Keep calm and press on: My thoughts on HBL (home based learning) with my primary school kids

24.4.2020 – These are my own rambles after going thru 14 days of HBL (hope I didnt miscount as I wasn’t counting at all) with my p1, p3 and p5. Despite the unfamiliarity with HBL and not having a single platform (yes SLS is the main platform but we have many sub-platforms for teleconferencing, communication, submission which I wil elaborate later) , we (mainly myself with hubby’s help for the only most dire situations) managed to pull through with some screams, some missed live lessons and also because we (me and the kids) learned and adapted so fast when we were put through such a super steep learning curve!

Yes, there is the main platform which is SLS. For live lessons, the teachers were initially using Zoom until some security breached causing MOE to quickly say that Zoom is not to be used. And I think they couldn’t find a better teleconferencing platform and with new security update, MOE quickly U-turned and allowed the use of Zoom. Even though both P3 and P5 use Zoom for their lessons, for my P1’s catch time with teachers and friends , they use google meet – so among my 3 kids, they are already use 2 different teleconferencing platforms.

And there are also various platforms for submission, the easiest for us, parents would be submission directly via SLS. For paper worksheets, some preferred to submit via class dojo, some uses google drive, one even had some google classroom. There are also various places for communication, some communicate via SLS, some communicate via the student’s email on their mconline, some uses class dojo. Especially with you have multiple kids, it is really a big spider web to looking to ensure nothing is miss out so that learning is optimised. It was indeed a very steep learning curve even for a person like me who uses computer for my full time work as I have never used most of the platforms I have mentioned before (but the irony of it all, kids are very fast learners especially when it comes to devices, my P5 is like a pro on Zoom, so I often rely on him for some IT trouble shooting). I hope you are following but if you are, I dont blame you as there are indeed many new things to manage from the get-go.

Do I like HBL? I hate how much screen time there is but do we have a choice. It is not meant to replace actual class setting however, when there is no school to attend, this is really the BEST option as opposed to loitering at home! Even if they are not learning at 100% , they are definitely doing some learning and some revisions done. And there is also some structure and timetable involved. The kids have be ready by 8am – my girl has it the worst as her zoom lessons are always at 8am, but there is timetable/break and disturbing of their siblings. Given the current situation, I do like having the HBL despite the many platforms I need to be familiar with.

We started with 3 kids sharing 1 old laptop, initially thinking that there is minimal live lesson and hence minimal overlapping of live lessons . They can share and toggle between SLS and paper worksheets. However, the reality was not as I imagined to be as the live lessons for the P3 and P5 are too many to keep track off and in order for them to learn to study independently and not to affect my P5 learning momentum, I invested in a new laptop for the P5. So with this new addition, it has reduced the amount of conflict over who can use the laptop which require my intervention in the early days (hence i could concentrate on my work better).

In fact now, I really hope that we can continue the momentum and not stop for 1 month o May. Imagine (touch wood) if the circuit breaker does not end on 1st June, and the school does not reopen, we go back to HBL after 1 month break? I think it is definitely difficult to restart back the momentum but I definitely do not hope for this to happen (ie the physical school reopens in 1 June).For the circuit breaker to continue past 1st June is purely unthinkable!

Of course during the May holidays, I can definitely give my own timetable and homework but the kids are smart, they know it is not school work, they wouldn’t treat it as seriously as school work and will procrastinate and give a million excuses including it is the holidays, we are suppose to enjoy, there is no midyear exam, why need to revise?

Here are my own experiences with my 3 school going kids:-

P1: He is able to navigate the entire SLS on his own and do his work, of course he will constantly bug me on how to spell certain words , or technical issue and totally ignore an entire instruction to submit on class dojo. Last Friday night, I receive a note from his form teachers that he didnt submit his work on class dojo’s portfolio, so apparently it was all mentioned in the SLS. I dont blame him, it is a lengthy instruction and I really dont go thru any of his submission on SLS (same in school i dont go through his work, if he makes a mistake he learns from it). So I did get a bit flustered that I had to spend my Saturday morning completing all the unfinished task on class dojo. With this “lesson”, I will check before the week ends and ensure no unfinished task class dojo (learning curve!). The only thing I really manage actively on his behalf is his live google meet classes (not lesson per say but catching up with teachers and friends, and sometimes when i eavesdropped the P1 , they are all so innocent and naive in their replies and their observations, really make my day) and it happens 3x a week so that is the only thing I keep track off as the google invite goes to my personal email (and of course my P1 wont know how to access and retrieve the link)

P3: She is semi-independent. She is able to operate the laptop and the different platforms , and she is still getting into the rhythm and noting down all her live lessons as she can have as many as 3-4 live lessons a day. Quite a mad schedule and I am in no ability or time to track for her (and she does have the ability to start learning about time manage and also independent learning).Only time she really needed help is when uploaded the completed work into google drive. Once she improved on managing her zoom lessons, she is as independent as my P5!

P5: Being more savvy in devices and being older, I do expect for him to require the least help from me, which is the case. He knows when he need to attend his zoom classes and not lost in the amount of task he has in SLS. Similarly to my P5, I only help him with the google drive submission (simple coz it is easier to take it via phone and upload directly, instead of using the laptop) and sometimes my second line of support when I need help for the younger 2 when face with technical issues.

I actually have 1 more kid not in this picture, my K1, who does have some home based worksheet brought home, but he is the most difficult to manage and frankly I have my plate full ensuring the P1, P3 and P5’s HBL run smoothly, he basically does whatever he wants and probably zero learning! And I foresee my older 3 suffering same fate in May with HBL removed!

I think the biggest difficulties and laments of HBL stemmed of the younger kids (P1, P2) as they are not exposed to laptop, they are not exposed to typing on keyboard and some can’t even sit still for a long time in front of a laptop. Hence, there are more hand-holding by the parents and it is sometimes as good as the parent going through the entire timetable of HBL with the kid (which is not a luxury for FTWM).

To many, there seem to be no light to the end of the tunnel (a reprieve given recently due to the announcement of the early May holidays) but I have kept my spirits high as I know with all these HBL challenges, there is only 1 way forward, we get BETTER with each passing day. How could it be that it gets worse everyday? Of course there are good days and bad days for me as a parent, but we do what we can each day , one thing for sure my kids are not complaining about HBL.

I thank all the teachers who have been similarly put through this steep learning curve with us parents and students (and many teachers even have kids going through HBL as well, its like double whammy for them) for all their hard work. In fact, I know some teachers are still uploading lessons, checking submission even close to midnight.

All I know is that we will only emerge stronger and more adaptable and HBL will no longer be a taboo word but a welcome change to the education system (in times when we really need it, it will come our next best alternative!).

So can I volunteer my kids for HBL in May too since we are home bound too?

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