Back to School!

The kids are back to school; albeit virtually. This pandemic has really forced all of us to scramble and look for ways to adapt to the situation. Governments have been caught flatfooted, which has meant many kids missing out on the completion of the school year.

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With community transmissions on the rise here, most probably  public schools will be opening in Jan/ Feb when the new school year is set to begin. 

Private schools have been engaging the government on reopening but one interesting thing to note is that even if the private schools were able to implement all possible Covid- 19 precautionary measures, the government will be reluctant to give them approval for the following reasons; it will be unfair to those in public schools, and there will also be immense pressure on the education ministry to reopen the public schools which are not ready. Keep in mind, some public schools are in such dilapidated states, one wonders where they till start. Some schools do not have running water, roofs, are dilapidated, classes are overcrowded, sanitation is pathetic, and receive little to nothing in terms of  government support, how then will coronavirus transmission be contained? 

As much as education is a basic right, the right to life is more important and our children’s lives must be protected by all means. 

How we educate our children is changing. Even with the emergence of (allegedly) successful vaccines, things will not go back to normal fast. It could mean we have to homeschool our young ones for the first few years before they join face to face classes, as how will they learn effectively via Zoom/ Google classroom? 

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What does this also mean for the working parents or those with none or only one device between them and have more than one child?

My last born is joining Grade 1 and I am very excited but anxious too. This ‘new normal’ means his experience will be completely different from the norm as he has to meet his classmates online. Lucky for us kids adapt easily and I find they might cope with this better than we the adults. 

I am appreciative of the schools’ efforts to maintain learning through this period too through online activities. It is not easy for the teachers too; and we need to remember the hard work they are putting in to transfer the teaching material online, record the instructional videos or teach live. That is no mean feat!

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I have been following some conversations online and as much as some parents are feeling an extra burden, we should not forget the strain on the educators as well. 

I also acknowledge that it is a privilege for those of us whose kids are able to continue learning. We should not take this for granted. Luckily the school is nearby so for the young ones we are getting weekly printed school work packets that are great, as it means less screen time for the kids, which is another worry for many parents. 

For those having the kids home and not in class is also a great opportunity to impart knowledge without the confines of a classroom and rigid curriculum. Life skills; star gazing, learning through play or about nature, cooking, sewing, woodwork etc. There are so many ways we can still educate our children without the usual ‘schooling’. Let them plant flowers or trees, help in cleaning, baking, fixing the car or home repairs, they are still learning invaluable lessons.

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Another important thing we need to do as parents is to mind our language and energy around our children too. Quit complaining about them being home or in class within earshot of your children. Watch the energy we give out too. Children learn more by what we do, NOT what we say. We are anxious but let us try to be optimistic with all that is happening. 

Safety is also paramount. Let us know where our kids are and who they are with. Also online safety, what precautions are we taking during the online classes? Do we sit with the kids or leave them to their own devices? Do we check what they are doing online? Do we talk to them about online dangers? 

Gone are the days when kids were instructed and expected to toe the line without question. These days we have to explain and discuss with them (at their level of understanding obviously) on what is safe, permissible and in line with our values. We are our children’s first educators, whether they are in school or not,  and this time we have with them is best to instil family values that they will never forget. 

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We are living in interesting times indeed.

Quick Grocery Shopping Tips.

Has the way you shop changed in recent times? While some have moved to ordering online or via phone for groceries and having them delivered. For many others, you still have to go out to shop. So, how do we plan around it? How do we keep safe?

Have you noticed your food budget going up? We are all home right now, so we are eating more; you just can’t skip lunch with the kids home. We have to be keen on our shopping lists too to save more as we do not know what the future holds.

Most supermarkets here have sanitizers at the entrance and you cannot get in the store without a mask, which is commendable in reducing the spread of Coronavirus, and the shelves are still well stocked despite slowdown in supply delivery. So what more can we do to keep safe as we shop?

Obviously, make your list in advance. You want to spend as less time as possible in the store. It works even better if you meal plan ahead so you know exactly what to get for the next two weeks or so. Have your budget and try as much as you can to stick to it. Remember we have to save at this time too.

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For fresh produce, plan your meals and shop for what is in season in terms of fruits and vegetables. It is cheaper and you get great value too. Also check for what is on offer and discounts offered. If those ‘buy 3 for 1’ cereals are on offer, buy but check the expiry date too. Only pick what you are sure you will be done with before it gets spoilt in your cupboards.

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If you have to go out, shop in a familiar supermarket. Why? You already know the layout so you will be able to pick things faster. Remember the less time you spend there the better. Also shop in less busier times, either early morning or mid afternoon, there will be less people in the store; so easier to maintain social distance and physical interaction. Remember to keep 6 feet away when queuing too and do not remove your mask at any one time when in there. Also avoid touching what you’re not picking. Except the eggs. My motto when buying eggs is always ‘lift and check’ not just for spoilt or cracked ones, but in case you come across such unpleasant surprises:-

Yes, these are egg trays in one of the supermarkets here with some missing eggs. Lift and check people, lift and check!

Before you stock up on the snacks, check on what you can make at home. There is no point in buying popcorn when you can make it yourself. Crisps, bake them instead for the kids. It wouldn’t hurt to practice heathier snacking habits at this time. So kids craving something sweet, apple slices spread with peanut butter will sort that. Salty craving, sweet potato crisps and plantain chips and homemade popcorn will sort that. Let’s get creative guys!

I know some have tried gardening during this time, which is pretty cool if you have the space. You not only save some money but you are sure of your food source; not worrying bout pesticides and handling. Try planting spring onions, herbs, tomatoes, greens that don’t need a lot of space. So maybe those ‘blossom’ and ‘5 minute gardening hacks’ videos on how to grow from your vegetable waste are onto something after all. It doesn’t hurt to try.

Bulk shopping if you can is the way to go. No, I do not mean picking all the toilet paper rolls, yeast and bleach in the supermarket. Just don’t. Please. Don’t. Pick what you need.

You can stock up on tomato paste, canned tuna, baked beans, long life milk, you know, dry foods that will help you rustle up something in a flash. And of course soap and the usual stuff we buy. Also ask yourself what you really need, canned soups or broths are not hard to make when you have the time, and you can control the salt you put in. Healthy choices people, healthy choices.

By stocking up, you limit going out a lot. Remember limited contact and movement is key in defeating the spread of this deadly virus. If possible have only one person go out instead of going out with the kids to the store.

If you have nobody to leave the kids with, or can’t have deliveries brought to you. You can liaise with your groceries guy to have your stuff ready and all you can do is pick from him or her. You do not have to leave the car. Much safer then entering the store with your little one, right?

Let us do our best to keep ourselves and others safe. Wear a mask properly when out, limit going out, maintain social distance, wash hands, sanitise, keep safe. All this virus needs is one person to be the spark and it spreads like a bushfire.

How have your grocery shopping habits changed in this pandemic?