The Ontario Ministry of Education has been releasing official announcements related to public schools in the province since the World Health Organization declared the COVID-19 pandemic on March 11, 2020. Each announcement has led to another phase in remote teaching and learning in Ontario.
Needless to say, the news that my public library was closed until further notice came as a shock to me. I came across a Facebook post notifying the public of this decision made by the municipality in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. Both the library closure and the decision by the Ontario minister of education to close all publicly funded schools and child care centres after March break made me curious to know which online resources would be available to assist me and other parents like me who now find themselves with home-schooling responsibilities.
I went looking for information, and this is what I found.
Free e-resources for home-schoolers
There are a number of free online resources available for parents and kids who home-school:
- Learn at home administered by the Ontario Ministry of Education.
- The Ontario curriculum.
- The Ontario Federation of Teaching Parents offers some resources to help parents new to home-schooling.
- Raising A to Z is a YouTube channel by an Ontario teacher and home-schooling mom.
- Peppermint stick is a blog by a home-schooling mom who develops unique Canadian curriculums and other resources for parents who are just starting home-schooling.
- Raising royalty offers an emergency list of online educational games and apps compiled by a single mom who has home-schooled six children while working from home.
Public libraries are definitely doing their best to let the community know about the electronic resources that they provide. I have seen an increase in social media reminders from public libraries advertising e-resources available to their members, including online membership registration. In terms of this home-schooling adventure, I have found library e-resources that are proving useful. My favourites so far have been TumbleBooks for reading and math, PebbleGo for interactive games, and Mango Languages for second-language practice.
I am fortunate that I am able to apply my library programming experience to home-schooling my child—this training is helping me develop a routine and appropriate learning activities for my child. But like I told my cousin, who is less experienced at providing instructions, “Don’t stress yourself out that you need to teach all day.” Even one or two hours of school per day is good at home. Here are some of my tips:
- Keep it simple. Give the children something to write or colour; read a book or newspaper with them or tell a story and write it down; and give them something to count, add, subtract, multiply or divide.
- Focus on science, technology, engineering, art and math.
- Scientific activities include the elements earth, water, fire and wind. For example, making rainbows by blowing bubbles outside.
- Engineering means building things, such as a cardboard-box car.
- Art includes the performing arts, so learning to play a musical instrument or reciting a poem counts.
- Technology is all around us, basically anything that is a machine. There is much value in teaching children how devices are made or how to use them.
My big giveaway is that repetition is the mother of learning, so repeat the same activity three times or more so that your children can see themselves improving at it.
Job seeking during COVID-19 pandemic
The news of public and academic library closures also impacted me significantly as a job seeker since these two areas offer the majority of employment opportunities available to librarians. It is no secret that I was already at home for months before public health authorities ordered people across the nation to stay home and self-isolate. The time passed very quickly, now that I look back on it.
I have continued my job search online, in anticipation of the time when our society returns to normal, and even received a response from an interview that I had just before the lockdown. I did not get the job, but the good news is that someone else did. It means that some library staff are able to work remotely during this pandemic. This reality inspires me to keep applying for positions that will start when the lockdown ends. For now, due to my status as an immunocompromised person, I will interview for jobs remotely, via video call if necessary.
Time to clean, plant and stay positive
In addition to job searching and planning educational activities for my little one, I am keeping busy with other activities in this time of pandemic.
My main priority is to make sure that we stay healthy. I am cleaning and disinfecting my home more frequently; eating foods to boost my immunity; and following the directives given by public health authorities on the best practices to control the spread of the novel coronavirus, especially handwashing and practising social distancing.
I am also taking the time to do some things that I just enjoy. I am saving and sowing seeds to plant vegetables in my garden after the last frost date, and I am gathering equipment and supplies to restart my hobby of soap making.
Keeping busy in good ways boosts my morale—always important during a job search but doubly now that my options for looking for work are more limited. I have heard that there is light at the end of this tunnel, and I am looking forward to it.
Rhea Smith graduated from the MLIS program at the University of Western Ontario in June, 2019. She has worked in government, academic, public and law libraries. Currently, she is Chair of the OLA’s Cultural Diversity & Inclusion Task Force. Rhea can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org and/or at linkedin.com/in/rhea-smith-61952525/.