Home schooling: The good, the bad and the ugly

Hong Kong schools have been effectively closed since the Chinese New Year break. It’s early April already and we have been told that schools are going to be closed until further notice because of the Covid-19 pandemic. The home schooling is here to stay for a bit longer than we’d care for!!

Let’s confess, we started with home schooling on the wrong foot: Working parents, those working from home (temporarily due to company policy) or otherwise, grudgingly scrambled to adjust to this new paradigm. ‘Not welcome’, thus was the original mind set of parents to home schooling.

Many families grappled with the technological aspects of home schooling. Buying computers or getting wi-fi connectivity, all this added unexpected and unwelcome expenditure for many of us. Double whammy!!

Then where was getting a hang of one or more of the multitudes of virtual class room/e-platforms that their kids’ school had chosen: From Zoom to Skype, Google Meet to Microsoft Teams to name a few. Keeping tab of when to log on for classes and assignments … A challenge for any parent, more so for the working parent.

Being a parent of 2 primary school kids, my life recently has been a ride of stress troughs, hope hills sprinkled with good times. Was I alone on this #homeschooling #workfromhome topsy turvey, solo in this #lifesstylechange rodeo?

Reckoning that speaking with others was the best solution, I decided to ask some parents around me about their home schooling experience and jot down my observations.

There are indeed many apparent faults with home schooling. Most children have way too much screen time; often working on their screens on “assignments”, well beyond the school time. Unless you are following closely what they are doing, kids being kids, chances are they are you-tubing behind your back!

And to our despair, we find our kids turning into hyper excited zombies or complete ‘don’t-want-outta-my-room’ introverts! And then children lack social activity and physical activity. They miss friends at school, having play dates and for most, dead bored!

The quality of home learning is also doubtful as the kids cannot concentrate on a screen for long even if they have video lessons. What about comprehending the difficult concepts? This puts a lot of pressure on parents and increases their work load. Who can blame them then for asking the reason they have to continue to pay such high fees when they are practically the new teachers of their kids.

Indeed, it’s hard to balance work and teaching kids at the same time and can feel like a second full-time job with no pay and paying to school for it besides.

Most parents seem to have higher stress levels thanks to the juggler of sorts we’ve been forced to become. I was amazed how frequently the words “stressed”, “too much” and “stressful” came up in the responses!

However, after 2 months of home-schooling experience, families seem to have gotten better organized and seem more resilient. I myself have started appreciating the ability follow what my kid is learning in school and what she finds tough, something which I was struggling with in normal schooling besides spending more time with the kids. We can also appreciate that for most of us mornings are calmer with less of a rush. Most importantly, for our kids, in this Covid-19 risk escalation charged environment, it is safer at home than in school”.

So, the situation is as it is. Nobody wanted this: Neither the parents, the student nor the schools. Lest we forget, teachers are also having to adjust to his new way of schooling. They are learning to deliver condensed version of classroom learning with the same content. For many of them work is busier than normal teaching and a lot more marking and follow-up is demanded. It can also be difficult collecting home work from students.

In short, we are all in this together.

So, instead of increasing our stress levels let’s try to focus on the good part of this experience. It is true that in this home-schooling format, if parents are not involved or engaged their child will not learn. But more than ‘pure’ learning maybe we could take this as a unique opportunity to focus and spend some more time with our school going kids. Teach them, play with them, be silly with them, laugh with them. Maybe you’ll find yourself sharing important life lessons with your young ones, as important if not more that bookish knowledge.

Being no expert in home schooling by no means, I share some ideas to improve home-schooling experience, that work for me as a parent :

  • Split the day of the kids as a normal school day: Mornings for studying and afternoons for play

  • Insist on kids having an outdoor activity everyday: Cycling in the park, hiking…You can’t Imagine what good fresh air does to their morale. Also a good way to let them spend their energy.

  • Try to do one small non-screen “fun” activity with kids: pillow fight, make-up session (on you 😊), “Our-home’s-got-talent”....

  • Stay as much as possible on your regular schedule for eating, exercising and sleeping.

A big Thank You all those who shared their home schooling experience for this article for the LocalHood Blog (https://www.localhood.org/blog)!! I hope this have done justice to your thoughts.

To end, let's keep calm and make home schooling more enjoyable for us and our kids😀😀. In case you need a little help, here is a funny video that had @Team LocalHood in splits.

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