MOST schools have announced they will open this coming August under distance learning. How prepared are we and our kids for this? Are our kids really learning under this format? How do we replace physical Pre-K classes for our infants and toddlers and learn at home?
My kids had a taste of distance learning in the last quarter. I tried to observe and learn how this method could be positively maximized at this time. Aside from my own knowledge as an educator, I also asked longtime experts like Anna Villaluna, teacher and owner of the Greenmeadows Learning Center Group of Preschools; and Raissa Acero, a teacher at La Salle Greenhills. I also watched a nice talk by Early Child Educator Teacher Tanya Velasco on “Learn Through Play at Home” for infants and toddlers. Below are some tips I picked up on how to effectively learn at home:
MUTUAL UNDERSTANDING. It is important to understand the basics of distance learning as a parent and as a student. Distance learning are online classes that have various formats and platforms, which can be a mix of videos and live interactions. The classes normally use a videoconferencing platform like Zoom, Google Meet or Skype. One or two teachers are online to conduct the class. Class duration lasts 30 to 60 minutes depending on the age and level.
Both parents and kids must have a talk and, know their role and responsibilities in distance learning. Parents serve as learning coaches by assisting their “home-students” in setting the physical setup and routine, as well as adequately monitoring their work. Our kids must understand that the responsibility to learn is theirs. I tell my kids that when you go back to physical class, you must be fully ready for that grade level. There is must be no difference in the quality of output expectation between online and physical classes.
AIM FOR EFFICACY. I am often asked these days what online program would be effective for kids, especially those who are not able to attend Pre-K classes. For me, the effectivity of a class, whether online or not, depends first on my goals for my child being met. So when I look for classes, I would look for a school that provides an initial assessment and guides me in what skills my child should focus on at his or her age.
Second, I look for a “teach-and-do” progressive online learning system. This means the class is a mix of listening to the teacher, performing activities as well as supplemental learning packets of printed materials or learning toys as if they were in school. This way, there are concrete outputs to the class. Because my expectation is that even if it is an online class for toddlers, it should amply prepare my child to be big-school ready.
Last, I look at the teaching experience of the organization providing the online class. I need at least a 10 to 15-year track record to feel secure.
For infants and toddlers, I recommend Casa Tykes. This is a twice a week online program for children 24 to 48 months which provide a holistic approach to distance learning. The e-lessons are intentionally planned to give learning opportunities across major developmental components such as Phonics, Early Numeracy, Values/Social Emotional and Motor Skills. They are supplemented with weekly worksheets and Ogalala Play Tools for suggested home learning activities—to partner their digital learning with tactile experience, and encourage parent-child bonding. I am confident with them because both my kids took Pre-K under the physical school that created Casa Tykes.
PREPARE WITH EARLY ROUTINE TRAINING. The first step to effective learning at home for me is maintaining a routine. Even if it is an online class, dress up as you normally would on any other school day. I purposely released this article this vacation time because routine building does not happen overnight. I suggest that we all use this school break season to establish a productive routine for our kids. I have previously shared setting up time blocks for our kids as detailed below:
- Learning Time
- Creative Time
- Active Time
- Chore Time
- Reading Time
I have adopted time blocks for my kids since they were babies, and I believe it has created a rhythm for my kids that strikes a balance between school work, play time and quiet time. For this summer, my learning time includes Mandarin classes and online writing classes.
SET THE STAGE. Set up an area in the home where there is a proper study desk, good lighting and few distractions. Practical tip also includes setting their class space outside of their bedroom or play area, so the child understands that he or she is starting study time, not sleep or play time. Depending on your child’s age and the teacher’s cue, you can be near your child to hear enough of what is going on. If you are working, you can take quick breaks to check on your child. For grade schoolers, try to check their Google Classroom submissions weekly.
PRACTICE INDEPENDENCE. Distance learning might seem less effective than physical learning but as Teacher Tanya pointed out, independence is one of the skills for a 21st century learner. I think we should use this time to teach our kids more accountability by learning self-management. Encourage our kids to do their homework even better since they have more time to research. Ask our kids to think about their hits and misses last quarter. If they are aware that they are having difficulty in submissions, ask them to request for a buddy system from class.
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