Saturday, 28 March 2020

Kate's "homeschool" while on LOA

People ask me why I don't homeschool my kids. I laugh that homeschooling is not for me.

AKA I cannot imagine being at home 24/7 with 6 little kids! I take my hats off to families who do that, and do that well!

Kate is on LOA because #1 came back from the UK last Saturday. I was prepared that all my kids had to stay home alongside #1 as she was on SHN. However, checks with the school deemed otherwise, and on Monday, when my older kids went to school and informed their teachers (perhaps they should sit 1m apart), the response was "No need to tell me about your sibling being on SHN". Okk...

2 days later, new measures kicked in, and on Tuesday night, it was announced that preschool and primary school students would be placed on LOA if a member in the same household was on SHN.

Thus began my 8 days of homeschooling with one 7-year old student. Well, it's actually not homeschooling but merely executing the lesson plans that their teachers have done up for us. I'm using the term homeschool really loosely - Kate calls it school at home run by mummy!

Here are 7 steps to help you along as Home Based Learning kicks in next week!

DAY 1, WEDNESDAY

We set up a gmail account for Kate and she was all excited to await her home based learning (HBL) package. She kept refreshing her inbox!

We took it nice and easy and I had time to make her a wholesome lunch. Lots of veggies like broccoli, cauliflower and tomatoes to boost her immunity, mixed with buckwheat and red quinoa grains, topped with cheese.

After lunch, still no email, so we got started by orientating her to what she calls "Mummy School".

Step 1: Create a timetable

I asked her to list out all her subjects in school. She struck off CCE, PAL and social studies saying "these 3 no need, I will do them in school". We added in a lunch break, snack break and fruit break.

Step 2: Set up Workspaces

Her room was the classroom, and I set up a desk next to hers so that I could do my work while supervising her. She decided to have her PE lesson in the living room with more space.
Healthy casserole
The time passed very quickly and you start to feel that nothing much has been accomplished! The HBL package had not come through. I can imagine the additional workload on their teachers and school administrators. A big thank you to all of them, working so tirelessly during this time to ensure learning goes on for those kept at home.

Her sister was back from school and I made them banana and mango smoothie with a sprinkle of chia seeds. Now is the time to ensure they get nutritious food, 8-10 hours of sleep and to stay relaxed and happy to keep their immunities strong. It's a nice change to be home and have everyone back early from school.
Fruit break
Step 3: Teach them to google lessons independently

I checked if Kate knew how to google appropriate Art and PE lessons which she could do by herself. The more I set it right at the beginning, the less time I needed to spend to supervise her in the days to come.

She showed me a website Art for Kids Hub where she was learning how to draw cupcakes. She even motivated herself at the bottom of the page with "Awesome!! Keep up your beautiful drawing! :)
Her fave subject
Step 4: Silent reading buys you time

Instead of letting her play games on her IPad, I told her it was time for 30 minutes of silent reading while I prepped dinner. As they now have access to a digital device, it is all too easy to switch into game mode if parents are not watching.

Finally, after dinner, we checked her email and YAY! Her HBL package had come in. Kate was so excited! We used her ipad, but the zip files could not be opened properly.

Her teacher called me after dinner to check if we could access it as some parents were having trouble. She would resend us another link tomorrow, and also reminded us that we had to take Kate's temperature every morning and Dojo her before 8am.

I thanked her for her assistance and was deeply appreciative of how hard they are working to keep everything going.

It was bedtime for Kate and she was disappointed we didn't get any work done, but I told her not to worry, it can flow into Saturday. We did manage some art, PE and got a system going. That was a great start!

Day 2: Thursday

9am: Wake up mummy!

Last night, after Kate went to bed, I carried on working late into the night to handle this sudden suspension of enrichment classes.

Kate said, "Daddy has prepared breakfast. And, my lessons are supposed to start now."

Oh right. I'm the teacher. No more luxury of working till the wee hours of the morning in the wonderful silence and waking up late, knowing that my kids are being productive in school.

Again, silent words of gratitude sent to all teachers out there.

Step 5: Fine-tune timetable & be flexible

Kate is thrown off her schedule as we are behind by 2 hours. We need to re-adjust our time table! I instructed her to shift those classes that she can do on her own to the earlier morning slots. English, Math and Chinese will commence at the later part of the day.

After breakfast, I am ready to tackle this homeschooling business with gusto! However, even with the new link, certain parts couldn't be opened on her ipad. No choice, I tried downloading it on my laptop.

Kate decided she would make better use of her time while waiting. "Mum you figure it out. I'll start on my Art class ok?"

"Yes, perfect plan."

After an hour of art, I still couldn't retrieve the Math worksheets, and I couldn't find the instructions for her Chinese. All this was in between me answering work texts and emails.

I asked her to start on her PE lesson first, via YouTube. Halfway through, her ipad ran out of battery. So, break time it was!
PE Lesson
The tricky bit is getting all the school materials ready to teach her.

Teaching wasn't the difficult part because I could make time to teach her for 20 minutes, and give her time to do her own work while I did mine.

Step 6: Make time to Be Prepared First

What I needed was a good 3 hours to read through what I needed to teach her, download everything that was required to go with it, before embarking on the real teaching. It couldn't be done while working from home and trying to multi-task.

That's the problem.

Ok, we're not going to give up or be defeated! I didn't want to bother her teachers just yet until I've exhausted all possibilities. We'll take a lunch break and try again later.

Lunch wasn't quite ready but we had to get online at 1pm with my team of educators at TLE to trial our virtual classroom as all enrichment centres have been suspended.

We had fun playing games and trying different activities remotely from our own homes. Learning can go on even in tough times like this! After we logged off Kate said, "Is lunch ready? I'm starving!" It was almost 3pm and the teens started coming home. I spent the rest of the day fixing them food and catching up on my work.

Hopefully, we will get some work done tomorrow!
Virtual classroom at TLE
Day 3: Friday

Finally! We managed to get access to the files and links. Kate was overjoyed! She really loves the comfort of doing work.

Yesterday, MOE announced that from next week, students will stay at home and do HBL once a week.

This gradual induction, especially for lower primary students is definitely needed to ease them into online learning. There is no way that a P1, P2 or even P3 child is able to open all the files and teach themselves the syllabus. This transition gives parents time to put a decent plan into action, in the event that full school closure is implemented.

I can't imagine a class of 40 messaging their teachers daily to ask for help. Piloting it for 1 day a week allows teachers time to sort out the kinks and make full transition a much smoother process.

By the time the hubs came home, I was exhausted from trying to multi-task - working from home while running Mummy School.

I've been blessed that Kate is an easy child to work with. She listens, is self-motivated and can focus.

But still, it was tough. It requires patience, discipline and structure. Plus practical things like a printer that hasn't run out of ink, and devices that support the systems to be downloaded. I can foresee it being quite a challenge for some families and they would need a fair bit of assistance.

The hubs made a succulent steak and Kate exclaimed, "Yay, a proper dinner!"
Homecooked steak
Step 7: Stay Positive!

We always try to find the gift in every situation, and honestly, she has gained much through this experience. Many life skills and learning to take ownership of her learning path from a young age.

I was telling my teen, I'm glad I only have 1 kid to do this with! I would have lost it with 5 kids squabbling with one another throughout the day, and pressured to finish teaching them as per the lesson plan. I'm so glad it's for a finite time, and I can put her back in school after 2 weeks.

We can only hope for the best, but be prepared for the worst.

About MummyWee


Michelle is an Occupational Therapist by day and mum of 6 by night. Besides the already very demanding job of managing 5 teenagers and one 6-turning-16 tween, she is also Founder of The Little Executive, a nurturing centre to develop children in their 4Qs to survive today's volatile world. She also makes time to volunteer with children and the elderly in her community.


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