When Malta announced the closure of schools, amid pressure from concerned parents, on March 13th, a collective cheer from children of school going age went up across the islands. Once the reality of distance learning hit our shores, a chasm between how independent, religious and state schools handled the challenge became increasingly apparent.
Independent schools were first in line to organise their e-learning classes to be up-and-running on a full timetable within a week. Church schools needed more time to regroup, and were wary of putting pressure on their less technical members of staff- leaving it up to the individual teacher to choose their preferred platform- recorded YouTube lessons, the now ubiquitous Zoom or Microsoft teams. State schools were keen to reach out, but experienced a truancy problem which made it harder to gauge whether students were physically present after they had logged in, for which a webcam solution was eventually found.
Parents, on the other hand, scrambled to get on board with their new distance learning roles. The team at Malta Kids Directory set aside some important factors to bear in mind, for the final stretch, compiled from feedback given by our loyal community of followers.
As one of the parents (no prizes for guessing which!) committed to WFH for the duration of the scholastic year in order to oversee their children's distance learning needs, it became increasingly apparent that six hours of schoolwork just wasn't feasible in a homeschool environment. Realistically, set a schedule for four hours- or work until noon- of e-learning with allowances for procrastination- toilet breaks, Fortnite bites and snack attacks.Set up a shared diary to add reminders for online classes, assemblies and checking homework as you accept your new role as personal assistant to your kids.
Would your teens be permitted to take their beloved mobiles to school? Don't think so! Agree with them to leave the devices where they won't be tempted to check them with every pinging notification. Separate younger children, who tend to be more boisterous during online classes, from older tweens who need their space. Foster a quiet work environment for yourself, which in turn encourages the kids to remember that it's noses to the grindstone time.
When boredom sets in tummies rumble- avoid becoming frustrated during your working hours by setting up the buffet on the kitchen counter upon waking. Prepare a substantial breakfast- Oatibix with fruit puree, chocolate milk, banana yogurt, Actimel, a banana and a peanut butter toastie accompanied by a smoothie should keep the hunger at bay for an hour or so! Wash and chop three types of favourite fruit- banana, strawberries and sweet seedless grapes are a winner. Make like a pro and prep the ingredients for lunch- whisk the eggs for omlette, marinade the chicken breasts and pound the steak. Go for a hands off approach to lunch, in order to maximise time spent working from home, by opting for casseroles and roasts for the children's main meal.
Although originally frustrating to be called away from a task which you are involved in to be questioned on algebra, acknowledge that you are the only point of reference who is readily on hand to answer the children's homework questions. Encourage them to reach out to their teachers, while supporting them in discovering how to overcome obstacles during their online schooling. Accept this as a time of connecting with your children on a deeper level, as you become more involved in the daily fundamentals of academia. A tool which our readers found useful to avoid the frustration of not completing the tasks which you had set out for yourself was waking earlier (if you are a lark) or working after the kids went to bed (for the night owls amongst us!). That way, you start the day feeling as though you're one step ahead of the game on the work front- which allows for the inevitable disruptions to the day to be tackled with patience and grace.
As conventional compulsory learning takes a hiatus, look for creative solutions to the concern that your children are being short-changed on their education. If they were due to sit for their MATSEC this year, you could suggest putting their time to good use by encouraging them to apply for the ECDL advanced course, who are conducting online exams locally. Tap into a wealth of online tools available for those reluctant readers- Audible are offering free audio books during the school shutdown period, and Merlin are giving a series Maltese audio books. Look out for play therapists and teachers offering free support during the school shutdown. iPhone users can send in homework through the notes app: simply open a new note, press the camera button, and the option to scan documents will pop up. Once the document is scanned you can email it with less bandwidth then a photo. Reach out to https://teleskola.mt/ with any issues you encounter during your 'parent/teacher' experience. The Institute for Education are organising online sessions, with limited places, this Summer aimed to equip parents with learning tools.
And lastly, don't forget to dress decently if you don't want to be caught on a webcam prancing around in your birthday suit as you streak across your living room in the middle of a Zoom lesson much to your children's horror!