The accelerating pneumonia epidemic is scary, with people getting sick and with disconcerting casualties. It is very sad and will in all likelihood get worse before it gets better, particularly in Asia where I’ve lived for the last 26 years.
I was living in the Greater China region already during the SARS outbreak in 2003. You can’t help but have a feeling of déjà vu in the grip of another epidemic. Having lived through SARS, I am however comforted by how relatively quickly that was resolved. Well, we beat that virus and we will beat this one. Governments, schools, all of us, have learned a lot since then. This region is resilient and, as you see from the bravery of the people in Wuhan, this region is tough.
On a personal level, the biggest difference this time round is that I have a young family; I’m a husband and father of two Chinese/English speaking bilingual kids, Perry (10) and Elysia (8). Like many other parents, we are anticipating a very disruptive period ahead. Schools in mainland China have been closed until further notice, schools in Hong Kong will be closed until the end of February and schools in Taiwan and Macau will remain closed for now as well. School could be out until mid March or even April, time will tell. Our young kids are excited about the prospect of school being out for weeks, if not months. Needless to say, my wife Maggie and I do not quite share this excitement…!
For all of us parents, what will we do with our kids?
Many companies across the region have taken quick action, allowing staff to work from home where possible. This will go some way to alleviate the difficulty of kids not being at school. Another big difference between 2003 and now is the proliferation of virtual education services. Schools for older students will be able to conduct virtual classes online. For preschoolers and primary students, it will be more challenging.
Notwithstanding our kids’ initial joy that school is out, they need their learning, their routines and their time with friends. As we all know, most kids are happiest when they’re learning, enjoying social interaction and gaining a sense of progress and achievement.
Is there a silver-lining during this difficult time?
My advice to parents would be to see this as an opportunity to spend quality family time with your kids – and to make the most of it. Find productive and educational activities for them to do at home. It is important to keep our young ones motivated, active, engaged in their education and with their minds occupied by things other than worrying news about an epidemic – it will be hard for them too.
We were impressed by and applauded the quick and strong response from the business community in raising money and providing services to help alleviate the situation. Our edtech company Studycat offers online language learning solutions for kids aged 3-8, enabling convenient home learning of foreign languages, literacy and critical thinking, with a huge variety of fun online games, songs and interactive exercises. Our content is specifically aligned to a serious academic curriculum, ensuring that the kids actually learn properly, making real progress while playing and doing exercises. Our solutions are created with the family top of mind, especially suitable for young kids and parents to engage, play, learn and have fun together.
Free usage of our language learning apps
We are still a small company but hope to do our part, making a positive difference for our young ones as this crisis unfolds, and have decided to donate usage of our award-winning Fun Series of language learning apps, teaching English, Chinese, Spanish, French and German, to families in areas where schools are closed, free of charge1. If schools remain closed for longer, we will extend this arrangement.
Play together while you learn
These apps will allow you and your entire family to have fun and play together while you learn. A lot of the games and puzzles encourage creativity and collaboration and children often outperform their parents playing the games, to their delight.
On this website, there are hundreds of creative worksheets to help fill time productively, which you will have access to as well.
On a closing note, we got through SARS, Swine Flu, MERS and now are faced with Coronavirus. Spring, warmth and all the countermeasures taken now will no doubt break the flu cycle eventually. We will prevail and everything will return to normal in a few short, but scary months.
For all people affected, we feel for you and we wish you a speedy recovery. In the meantime, let’s make the most of the time with our kids while schools are closed, helping to motivate them, staying active, learning new things and having fun, turning their minds to something constructive. Life will return to normal quicker than we all think.
We can and will beat this thing. We’re all in this together!
- All languages are available in Hong Kong, Macau and Taiwan on both iOS (via the App Store) and Android (via Google Play). In mainland China, all languages are available on iOS (Apple devices) and English is available for Android devices.