School has moved into the family home due to COVID-19, and many parents are wondering how to take care of their kids’ wellbeing during home learning.
But some families have been learning from home for years, and have great knowledge to share. They include families living in remote Australia, and families of children living with serious illness.
Distance education teachers agree that it’s vital to build strong relationships between students, parents and educators, to make up for the lack of face-to-face contact. And children who’ve missed school due to serious illness often comment that while they didn’t always miss their schoolwork, they desperately missed their friends. Technology is key to filling this gap, although some families are also exploring low-tech ways to keep social connections alive, such as cards and letter-writing.
The School of Isolated and Distance Education encourages parents to agree on home classroom rules with their children, which might include:
This might mean going for a walk (if you can be safe and observe social distancing), playing in the yard or bouncing on a trampoline.
Teachers who’ve worked in distance education for years have observed that no system is perfect and sometimes tech will crash! It may help to clarify with the teachers which tasks are most important, so you can be sure to prioritise those.
Many students feel bad about losing fun experiences and rites of passage like school formals, sporting matches, parties and travel. Teens may feel it’s selfish to mention these ‘small’ problems during a pandemic, so parents might need to start the conversation: asking kids what they miss and assuring them it’s OK to feel sad about it, while also encouraging hope and optimism for the future.
Many young people who’ve done distance education say it taught them amazing qualities like independence, responsibility, discipline and tenaciousness.
You don’t have to pretend that everything’s fine. But it’s great if kids can see their parents trying to look after their own wellbeing, whether it’s by taking a walk, talking to friends, having a coffee in the garden, keeping a journal, or seeking professional support if needed.
For city families, this could be a great time to encourage your kids to think about what it might be like to live in a remote area where there’s no ‘typical’ school. Kids growing up on cattle stations have created a fantastic video about their experiences here, and the Broken Hill School of the Air and Alice Springs School of the Air have generously shared their insights.
Your family might also enjoy hearing stories of kids who did virtual education in unusual situations, such as onboard a whale-watching ship or from a remote Cambodian village. There’s even a program which uses robots in schools to stand in for sick children who are isolated in hospital – the robots ‘live’ in the children’s classrooms and social spaces, and the kids operate them remotely from their hospital beds.
If some families are just starting to grapple with virtual learning, there are others who are old hands at this, and they have great lessons to share.