Nearly all of us are having to live and work in new ways, and having to adapt. Aside from the businesses that have been shut down, and jobs lost, I think one of the most difficult issues to arise in this stay-at-home process is that of home-based learning (HBL). For many parents who have to work themselves, schooling at home is a real problem. A few of my team are not only working from home but also acting as teachers at the same time, and looking after toddlers and babies without the normal help of the grandparents. I have no idea how the actual teachers with children at home are able to manage – hats off to them!
A few parents have written in to share the good and the bad of HBL, including some of the specific difficulties they’ve been facing. We may be nearing the end of the Circuit Breaker but for many what lies ahead is a long school holiday! So, I thought I would share their opinions with you. A few Singapore schools have pulled the summer holiday forward, making things a bit easier for some families.
Parents views on home-based learning
“As a full-time working mum, being able to spend more time with the kids and see them develop has been amazing. It’s also been disruptive. It can be tough with supply systems affected as they are, and not having access to school supplies. Also, we have limited space due to being in an apartment. At the moment, we’re dividing the supervision time between me, my husband and our helper Diane, as we all still have our jobs that need doing. Sometimes this works, sometimes it really doesn’t. But we know it’s not permanent and we are mucking through.
Using this time to be with our kids, as hard as it is, can be pretty cool. In summary, HBL is great and if we have to do it for a while then, so be it. The schools aren’t expecting for everything to go smoothly after such a huge transition – we just have to go with it day by day.” – Steph
“My eight-year-old can’t seem to get into school mode at home, no matter what I do. She is constantly distracted and seems unable to stay on task. I’d estimate that 90% of the home-based learning is not resonating with her as she isn’t in the right environment. I worry about how far behind she is going to fall.” – Charlotte
“My son’s preschool has been amazing at providing activities for him to do throughout the Circuit Breaker. Have we been doing them? Nope! We ask him if he’s interested each day, and if he isn’t, we don’t push it. Just like for everyone else, it’s been really tough as both my husband and I work. He’s a teacher, so it’s a double whammy! Most of the time, I feel I’m failing at everything. But I have two small kids (3 and 1) and my priority is to make sure they feel secure and as safe as possible while the world goes into chaos around them. We are still paying full fees, but it isn’t the school’s fault that they had to shut. Teachers are still working and they need to be paid. It sucks, but it is what it is.
“We’ve also been doing a lot of role playing, dress-ups, puzzles, cooking and reading. And there’s been a ton of screen time. Netlflix has definitely been a babysitter and I say that without hesitation or guilt. These are extraordinary times – our regular programming of rationed TV will resume soon enough! I want to look back on this time knowing that we just let it happen and rolled with the punches. It’s not forever. Everyone is in the same boat. You win some, you lose some. It’s been a good lesson for us all in resilience.” – Kate
“My older child is in kindergarten and needs constant adult supervision at home, so I can’t work. And, I need to work to pay the school fees! I worry that they are missing out. It would be nice if there was more of a strategy to ensure children could catch up on the learning they have missed. What makes it worse is that the governing body CPE haven’t engaged or assisted parents in a meaningful way. Unlike parents at local schools, we have nowhere to turn to seek answers on the oversight of our children’s education.” – Kirsty
“Home-based learning has been stressful to say the least. I’m constantly trying to juggle between ensuring my Grade 1 child is keeping up and not falling behind, and trying to keep my job. It’s a chicken-and-egg situation really; without my job I can’t afford the fees, so then comes the guilt of not doing enough for my child.” – Danny
“I think some of the schools have done an absolutely fantastic job! Some maybe weren’t at the start, but I’m sure they’ve come to the party with better ideas by now. I’ve had some issues getting my hands on art and craft supplies. I never usually have any, so I’ve done some ‘panic buys’ of late. Now I have enough printer paper for the next 20 years, I think. Silver linings!
“I do love how HBL is giving us the routine of a timetable to follow. Otherwise, we float around all day getting annoyed at one another. It must be so hard as a teacher; I have nothing but praise for my son Rufus’s teacher who wonderfully engages her class three times a day with different activities. Not easy with a bunch of five-year-olds!” – Amanda
“My son’s international school won’t follow the MOE’s lead and swap the summer holidays around. So, my son will have been off school for 10 weeks, followed by 7 weeks of holiday on top of that. One of the reasons the school gave was that people had already made summer holiday travel plans. Where does everyone think they are going during a pandemic?” – Nick
“Our school has essentially transferred the responsibility of teaching the content of a bilingual IB curriculum to both my four- and seven-year-old overnight. They’ve had zero dialogue with the parent community as to whether we’re able to facilitate such an enormous undertaking and have given no consideration to families who have parents who both work full-time or who lack the support of a helper. The school is carrying on as if it is business as usual; but the current situation is very far from it.” – Nicky
“Both my husband and I work full-time, and we have two children under six years of age at an international school. We cannot cope with home-based learning and working full-time. We really need summer break to start earlier!” – Sabina
“Ever since the Circuit Breaker started, both my children are enjoying their time at home, with lots of noise and mess all day long. Weekends are just the same as weekdays with them around me. It’s a daily battle to get my daughter (6) to study independently. I have to use my ‘mummy superpower’ to make her focus while I’m juggling my own work and look after my younger one (who usually goes to my parents’ place while I’m at work). It will definitely be more productive to work in the office, though I know I will miss these moments a lot too.” – Jeanne
A final word
While there are some parents who are finding positives in the home-based learning situation, others have concerns. There are a lot of grey areas in the current situation and all businesses are trying to navigate them while trying to keep staff, clients, parents and customers happy all at the same time.
Hopefully, we are heading back to normality. Whenever that may be, we’re sure this is a time we and our children will never forget!
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