Reader Diary: Online Learning Nearly Broke Me!

Our WSA parent reporter, Ellie, continues to share her thoughts on the pros and cons of online learning. SPOILER ALERT: Meltdown in Week 8! Read on to find out how Ellie managed to turn things around.
This article is part of an editorial series on Covid-19
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This article is part of an editorial series on Covid-19


"Distance learning with my five year-olds is a breeze!"... are words that I will never, ever, utter. Week eight nearly broke me. We’ve come through it, I’ve got some perspective and I’m still positive about all this.

Other interesting developments include my own transformation, into a predator. Most days, at 6am, camouflaged in my mask, sunnies and a hairdo that nobody would recognise anymore, I am scoping out the neighbourhood.

Hunting for boxes.

I’ve become this box predator to meet the colossal demand for junk modelling from the kids. Following the week-that-shall-not-be-named the school read my mind yet again introducing ‘Wellness and Community’ - WAC - Wednesdays. Minimal screen time and vast choice of activities including LOTS of junk modelling. It’s become an obsession, we ran out of supplies weeks ago, so I have no choice.

The GREAT news is the discovery of a life-changing equation: junk + packing tape = Peace and Quiet!

Oh yes, and problem-solving, negotiation, creativity and gross and fine motor skills. Amazeballs!  So now, my dawns are spent ‘out for a jog’ to spot the best junk modelling boxes. The king of which is the Kibsons box. Sturdy; pre-cut handle holes for easy carrying (and easy attaching of things by the kids); and the prized removable lid! HOURS of fun. The Kibsons Box is sturdy enough to withstand several junk modelling recycles in our house.

And thus my Pros list has a new addition: junk modelling saves a fortune on Lego.

The others Pros in my list aren’t so much increasing in quantity as much as in fabulous-ness. I feel really privileged to be witnessing: seeing them learn. Now in week 11, I can really see progress. Once unthinkable, now voluntarily writing a sentence is quite common!!

Instense junk modelling time

And I overheard my boy shouting out “I love maths!” to his sister the other day  - WOW??!!! I don’t care that he’s not particularly great at maths, I care that he loves it. I keep having to pinch myself.

Seeing them grow up. A bit bittersweet this, but it’s amazing. The things they can now do “all by myself” stretches from some of the schoolwork, to making lunch and doing the laundry! I HAD NO IDEA DISTANCE LEARNING WOULD BE HELPFUL AT HOME. The school has been fantastic – they keep suggesting new things and the children just love it.

Spending time with the kids which seems easier now. It’s less dependent on needing places to go and exciting things to do. Dad spent about two hours with the kids at the weekend pasting pictures of cars and animals onto big bits of cardboard torn from a box. Is that the ancient art of scrap-booking?! They were all completely absorbed. I love it.

My list of Cons changes more as we rack up the weeks of this. So this is my new take on things.

Screen time: I’m aware of concerns about ‘too much screen time’ with all this distance learning. Actually I’m not worried about that – daily it’s half an hour, tops. I am worried about the seeds of social media ‘addiction’ taking root, though. The children have quickly learned: do the task and take the photo = get the teacher response.

The work is of less value if it hasn’t had a photo taken. And they are very concerned with getting the response. While I’m chuffed that they’re keen to type messages to their teacher (it’s all writing practice!) I’m less chuffed that their motivation is often really to prompt another response.

The eternal cry of “look at me!” has been replaced with “take a photo!”.

I guess my concern is that the distance learning has accelerated something I knew was coming - but I’m not ready for yet! I’ve got to educate my five year olds to be responsible digital natives when I’m still a digital dinosaur. Help!

Child-Led: Not so much…I scoured the schools for evidence that at the younger ages the ‘work’ and the learning process was child-led. Distance learning erodes a lot of that and my abilities, patience and energy levels are not what they were eleven weeks ago! It would be a real concern if this was going to be going on for another term or more.

Yet again, I conclude that for me, the Pros outweigh the Cons. However, the Big Caveat intensifies: it’s great while there’s an end in near sight.

What will this one be?!

The prospect of carrying on long term would not be so joyful and I need to work. The children themselves increasingly articulate that they miss ‘real school’, teachers and friends. They now talk about the future, next term, and when it will be ending.

We can all do this last month and still learn and have fun. But we’re not going to be candidates for permanent homeschooling. We love school!!

And, as for the discovery of the Peace and Quiet Equation, I am nominating ours for a Nobel Peace (in-the-home) Prize.

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