Hacks for eLearning at Home in the Age of COVID-19
By Alyssa Rapp, CEO of Surgical Solutions; Author, Leadership and Life Hacks: Insights from a Mom, Wife, Entrepreneur and Executive
When I wrote Leadership and Life Hacks: Insights from a Mom, Wife, Entrepreneur and Executive (Published by ForbesBooks, released October 29, 2019), I could have never envisioned a world where less than a year later we would be experiencing a global pandemic. The overall implications of Covid-19 on our world’s economic and health systems, short and long term, are still being determined.
Nonetheless, as we all face this new paradigm, we are forced to adapt or, well, adapt. As friends, family, readers, and others have been texting, tweeting, emailing and WhatsApp’ing me over the past several days and weeks, commenting on how some of the Leadership and Life Hacks have positively impacted them, inquiring about others, I found myself framing my thoughts and perspective for this Brave New World.
While an array of leadership and life hacks from the first book are applicable and poignant in this sheltering-at-home / eLearning school curricula / working-from-home era, there are also a handful of others that we have developed in our family over the past several days that may be helpful to yours.
May these three Hacks for eLearning-at-Home in the Age of Covid-19 provide you solace, smiles, inspiration, and motivation to push through this period of discomfort.
Life Hacks for Successful E-Learning for School-Age Children
I will leave the creation of curricula to the educational experts and our extraordinary cultural institutions already converting awesome archives of content and creating new relevant digital content for our eager young learners. Instead, you’ll find below a series of life hacks for surviving/managing life with your eager young learners who are now forced to also “work from home” versus bounding off to school with their friends, to be directly managed by experienced and credentialed teachers.
Hack #1: Create New Workspaces for Your Children
Creating new workspaces does not have to mean converting a room in your house into the children’s learning center (though that might actually be a good idea if space permits). Creating a designated workspace for your child enables him/her to think about “going to school” for eLearning in a separate space from where he/she normally lives/eats/plays. This physical separation actually helped our daughter Audrey shift her focus and intention: when she is at her desk, with her Chromebook, workbook, physical books, etc., it is time for “school.” When she takes breaks for snacks, lunch, or kinetic wellness (“KW”), she leaves the space for a physical and mental “break” from her more academic subjects. Creating a new physical space for Audrey’s eLearning has helped us all set up new routines for success.
Hack #2: Set Up New Routines…and Stick to Them
One of my favorite leadership hacks from Leadership and Life Hacks: Insights from a Mom, Wife, Entrepreneur and Executive is “Schedule Everything.” We have found that this leadership hack, applied to homelife, has helped us in the first weeks of eLearning/sheltering at home.
As it relates to our girls, we have found they have thrived with standard, daily routines, if not down-to-the-minute schedules. So in these days of eLearing at home, we have set up new routines. So far, we have kept some of our “normal” routines in place: start each day with coloring/stickering/painting/playing in the kitchen while I make breakfast, followed by them getting ready for the day while I go to work out, followed by a transition to “school.”
That transition involves (a) having the child go to her new dedicated eLearning workspace, and (b) preparing for the day’s eLearning activities. Thankfully, our daughters’ elementary/pre-schools have sent tremendous “learning menus” for the weeks of at-home school. These include modules for math, literacy, writing/spelling, science, and other electives (kinetic wellness, Spanish, etc.). We have made it very clear to our young learners that selecting four to five of these activities daily, plus 30 minutes of independent reading, is required by their schools and has to be reported back via Google Forms. We have also had success setting up these expectations then letting the children “choose their own adventure” in terms of which modules to do daily within those broad parameters/requirements. Where possible, we have supplemented science with some of our favorite DIY science activities at home (e.g. National Geographic STEM kits, KiwiCrates, and much more for science; an array of awesome board games for 5+ year-olds to learn addition and subtraction, such as SUM SWAP, and others by Learning Resources). We have had the most fun supplementing their kinetic wellness (formerly known as “physical education” or “P.E.”) activities with our own: Yogakids™ on YouTube®, bike rides and scooter rides, running through the fields at the park with Yoda the Bernedoodle, etc.).
Hack #3: Record (Almost) Everything Your Kids Do When At-Home Schooling
In Leadership and Life Hacks, one of the more controversial Life Hacks seemed to be “When Your Child is Throwing a Tantrum, Record It.” (This is a time-tested tool my husband Hal developed to stymie a tantrum dead in its tracks: he would stay nothing, record the tantrum, and show it back to our daughters. Once they saw it, they would stop the behavior immediately. Eventually, their responses became Pavlovian: as soon as Hal would pull out the iPhone to record, they’d stop the tantrum before it even began.)
On a far more upbeat note, recording everything in the era of sheltering at home/eLearning has positive externalities: Firstly, it allows you to readily share your child’s at-home Learning activities with their teachers; secondly, it allows you to record academic and non-academic progress; and thirdly, it reminds you of all the creative activities you have done to make it through this “hibernation” phase, which sometimes inspires new activities by jogging the memory of favorites already completed. Some of our favorite photo or video documentation to date has been: recording the girls’ virtual piano lessons, recording their unprofessional but earnest karaoke sessions, taking a photo of them with their favorite new science experiments (e.g. Why is the ocean salty? Test what happens to an egg in a cup of regular water versus saltwater), and more.