Keeping you and your child well during online learning

Posted on 26th Aug 2021 in School News, Malaysia, Online Learning

Graham Tait, Head of Primary at GEMS Metropark School, offers some essential tips

If the latest MCO related school closures have filled you with dread, rest assured that you are not alone. According to a UK survey of over 12,500 parents conducted by the Co-SPACE Project during 2020 lockdowns, 36% with children of 10 years or younger reported being stressed about their children’s behaviour; 43% of those with older children expressed anxiety about their child’s education and future. This is hardly surprising. Online learning is limited, repetitive and static, making it less fun and engaging. It lacks the highlights of the school day, such as swimming or library, which students look forward to. Above all, children miss their friends. School closures are equally tough on parents, who suddenly face extra challenges, from setting up online learning to arranging childcare. Remote learning is tough!

Of course, families who can access online learning are comparatively fortunate. UNICEF has estimated that more than 1 billion children are at risk of falling behind due to school closures. Viewing things within a wider context is of course appropriate, but it is also important to acknowledge that the cyclical nature of MCO related school closures is testing families severely. Fortunately, there are practical steps that can be taken to make online learning more manageable:

Tip 1 – Protect Children Online: An adult should monitor remote learning to keep track of what activities are taking place. Enable the safety features on the device your child uses and set up online filters. Block or supervise access to online communities.

Tip 2 – Communicate Openly: Schools do not want families to be stressed so communicate difficulties with staff; if the volume of work being sent home is too much for your family, voice this. If you children’s carer is not IT literate, teachers should be aware. Schools want to support you and are happy to adapt learning for your family’s needs.

Tip 3 – Ask the Teacher! You went to school so you should be able to teach…right? Not usually. Teaching is ahighly skilled profession and it is likely learning has evolved over the years. If you do not understand a homework task or how to best support your child, just ask their teacher!

Tip 4 – Praise! Online learning is gruelling and we all need something to keep us going. Set out explicit rewards for your child linked to online study, for example, an ice cream treat. Be clear how the reward has been earned, for example: “Well done for keeping your camera on during in lessons this week.”

Tip 5 – Keep Routines Going: Children like routines as they know what to expect and what to do during the day. Maintain healthy practices, such as a set bedtime. Washing and dressing appropriately for lessons signals it is time to learn. Schedule breaks and set a ‘shut down’ time where study stops and family time begins. Try to compartmentalise, keep learning areas separate from recreational ones.

Tip 6 – Get Moving: Pools and parks are closed but children can still walk, cycle, skate and play. Physical activity boosts learning power, reduces stress and provides essential bonding time. Try to give up some time in the day for outside physical activity. Even a walk to the shops can be beneficial.

Tip 7 – Tactically abandon: Some days, for whatever reason, children cannot face online learning. Sometimes it can be better to stop an activity, to revisit it the next day or (and this might go against every instinct) leave a task altogether. Done tactically, a morale boosting break can be far more effective than a scolding.

Tip 8 – Work with Schools: Most teachers don’t like online learning! They are passionate about helping children to learn face to face but are not usually trained to deliver remote lessons. Bear in mind most curricula are designed for physical learning. Try to be patient when things do not go to plan as remote learning is relatively new, different and the preferred choice of few.

Tip 9 – Contact the Right Person: If you cannot access online learning, it is unlikely the Principal will be the best person to solve this, but the IT Department should be. If there is an issue with a certain subject, contact directly the teacher who teaches it. Schools are often large organisations so raising queries with the right person usually results in quicker, better solutions.

Tip 10 – Keep Friends Together: Children like socialising with their friends and it is good for their mental health and communication skills. Teens of course may spend their lives on social media but younger children need online ‘play dates’ to be facilitated. Set up the online meeting so it is secure, check in regularly and give your child some space to chat and have fun.

This article first appeared in the 2021/22 edition of John Catt's Guide to International Schools, which you can read here: