Back to Online Schooling (COVID in Shanghai, 2022)

Starting this week, all kindergartners, primary schoolers, and middle schoolers in Shanghai have been ordered to stay home and do online lessons again (like back in 2020). This is while all kinds of apartment complexes and other buildings are going into lockdown and the city authorities scramble to regain control of the situation. Staying “COVID zero” under omicron is not so easy!

Back to Online Lessons for Kids

I think it goes without saying that having kids do lessons online is hard for parents. Our school’s schedule is 20 minutes of video lecture followed by 20 minutes of online chatroom interaction, followed by 20 minutes of rest or some homework time. Then repeat. There’s a two-hour break for lunch. While I applaud the school’s fairly realistic expectations for the kids’ attention spans, this schedule absolutely requires a parent’s constant supervision. Parents “working from home” aren’t getting much work done. (I know, this is nothing new to parents in any country who went through the online schooling thing last year and/or in 2020.)

My wife’s comment was, “and they want Chinese households to have three kids? We can barely manage two kids’ studies. Managing these kids’ studies is practically a full-time job.”

Here’s a (not-so-subtly snapped) picture of how one local baozi shop owner is dealing with the situation:

Shop owner's child doing online lessons

The (Brief?) Silver Lining

There is, however, a silver lining that it’s both nice and a little depressing to see. In China, most families live in big apartment complexes. You might think that this means that there are always lots of other kids in the same complex to play with. While there are definitely lots of other kids in almost any complex, under normal circumstances those kids have so much homework and so many extra-curricular activities that they rarely just “play outside” and very rarely play with the neighbor kids. But now that it’s spring, all of the kids are on the same online schooling schedule, and all extra-curriculars are forbidden I’m seeing the neighbor kids all outside playing together for… well, probably the first time ever. And I’m hearing other parents say the same thing about the kids in their own apartment complexes.

And now… Coffee!

Finally, I have randomly chosen these past few weeks to start trying Manner Coffee, an up-and-coming coffee brand in Shanghai. It’s really good! I’m a big fan of the “apple pie” latte (Oatly milk, a little coconut flavor, a little apple flavor, and some cinnamon).

Manner Coffee in Shanghai

John Pasden

John is a Shanghai-based linguist and entrepreneur, founder of AllSet Learning.


  1. Laura Young Says: March 17, 2022 at 5:38 am

    I wonder if free play will continue after covid? How are your kids making friends in normal situations? Is it just school buddies that they talk to at school? Do they have play dates or birthday parties? I am just curious because we would like to volunteer in China after things reopen and expose our daughter more to her Chinese heritage. One of my concerns is how can she meet and make friends. I heard others blog that kids are too busy to play after school, they have too much after school activities or extra learning. Can’t really enroll her in a school in China so don’t know about the friend situation.

    • I doubt it will continue in a major way. Parents see these extracurricular lessons as essential investments in their children’s futures.

      But no, the kids my kids are playing with after lunch (and between online lessons) are not classmates they normally see a lot of. They have almost no playdates under normal circumstances, but there is the occasional birthday party (less than one a month).

      It’s hard for kids to make friends, for sure. Takes a bit of luck.

  2. […] kids continue with online schooling, of course. My kids are fine. In fact, my son (7yo) voluntarily washed his own dishes for the first […]

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