Life-based Learning to occupy their May School Holidays

After parents heave a collective sigh of relieve with the ending of HBL on 4 May which signals the start of school holidays, 

the next thing parents are going to be stressed about is…

What are we going to do with our kids since we can’t go out?!

No family vacations, no playdates, no holiday programmes, no visiting grandparents even!

While parents are busy with WFH, siblings will be tearing each other’s hair out or binge-watching Netflix.

IF ONLY they can do something constructive BY THEMSELVES.

Kate has been on 4 weeks of HBL already, and all our schedules and ambitious craft projects have gone out the window. I have relaxed my screentime limits just to get some peace from Kate and her brother. But a whole month of watching nonsense and playing online games the entire day?!

Er Mdm Teacher, can you please set them some stuff they can do independently on SLS?

I’ve always found it strange that my kids receive holiday homework during June and December. Shouldn’t holidays be a time to relax and bond with the family and enjoy experiences outside of the normal routine?

But now that they are stuck at home 24/7 and since schools are going to set holiday homework anyway, how about getting students to work on Life-Based Learning Projects.

Haha, I’m not asking nor expecting teachers to do more. YOU DESERVE A HUGE BREAK.

But if you are planning to set them academic holiday homework, please, DON’T!

There are more meaningful projects they could work on.

Such a powerful opportunity to teach this generation of kids what resilience looks like. What standing up to be counted on means. How to make the most of every situation.

– Find ways to make yourself useful during this month. What creative ideas can our children and youths come up with? Start by brainstorming ideas and narrow it down to a few they would like to take action on.

– Ask your parents how you can help to ease their burdens. My teens are good at giving me suggestions to my work problems and insights from a different perspective, as the online world is their playground. They can also go on Youtube to learn to cook 1 meal per week. Maybe have a class cooking competition to get them excited! And they can post their dishes on the class group chat.

– What can you do for your neighbours, relatives or friends? It could be small acts of kindness or a whole class can brainstorm ways they can reach out to uplift the community. They can make items to sell to their circle of friends and raise funds for a chosen charity. Many charities are experiencing a huge drop in donations.

– How can you find meaning in this? Those students with lots of bright ideas could take charge and channel their energy into meaningful causes. These are the kids who are natural leaders and their apathy in academics could be rekindled through real-world issues.

Now that we have all these tech platforms set up, let’s use them to our advantage.

Baking a cheesecake for dessert

For lower primary students, teachers can pre-upload one short video link on SLS per week for our kids to watch to generate ideas and they can think of acts of kindness for their families that week, and write about it in their journals. It can be the same for the whole level, to ease the workload of teachers. Or even the same nationwide project across all schools!

When I asked Kate to journal daily, or read for 1 hour, she was enthusiastic at first… but now she’s quick to reach for the ipad, and I have given up policing her as it buys me some free time to do my work uninterrupted.

It’s different when it is “homework” given by her teachers!

Many are missing their classmates so much they are meeting on Facetime, Zoom or House party and chatting about random things. It would be wonderful if they could have something meaningful to work on together.

When they return to school they can do oral presentations or show and tell of their drawings or essays elaborating the activities they have been engaged with during the month.

Education Minister Ong Ye Kung was concerned that HBL will widen the gap between those with resources and those without. And he is right.

Our kids are the lucky ones with additional online tuition and intact families. (Luckily Minister Ong was quick to give us this breather if not many relationships will start to go haywire).

Some children are facing physical or emotional abuse at home as the situation gets more and more desperate for families.

What can we do as a society to close the gap? Even an inch?

While the bottom rung is given help, many others go undetected. We are now privy to people’s living rooms and we can help by keeping an eye out for children (or parents) in distress.

Our kids can ask their friends if they have eaten, or share their fears. If we see or hear anything, we should flag it out to their school teachers who can check on them.

As the students work together in small groups, they will start to be aware of the struggles some of their friends in their own class may have. This would naturally lead to them pitching in or offering help in various ways, and create bonds that last.

I wrote in a previous post how my daughter’s eyes were opened when she realised a classmate could not afford to buy the prescribed calculator, and another had a parent in jail. By getting to know their classmates better, they can be a source of support during this time.

We may be snug at the top academically, but how are we faring in a crisis?

There are bigger lessons out there for our kids to learn.

Resilience, adaptability, teamwork, altruism, good judgement, humility, gratitude, prudence, self-regulation and courage.

Now is precisely the right time, in the midst of our biggest challenge as a nation, (and with parents desperate for their kids to be self-occupied) to build a generation of children and youths who can weather the storms together, looking out for one another.

Because otherwise, when do we allocate time for such “non-essentials”? And it will be too late to realise much later, that these were always part of the essentials.

About MummyWee

Michelle is an Occupational Therapist by day and mum of 6 by night. Besides the already very demanding job of managing 5 teenagers and one 6-turning-16 tween, she is also Founder of The Little Executive, a nurturing centre to develop children in areas like resilience and adaptability, to survive today’s volatile world. She also makes time to volunteer with children and the elderly in her community.

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