During the past 10 weeks of Teleconsults, I have largely been impressed by the dedication of the teachers of schools across the public and private sectors who have worked hard at adjusting curricula to provide remote learning to our youth. Of course, the transtion to On Line learning has not been without its challenges. Different households experience different realities - structured, engaged teachers who monitor the child's learning vs the provision of material to be studied independently at the child's own pace. It is true that many parents have a newfound appreciation for the role of the teacher. They also now understand what the role of medication is in treating ADHD. This helps in going forward and making treatment decisions.
Teachers remind us that this is "Ón line learning" while parents often feel that it is "home schooling". Children are meant to be in a structured routine and maintain their sleep schedules. They should still eat a nutritious breakfast and be hydrated and preferably do some physical exercise before starting the academic day. It's not about rolling out of bed at 11am and munching on a bag of chips while scanning social media accounts and scribbling notes on algebra - all before brushing their teeth and changing out of ther pajamas.
During the consultations, it is also clear that it is very challenging for working parents to maintain their own work schedules while supervising their children's learning. Some children are in lockdown with a granny who is supervising their learning. Our children do not have equal access to resources; this includes data and connectivity. It is important for teachers, parents and children to manage expectations. These are extraordinary times. One cannot hold a child's learning and education to the same standard that one would if this was a normal school year. This pandemic will continue to pose significant challenges to society in the foreseeable future. Children will benefit the most from learning resilience, life skills and addressing mental health challenges.
Children with ADHD often find it hard to settle down and focus when in a Zoom session. Having a fidget toy or sitting on a pilates ball can help to sustain attention. Children with social anxiety struggle to see themselves on a screen. They need permission to be off screen but listening in. Children with autism and sensory difficulties may find the visual and auditory input from an online class room to be overwhelming and struggle with Google hangouts and other social gatherings. This needs to be managed.
Many children have complained about the escalation in the volume of work in recent weeks. Their perception is that teachers don't understand how tiring it is to work on your own without class room support. There is anxiety about not understanding new concepts and being left behind. There is a fear of failing the academic year.
Jessica Cheesman, educational psychologist, has contributed a Guest Blog on Home schooling and ADHD
Dr Sharon Aitken, educational psychologist, offers "Study Skills and Study Habits for individual learners, or with siblings. How to study with or without a teacher or tutor." These popular sessions are available via Skype or Zoom. It will assist learners from Grades 4 upwards to College and university Honours level. Send a WhatsApp to Merle Alexander, practice manager, at 083 417 1271 for more information. (www.sharonaitken.co.za)
Mrs Margie Carew, retired Maths teacher (and my mum), recommends Klaskamer 10 on DSTV Kanaal 145 at 3pm on Mondays to Fridays. There is excellent teaching in Afrikaans but English students can follow along with their text books. The lessons are repeated on Saturday mornings on the same channel. It is important to set aside an at least an hour a day for revision and then 30 minutes for teaching yourself new work, using the text book. Make a note of difficult examples and Facetime your friends or use a WhatsApp group with class mates to help each other out. Don't underestimate the value of self-study.
If your child left their textbooks at school, snapplify has provided free access to all IEB, EB and CAPS textbooks while schools are closed. Go to www.snapplify.com/freeaccess Search for the ebook you need and add to your library. Install the snapplify app to read your ebooks.
TRANSITIONING BACK TO SCHOOL
Schools will be phasing grades back to school under Level 3. There has been a lot of debate and discussion about this. Many families and children welcome the return to school as they are anxious to resume their education, there is provision of child care when parents return to work, and there is low risk to healthy families and children. Families with high risk members are anxious about children returning to school and possibly introducing the virus to their household. They are reluctant to send their children back to school and are considering home schooling as an alternative.
The South African Paediatric Association has a free webinar entitled "Should children return to school?" available on Youtube. (https://youtu.be?MOzVxlOG-y8)
The WCED has a thoughtful and comprehensive strategy and support structures for vulnerable learners. Approach your school principal for information. Each school is assigned a psychologist to assist with individual cases.
Some families have made the difficult decision to deregister their children from their enrolled school and to register with an accredited home school. The WCED has personnel who can assist with this process.
Home school options include: