Though the news of school closures due to COVID-19, were all over the place, I was deep in my own Etopia of thinking that this wouldn’t happen for me here in Chennai. As there were no incidences of COVID and also Chennai being hot and humid, there is a very rare chance of the virus’s survival here. So I didn’t look beyond the upcoming activity/sports classes for my kid in Summer. But God has other plans and suddenly, I woke up to the news that all the schools in Chennai have been closed till March 31st till grade 5. Now you can imagine my panic, as to how to keep a highly energetic boy at home during these hot summer days and also how to engage him with activities other than gadgets during the school closure instead of wasting his time.
I just can’t let my kid watch TV or other gadgets without any enrichment activities for his brain. And since he goes to a Montessori school, the regular worksheets available at various sites on the net, will not help my kid also much. It definitely requires some time and preparation for the adult to let the kid explore his knowledge path on his own. The adult has to do the initial work to define the boundaries of the kid’s learning direction. Or else, as the facilitating adult, I can only work on providing different experiences to him. But that will not be possible in this case due to the social quarantine, we are imposing on ourselves apart from the school closure. so I started looking at various sites/blogs for tips to engage kids.
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So, after the initial panic, I started searching various options available for me online, and luckily the Montessori groups that I am part of in FB have already started pooling in resources and helping each other with the information they gathered so that they can effectively leverage this school closure time to enrich their kid’s knowledge. So based on the discussions there and my experience of seeing how my elementary kid learns at school and at home, without lots of worksheets, this is the routine we had established.
Follow the Child:
As the Montessori kids are capable of making their decisions about the work they would like to complete at any given point of time, we as parents have to really sit and discuss with them the schedule and targets the kids wants to achieve either in terms of experiences or by completing various activities during this school closure period. This is what my kid has written:
My kid being a sports kid loves to practice his games at the daybreak. So our schedule is tweaked based on his needs for sporting activities. But the point I want to stress is here that a schedule would put both the parent and kid at ease. And it will allow the kid to have a checkpoint on his time and various activities, without aimlessly wasting the time. But please note that this schedule needs to finalized after discussing it with the kid.
The work time should be fixed and stays the same every day just like how it stays in the school. The kid could decide which work he can complete during that time (be it be writing practice, reading, math, science, or geography/history, or art, and craft). That flexibility of the choice on the activities to be chosen for a given day needs to be given to the Child. We as a family have just jumped into these unexpected homeschooling activities due to the unavoidable COVID-19 endemic. So it takes time for us to get the worksheets or any activity ready for the kid to complete. So for that also, my kid came up with another suggestion. He would let me know whether he would need worksheets on any particular topic upfront or would use the existing materials at home to complete that activity during the breakfast time. So that I can set up the environment ready for him, by the time he finishes his breakfast and bath. We decided that daily morning during breakfast time, we would agree upon the number of activities the kid would take up during this work time.
Most of the work activities in Montessori schools use the Montessori materials which are highly specialized and we can not have them all in the house. We definitely can do with whatever that’s available in our house. The basic science experiments, introduction to various geographical units and introducing various cultures, histories can be done with some research from the parent’s end. But my sincere advice here is to let the child decide what activity he would like to start on that day and let him research or take your help in getting the necessary tools. Please control the urge to be a teacher to your own kid, as in a typical Montessori environment, adults act only as of the storytellers, to give the kids the required information and then act mainly as facilitators. We need to keep this point in mind.
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There are a lot of videos available on the net for the enrichment of the basic concepts and also provide tips on various hands-on experiments. So the idle TV watching time can be reduced and converted into enrichment time too. Some of those sites which we visit regularly are listed below:
- Living Montessori Now – Has a lot of videos and worksheets.
- Khan Academy: They are conducting daily live streams on their Facebook and youtube for various classes to teach/enrich the basic concepts
- SciShowKids: This channel addresses the most common questions of the kids
- National Geographic Kids: This channel not only provides information about the various animals but also helps in the basic geography for the kids
- BrainPop: This the place where the kids can go if they want to explore more on various topics.
- Google Arts and Culture: This department of Google has created virtual tours of over 1200 museums across the world. This is the best way to introduce various aspects of culture, history, and everything to your kid from the comfort of our own couches.
Whatever activity the kid does, it always helps him in identifying his mistakes only if he has a checkpoint discussion at the end of the day with the adult. So having a checkpoint discussion would definitely help the kid to understand his progress and his journey towards his goals.
Of course, all the above-mentioned tips to engage the kids are purely based on my research and the information I had gained from fellow Montessori parents. Please join this group for more information if required as to how to engage and enrich your kid during this school closure time. More articles would follow during the course of the week based on our own experiences as to how we are spending time during this forced and oncoming summer school closure time. Please share your inputs on how you are engaging your kid during this forced school closure time.
Also, let me not give you any false hopes on this short term homeschooling front. I had heard multiple times from my homeschooling parent friends that it takes a lot of effort and time from both the kids and parents to establish their rhythm. It might so happen that by the time you found your rhythm, the schools might have reopened after the forced school closure due to COVID-19 endemic.
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