Effective Routine, Explore, and Experiment

‘The 3Es for the Higher Education Segment’

The need for the Higher Education segment to adapt to the changing world scenario due to the novel coronavirus is way greater than what we have discussed with regard to pre-schooling and primary schooling. This greater need arises from a relatively rigid and demanding curriculum and associated worry for quality grades, increased pressure to manage studies from home, adapting to the online mode of classes after years of experience with in-person learning at institutions. All this results in mental pressure, anxiety, lack of motivation, and decreased productivity.

If you are a student who can connect to these feelings or a parent reading whose child might be having a tough time adapting to the changing education environment, we want to take a moment to assure you this is normal and the way you are feeling is genuine, we are all together in this!

Unprecedented times bring unprecedented challenges, and that’s how innovation is born. Where the hard time is presenting us with challenges even with routine activities, it is also an opportunity to innovate and experiment. The core truth in this situation is that it’s going to take time, and uncertainty is going to prevail for the time being. But there are always some ways we can think of to make things easier for us to adapt and enrich the learning experience ‘at one’s own pace’, isn’t it?

Making the Routine Effective 

  • A good and consistent sleep routine, often ignored by older students, is the key to good health and ensures a better mental and productive state. A body that has had a restful night’s sleep is way more ready than a body that has pulled an all-nighter of binge-watching to take on the new day.  
  • Attention span issues are common with distractions around. And we would say, don’t say a strict no to distractions like social media, instead make time for them. If studying two hours on a stretch is posing to be a challenge, then instead try experimenting with smaller studying sessions. Try studying for 45 minutes after which you give yourself a 20 minutes’ break. You can use this break time to enjoy all that you want. But keep it to the ‘break-time’ only. Similarly, resist the desire to complete a Netflix show in a single-day and instead reward yourself with one episode a day, maybe with a meal or later towards the end of your workday. 
  • You can also try ‘focus music’ in the background with apps like Headspace while studying if it fits you. Try making a concise to-do-list (‘to-accomplish-list’, much better!) every day and start by taking small steps. After all, only those who are strong enough to take small steps when times are tough can brave enough to take the leap!
  • Build a habit! Personally, this is what I practice. Whenever I have a hard time keeping up with my routine or rituals, I try incorporating a new thing or a new activity to my routine or rituals. So now I have something to take along in parallel, and the likelihood of me managing both increases! Reading a book, a new form of workout, meditation, it could be anything.  
  • Take a day off! Being at home has also blurred the lines between weekdays and weekends. After a week of work, we all deserve one day off and indulge in some recreation or simply sit back and relax. Spend time with your family, get on a video call with your friends, play with your pet! 
  • Take it easy. We are often drawn to thoughts ‘no one will understand’ and resist sharing our problems and feelings. In case, if something is not working out for you, seek help, from your parents, your siblings, friends, teachers. And sometimes we don’t even need a solution, all we need to do to make things better is just talk it out with someone or free-write all the feelings or indulge in something we like doing, to allow the inspired actions to flow in. Don’t worry, it will all be fine!

Explore and Experiment 

This is a perfect time to explore your interest and delve deeper into various career opportunities as the market needs change after the global crisis.

Various global platforms are standing in support of students by providing free courses*. Even certifications and forms of vocation that might cost some amount are worth exploring as they add to the students’ learning curve and aid in realizing what they are drawn to, their ‘calling’. Webinars led by industry leaders and professors of reputed universities can broaden their perspective and give direction in their field of interest.

Also, if you are passionate about some form of art like music, dance, craft, writing, or any other sphere, now is the time to devote some. Incorporate them in your routine, dedicate some time and energy, learn more, and you can even consider sharing what you learn, which is easier than ever as the world functions online! Make a move! If it works, fabulous, and if it doesn’t, we can always keep learning and working! Whatever you will do in this phase, will add to your experience, and that’s the best thing one can gain.

And once again, a gentle reminder, we are all together in this, and it will all be fine!

*Links to a few online resources that might help and interest you,

  1. Harvard University 
    https://online-learning.harvard.edu/catalog/free 
  2. Coursera
    https://www.coursera.org/courses?query=free
  3. edX
    https://www.edx.org/
  4. FutureLearn https://www.futurelearn.com/info/blog/free-online-courses-with-certifications-september-2020

Be blessed!

WHAT’S IN STORE FOR THE PRIMARY STAGE CHILDREN?

India has made remarkable progress in access to enrolment & schooling at the primary education stage.  The role of primary education (grades 1-5 in India) is to develop the cognitive, emotional, physical, cultural, and social skills of children. The academic subjects taught are mathematics, science, history, geography, and social sciences.

For primary stages, virtual learning was never explored. But the current pandemic has made it the need of the hour. Due to the current public health worries and to contain the spread of virus, educational institutions moved online, some yet to achieve for all the grades. As per a UNESCO report, the Covid-19 pandemic has affected more than 157 crore students across 191 countries.  In India alone, the number is more than 32 crore students who have been affected by the lockdown.  Nearly 1/5th of the world’s numbers.

Parents’ concerns about their children’s academic year and how to prepare their children for the next level/next grade during this period is genuine. Another group is that of the teaching staff where some teachers are working remotely from their educational centers and some imparting knowledge virtually aiding children in adapting to the new mode of education seamlessly. Furthermore, our children-the virtual learners are coping up in the transition phase too, adapting both socially and academically. So, virtual learning & teaching is a bit challenging & demanding for all- parents, teachers, and children. The shift towards virtual learning ensures a shift towards cooperative and guided learning as opposed to the routine learning of the classroom. Teachers can guide the parents about various assignments, important notices through calls or emails or WhatsApp or virtual tours, etc. Parents can guide & help the children in independent learning by teaching them how to navigate the school portals, respond during the virtual classes, access study materials, and upload assignments.

One line: We (parents, teachers, and children) are all adapting collectively, so co-operating in co-creation with one another can help us emerge magnificently.

For improved learning, a calendar based list of activities prepared with the help of teachers (or any parenting expert) for the children is a great approach.  This will ensure school readiness and sustain early learning of children at home. Also, refer to our blog on the duration of study and the importance of brain breaks here.

To engage the children usefully ‘National Council of Educational Research and Training (NCERT)’ has come up with an alternative academic calendar. This calendar guides the teachers on the use of social media and technology tools available for education in interesting and fun-filled ways.  The calendar also guides the parents and advises the teachers through mobile phones where there is no internet connectivity.  The Ministry of Human Resource Development (HRD) together with NCERT, has launched e-Pathshala online portal and mobile app for students to understand the NCERT chapters.

Besides academic studies:

Children in the primary stage need stimulating and engaging activities. There are plenty of DIY art projects available online for children that help bust boredom for good, giving a fun twist to learning which keeps them engaged and entertained for hours. When studies get too much, children can download coloring sheets for coloring. A number of videos available online teach origami, navigational charts, and mosaic painting. However, parents may make the best out of this situation by using this time to make their kids play independently with blocks, Legos, solving puzzles, Sudoku, coloring, etc., anything to keep kids engaged for longer duration productively.

Safety skills are essential at this age, and this time can be used perfectly to learn some of these.  Children can learn to write their full name, address, and phone number, make calls on emergency numbers. Children can learn to identify money denomination and how to handle and manage money. Allow your children to help you with simple household and cleaning chores, and activities like cold cooking. Also, activities like reading (e-books and storybooks), listening to audio stories, writing (letters, poems, stories), dancing, exercising, meditating, playing with board games, Legos, blocks, and puzzles can be a great way to combine learning with fun. Communication with friends, classmates, and teachers is a good way to keep the children involved and in reassuring them that it will all be fine and everyone is together in this!

At a time like this, when we are all confined within the walls, virtual field trips are the best way to absorb different cultures and feast the eyes on some fine arts. Visit the museums in India such as the National Museum, New Delhi, Indian Museum, Kolkata, Salar Jung Museum, Hyderabad, and even the world’s largest museums via the internet.

Children can learn all about genetics, archaeology, or astronomy in the most entertaining way through the Ology science website. Learning about space and other planets becomes more fun with the Discovery center of space learning. There are some brilliant educational websites for children like National Geographic kids, STEM works, Exploratorium, how stuff works, science buddies, and many more. Early childhood coding can also be initiated for primary stage children and enrolling them to live online coding classes by WhiteHat Jr can be considered. Learning how to code is helpful in developing abstract thinking.

To prepare the child to be independent, teaching life skills is not only important for self-sufficiency and self-care but also a vital step towards developing healthy self-esteem and a sense of empowerment.  Age-appropriate skills will help the child from preschool until they complete high school.

Every parent and teacher now understand that every child is different from one another.  So, some children may easily adapt and adjust to the new learning environment; others may find it difficult.  It is essential to devise a customized learning format for the child to make it work constructively.  We need to allow our children to grow through this situation at ‘their own pace’, and a supportive environment built together by schools, teachers, parents, and friends can be a foundation towards personalized learning, helping them sail through the present unprecedented times.

Happy parenting and happy schooling! 

PRE-SCHOOLING: THE NEW PARADIGM

The Covid-19 pandemic has necessitated a new way of life for all. The need for change in one of the critical areas is ‘education’.  The effects of coronavirus and the observance of preventive measures announced by the government has changed the entire outlook of the education system, resetting the life of students, parents, and teachers exponentially.

When pandemic started, schools had to shift to online teaching. Many of them have been successful in turning the physical school into virtual school, while some are yet to achieve it for all the grades.

The time spent during the lockdowns & transition to online learning has given parents the direction to adapt and cater to their kids’ learning & development themselves customised with online lessons to the changed scenario.

In India, while the schools are still closed, parents of playschool and preschool going children want to know whether their children’s admission can be postponed by a year or should they be learning online through the classes arranged by the schools. Or just let the children be, not doing anything at all, as far as a formal way of learning goes.

Some parents are hesitant (not wanting to, despite peer pressure) enrolling their children between the age group 2-4 years for online preschool classes as they are not comfortable with the idea of their toddlers spending two-three hours in front of the screens as this being their first time experience and exposure to the formal way of preparing their children. The screen time of many children presently has anyways increased, so to draw children away or to minimize the screen time, some parents feel home teaching is the best way of learning- teaching right now. But one of the big concerns then is, their children are losing the peer group to play and interact with, giving them the important social skills.

For all stakeholders, the safety of children is essential, especially during the time of the pandemic. So, parents and children have options to either choose the new learning environment and make the learning possible through online resources or home school their kids or give the best of both worlds (if possible).

Swati Popat Vats, author and early childhood education expert, says, “Parents need to know that preschool contributes to the foundation of the child. Parents can defer the enrolment into a physical school, but they must not defer the academic year of the kids.  Even if the schools are physically closed, parents are unable to give language stimulations at home, but the brain of the child still needs these invigorations, so parents can defer an academic year, but not the child’s learning.”                                                                                

90% of a child’s brain development happens by the age of five. Children have a natural motivation to learn. Children are curious learners; they like discovering everything around them, and exploring every object under their reach. Just as they learn to stand and walk on their own by trying continually and master their walking, the same goes with learning to read, write, and speak.

Home is the first best place to start the journey of early childhood learning. Parents and teachers can integrate many learning principles in daily life by observing the child’s interest, noticing what they often like exploring & delving into, encouraging their curiosity and guiding appropriately, also setting some ground rules so that they learn to be respectful, can assist in nurturing the child’s uniqueness and, all the while, spending time together with parents.   

Children’s perceptions are built at home; they start learning about objects and things around them with their sense of touch, feel, sight, hear and interaction, to understand and experience the nature of the world. Majority of the activities that children can perform should be physical explorations where they have an assurance that they are safe and have plenty of time.  If children are physically active, they engage mentally fast. No better place than home for this and no better adults than parents to facilitate the learning for a child there can be. Parents can make it possible and provide a well-rounded education to their children with the help of online activity guidance, book kit and preschool material kits.

As a child grows, they start to become explorative, inquisitive and the desire of acing all activities increases. Workbooks and picture books are good companions for a child at this age. In this stage, augmented reality enabled books to deliver interactive content, focused on curriculum-based education are a good resource. With stories, rhymes, alphabets, words, images, storytelling-precisely explained and projected just like physical learning with a teacher, concept building and early childhood learning can be strengthened by parents. Parents get virtual teachers on the pages of the books that provide instant support and guidance on how to teach their children on the particular concept or activity of the book. Hands-on learning also comes with a virtual teacher. This is convenient for the parents to learn the procedure in a few minutes and guide the child to perform the activities correctly.

A good education system always needs an effective, age-wise curriculum that imparts the urge for learning, making it easy and fun-filled. To enhance the child’s ability to apply the knowledge, parents can teach and encourage the activity-based and innovative learning approach. Dr Maria Montessori says “The hands are the instruments of man’s intelligence” and that the hand and brain must develop in harmony. 

For toddler group, aged up to 3 years, lot of well-crafted hands-on training materials are available online; parents can use these training materials to train a few activities such as music and movement, language, arts and crafts, hand-eye coordination. For children, 3 to 6 years, parents can teach languages, phonics, numbers, read bedtime stories, practical life exercises with the help of online materials.  Besides, parents can give their children pretend play items, building blocks, hand-eye coordination materials and many more items that reduce the screen time and keep the child actively involved for a longer duration. Some of our favourites for early structured age-wise educational supplies & programmes are from firstcryintelli kit and flintoclass@home.

Today, homeschooling is also largely accepted by many parents, and they are more comfortable with the alternatives of imparting education to their kids. All thanks to the Internet! The Internet has revolutionized, parents and children can access all the knowledge in the world.  There are some brilliant educational websites for kids like National Geographic kids, STEM works, Exploratorium, how stuff works, science buddies and many more that provide an excellent way for kids to learn.

Children need the right age-related learning resources. Digital resources are available on an easy to navigate portals where parents can teach a child with just a click. Learning resources are set up in a clutter-free form and are available age-wise. As children progress through the curriculum, level-by-level, lessons become challenging, exactly the way it happens in schoolroom learning. This is called adaptive learning.

Online learning helps the parents, teachers and children learn-teach, whether on an aeroplane trip across the country or on a quick ride in the car. Wherever they are, parents can take the preschool with them on the laptop, tablet or even on the smartphone, if required.

Although parents have busy schedules and many both working, they can fine-tune their timings; can swap shifts or work from home, so that one of them can supervise the child when the other is at work. Children’s academic schedule when well-planned in advance, a day prior or weekly or even monthly overview can help in channelling resources in a better way. Also, parents keeping themselves flexible and open to the changes that may come uninvited in the schedules would serve a multitude in maintaining one’s peace and harmony.

Children need holistic development, they must be in a safe and secure environment, and all this can happen harmoniously only if there is genuine understanding, cooperation and support from the family and all participating members in the education of the child.

Happy parenting and happy schooling!