Life in the time of COVID-19

We are under lockdown. Schools have been closed. People are working from home. Non-essential businesses are closed. Restaurants are takeout or delivery only. I’m going to try to update this blog a bit with what’s happening in our locked-down house with two kids aged 6 and 8, one in first grade, the other in third grade, and me forced to homeschool them.

Luckily with the third grader, his teachers have been familiar with the online world for a while now. They’ve been running a class website for a few years, the kids use Google Classroom and a variety of online apps and websites like Newsela, Seesaw, iChineseReader. So really, it’s a bit like being in school. The first grade teachers had to scramble over the weekend, making videos of the work they do in class, like the writing of the Chinese characters and Math work. First of all, I should explain that my kids attend a Mandarin immersion programme in a public elementary school. They start off in kindergarten with 90% Mandarin, 10% English, and every year, the Mandarin percentage decreases slightly, so in first grade it is 80-20 Mandarin-English, and with the third grader, it’s 60-40.

So in terms of Math work, it’s all in Mandarin, but their books are the standard California Common Core texts in English. Quite a few parents don’t actually speak Mandarin so it’s helpful to have the kids watch the Mandarin-language Math videos from their teacher. In my case, I learnt Mandarin as a second language (or as Singapore calls it, Mother Tongue), since Primary One until I was 18. But everything else taught in Singapore was in English, so I am a bit clueless when it comes to teaching Math in Mandarin.

The teachers have done an amazing job in such a short time and the parents have also been helping each other out, starting WhatsApp groups and asking questions and getting answers.

And the variety of online activities we have these days, we work on Mystery Science videos and activities (you can sign up for a free account valid until June), we watch Brainpop videos (also has free access for those with closed schools) and answer their quizzes. I’ve also resorted to Netflix which has Mandarin language options for some kids shows like Magic School Bus – it’s a combination of science class and Mandarin class!

We take time to go out and have some exercise and fresh air – the PE teachers have asked us to keep a log of sorts for at least 20 minutes of physical education a day. And reading time of course. But sometimes we just need a random break, so we dance, we sing, we jump around, we check on classmates via Zoom conference call.

How are things going on your side of the world? Let me know how you’re doing!