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Keep learning in challenging times

By Julie Lemley, ISB Innovative Programs Leader

If you are a parent in Beijing right now, you are being challenged (and here’s a virtual hug). A mere two and a half weeks ago, life was fairly normal – we were finishing up a short stint of school and work between Winter Break and Chinese New Year and we were excited thinking about our Chinese New Year plans – being with family, eating delicious food, and some more relaxation time. Then, we started hearing more about the coronavirus… 

International schools were told that we are not going to re-open until we receive further guidance from the Beijing authorities. And since then, we have gone through the gamut of emotions, decisions on whether to stay or go and watching media from sources within China all over the world. We are trying our best, with no clear end in sight. It has been hard.

Now, many of these emotions are still very much alive and we are feeling up, down, and all around on a regular basis. And now, our kids are at home with us and have started “eLearning” while we are trying to work AND keep it all together. This is definitely not easy. With two working parents and two kids at our house, Monday was exhausting. We were trying to figure out our “new normal” and when everything is dependent on technology and there is information coming from multiple sources, it was a lot. I’m sure all ISB community members felt it too.

As parents, we want what’s best for our kids. What can we do? And, what can we do to support them and stay sane and healthy ourselves?

Here are some ideas:

·      Talk to your kids! They’re stressed. Many of them are hearing us talk about what’s going on and are scared about the virus and being locked in. They are sad that they have missed basketball games, APAC tournaments, recitals, concerts, and they may be thinking about what more they will potentially miss in the coming weeks. They miss their friends. They miss the autonomy they have when they walk out the door every morning for school. Let them vent a bit. Ask them what they are happy about or what they are worried about and let them know it’s okay.

·      Give them space! Many of us are spending most of our days in one location – houses, apartments, or even hotel rooms, some of which are only temporary, and that is really challenging. While it’s good to check in on your kids, give them breaks. Let them go listen to music and tune out in their rooms. Don’t make them sit and work behind their computers all day. Make sure they are taking time off and give them some room.


Give them some new responsibilities! Use this opportunity to have them contribute more at home. My children have learned to do their own laundry the past week. They’ve learned to make new foods and they have more chore expectations than usual. It’s good for them to learn more life skills and also contribute to the family.

·      Keep them social! Make sure your children are chatting with friends. Most of our children are communicating with their friends via school tasks through Seesaw, Dragons’ Exchange, email, Flipgrid or the countless other amazing tools teachers are using to promote social, engaging learning. Face-to-face contact is important too – not just WeChat or Instagram messaging – make sure they are having direct contact with friends and family, so they are chatting with people outside of your house too.

·      Encourage exercise! This is challenging. Most of us are self-quarantining, but when the weather is nice, get out for a family walk. Do the PE personal fitness activities sent by their teachers as a family. Do a yoga or HIIT workout together. It’s amazing what a little exercise can do for the mind and soul.

·      Keep to a schedule! While most of us can do school and work in our pajamas, try to keep to a timetable. Keep a reasonable bedtime for your family. Eat meals together. Make sure everyone isn’t connected to their devices all day.

·      As for us parents, these are all important points too. We should make sure we are talking to people to validate our feelings and relieve stress. Ask for help! We are part of an amazing community. We are all together in this and all we want is what’s best for our kids. If you need help, there are so many people here willing to provide it – our leadership team, teachers, counselors, support members, and fellow parents.

We are in this together. As the common Chinese phrase of encouragement goes, “Jiayou!”

ISB is an extraordinary school, made so by a tradition of educational excellence spanning 40 years. Establishing, nurturing, and growing such an exceptional learning community has been and remains intentional; we work hard to build strong relationships so our learning is at its best.

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