Our country has been plagued (for lack of a better word) by the Ebola virus and hundreds of our people are dying. We are paranoid about people we meet and are now extra careful when we do have to go out to work or to the local markets or supermarkets, church, everywhere. I know if many had the option, they wouldn’t leave their homes unless really necessary. As soon as you get a headache, you start panicking. As part of efforts to curb the spread of the disease, the President announced the closure of all schools in the country.
As a parent of two young kids, my initial reaction was “whew! I don’t have to worry about them contracting the illness from school”. But shortly afterwards, another harsh reality hit me: what happens to them now that they are going to be home all day, every day for the next 4-5 months? What happens to the school year? How will government mitigate the wasted time? How do I deal with all that idle time that will now be on their hands?
To make matters worse, the rainy season is already in full force so the kids cannot play outside in the yard to get out some of the pent up energy. Anyone who has young kids knows what great a challenge it is to keep them cooped up in the house or yard all day. So imagine having to deal with this for possibly weeks and months.
As most homes do not have access to the government provided electricity (LEC), keeping them busy watching television all day isn’t too viable an option. Plus it’s expensive to run a generator all day, each day for them. Besides, after a while that too becomes boring for them.
The thought of bringing in a tutor for them daily is off the option list because you don’t know where he or she goes and who he or she will be interacting with (again, that paranoia) and we want to limit our kids’ interaction with “outsiders” as much as possible.
Thus, initially, I started leaving them odd school work each day that they had to complete by the time I got home in the evening and then we would take an hour to review. But, after a few weeks, I ran out of things to teach them and wasn’t quite sure if I was giving them the appropriate lesson for their individual educational levels. I pondered on this for a few days then it hit me: why not get the text books for the next school year and follow the guidelines?
And so that is what I did. I went under the old Ministry of Education building (the one on Broad Street) and got the MOE books for mathematics, language, science, social studies, etc.
Not only do I now have a better sense of what I am doing with them, but I don’t feel this deep silent nagging that their school year is being wasted by the compulsory prolonged schools closure, albeit for all our own good.
Over the past few days have had conversations with other parents who are also complaining on similar issues I had of the kids missing out on school work and when I explained what I am doing with my kids, they all went ‘aah, makes sense, I will do same”.
I have therefore decided to share my “idea” with many other parents and have compiled a few other tips on dealing with the kids during this difficult confined situation.
• Try to get the Ministry of Education prescribed text books for your kids for the next school year and come up with a study plan for each child for the next few weeks. What I did was to get a few notebooks for them to do the various exercises.
• Have a planned structured day for them where they know what to expect (as is done in school daily for them). For example, Monday at 9:00 math, 10:00 reading, etc.
• Leave lessons with them to read and review each day.
• Make time each day after you get home, even if it is an hour or 30 minutes to review the lessons with them and clarify areas where they have questions or don’t understand.
• Every two weeks do a mini quiz with them and each month a test to review the areas covered.
• If you have access to the internet, download some of the available free resources for kids to augment the text books.
• Get a cheap phone (they have some for as low as U$15) that you can use to check up on them during the day on their lessons. Take advantage of the numerous 3 & 4 day free call promotions the cellphone companies are offering so you not using too much credits on calling them.
• Get them involved in helping with other chores around the house. Turn the activity into a game for them so they don’t see it as an unwanted chore but something fun. As an opportunity for them to learn other skills at home, helping out in the kitchen (make sure there is always adult supervision), washing dishes, sweeping, etc.
• There are educational discs that are sold around town for preschoolers and young kids you could purchase a few to mix up with the regular cartoons they watch (for those who can afford TV, that is).
• And most important of all: Be Patient! Many of us parents aren’t good teachers and are quick to yell at the kids, smack them or threaten and scare them when they aren’t learning the school work as fast as you would like them to. Don’t frighten them into learning or have them associate learning with pain. Make it fun.
This is also an opportunity for you to bond with your kids on a different level and to refresh your memory on some of the elementary school work we have forgotten. For me, I am now relearning the multiplication table. 8X1=8, 8X2=16, ……