to gently push your children out of their comfort zones, and be wary of setting lofty goals — any self-directed learning that happens out of the classroom is good learning.

The World Is A Classroom

With so many children taking a keen interest in coronavirus developments, don’t miss out on this chance to expose them to a wide range of topics, from math and science to governance and ethics.

Here are some resources that you can use (for personal reference) to enrich your discussions with your children:

With the information overload that we’re facing, it’s also essential to teach kids about choosing credible news sources, and questioning the information that we encounter. Try watching this series of critical thinking videos by the US-based Foundation for Critical Thinking — it was created for primary schoolers, but even adults can benefit from the teaching points. 

Whatever you choose to explore, do it in small doses, perhaps in a casual setting such as over the dinner table, and proceed only if your children are receptive. These are heavy times, so keep discussions light, and don’t forget to share positive stories as well — we all need them to boost our spirits.

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