Of all the by-products and side effects of the covid-19 pandemic, the psychological and emotional aspects are the least discussed. Countries all over the world set up palliative measures to different degrees. Some offered money and food; others ensured that emergency healthcare was available. And in the midst of these, people, schools, and establishments started to invest heavily in remote learning. However, how do we introduce and fully integrate children into the remote learning system when they do not even understand the reason for it?
For many children, one day, they had been going to school and having fun in classes, getting their school uniforms dirty. The next day, they were in lockdown. Unable to see anyone else but the people in their immediate families. Science has shown that children need to communicate, make friends, and operate in medium to large social environments to fully develop socially, emotionally, and even cognitively.
It is going to be particularly harder on children who had previously been in such environments and were suddenly withdrawn and forced to stay behind closed doors with explanations such as
“You can’t go to school today Gideon, because there is a pandemic and we are on lockdown.”
The question is how does one even begin to break down the implication of that sentence to a little child? One minute, s/he had friends in school, the next minute, there were chores on the computer or tablet for them to do, and that was all the schooling they would be getting. The pandemic has done more damage to our children and as beautiful as the idea of remote learning is, it is hardly the ideal fix for a situation like this. As many child psychologists will agree, the school environment is not just about learning the ABCs. It is also about human interaction and nuances, which brings us to the question: What alternatives to isolated remote learning do we have?
There are many parenting choices that people have to make; one of such very important choices is the home school vs. traditional school system choice. Many parents all over the world have chosen to home-school their children for a wide variety of reasons ranging from fear of the “neighborhood” and to “I just believe that I can do a better job than the available schooling options.” The restraint shown by the majority who use the traditional school system is often born out of the fact that parents have to work and make a living. However, in a lockdown situation where both parent and children are forced to perpetually be in close proximity for extended periods, it just makes sense that parents could use the opportunity to take over the education of their children. A room, a treehouse, a shed, a garage, or even the small shade right outside the home could become a makeshift school.
Then, why is learning important during a pandemic? Can’t we all just wait out the storm?
Why is learning important during a pandemic?
While children have been tagged as the most resilient bunch amid this pandemic, it would be absolute bad parenting to assume that they would retain their previous knowledge or even gain new ones if their parents do not take intentional and proactive steps to make sure that their education continues. Now, most African households cannot afford an iPad or a computer that will give their children access to educational materials online. In addition, Nigeria is not well positioned yet to defend the shot that Covid-19 is taking against its basic and primary educational system. Parents must become proactive in their mandate to educate their children as time waits for no one.
Children need to continue to learn. Think about children of essential workers, though at home with other children, still have their parents out in the fields, exposed to the pandemic just to keep food on the table. While we are hopeful that the pandemic will be over soon, we also need to prepare for the eventuality that it will continue to be a part of our lives for the near future, hence the need to keep life going, irrespective of the pandemic.
How to transform your home into the best learning environment
- Identify: The first step is to identify your learning space. Choose a part of your home that is not in use most of the time. It could be a guest room, a playroom, a treehouse, or even just a veranda.
- Declutter and clean: clean it up and empty the room or space of distractions and harmful or unwanted objects.
- Bring in the furniture: we have found that having specific furniture for learning can help bring kids into the earning mood. Much like when we have a special workspace that just seems to put us right in the mood to work.
- Think of lighting: make sure the learning area is well lit and well aired to accommodate your kids and maybe even their cousins and occasional friends (who have been vaccinated or tested of course)
- Bring in the books and colors: bring in the learning materials. Take into cognizance whether your child was previously in a Montessori environment or a traditional school.
- Make it personal: no matter what, the home will never be the same as school. Yet, using the right methods, it can be close. Make the learning space personal and visual. Not too visual that the kids will be distracted.
- Bring in the students: the very point of this article is to let you know that students can learn from home. The little ones do not have to be completely isolated from the world if they can learn together with extended family members or neighbors who are co-isolating. This ensures that they do not get lonely or completely bored out of their minds.
The pandemic is possibly here to stay. It might escalate into something that we would have to vaccinate our children against from birth in the future. However, while we wait for the herd immunity or vaccines to fully kick in, we can take measures to ensure that we do not fail in our parenting duties by making sure that our children’s education continues to progress. If we can keep their education and psychological development on track, we might just come out of the whole pandemic relatively better than otherwise.