What Every Parent Should Know About Learning At Home
Schools across the world are shut down. Every day comes with new revelations and predictions on when the world will go back to how we know it. While governments, medical experts and scientists struggle to find answers, parents and children grapple with a new reality…remote learning. An innovative alternative approach to regular schooling. Even though this is a diligent move and perhaps the best alternative in the given circumstances, it has created quite an overwhelming challenge for parents of younger children in particular.
In two shakes parents are tasked with the responsibility of being expert home educators. Schools are trying their best to ensure that the quality of education received through their distance learning platforms matches the quality received through in-class instruction. Despite sincere intentions and thorough efforts this is proving to be a monumental task to achieve. There are multiple challenges students face in the new paradigm of ‘remote-learning’.
Firstly, due to the lack of intervention sessions offered by teachers during regular school days, it is possible that students may lag behind in comprehending core concepts, resulting in learning gaps to grow that will be detrimental for years to come.
Secondly, students may look to collaborate with their peers more intensively during this period, when teachers are less accessible due to limited capacity. This could lead to entire groups of students having inaccurate understanding of concepts based on miscommunication and lack of comprehension. This could result in a shaky foundation of core concepts.
Lastly, students may find distance learning a bane due to the onus it puts on them in terms of self-directed learning and teacher expectations.
Like any other approach to learning, there will be different responses given by students in terms of their learning outcomes. Some will excel with remote learning while others will struggle. As a parent it is now imperative to take the necessary steps to mitigate the risks mentioned above.
Although remote learning and homeschooling models vary slightly, research conducted at Liberty University, Virginia, USA in 2012 concluded that there are 5 major factors that cause parents stress when it comes to homeschooling. These factors are common to remote learning as well and can help parents better understand and navigate during these times.
- An Overwhelming sense of Responsibility
- Maintaining Discipline
- Ensuring Suitable Curriculum
- Stereotypes & Stigmas
- Distractions & Extra Curricular Activities
On the Flip side there were 5 factors that caused the home schooling experience to flourish.
1) Greater Control & Freedom
2) Making the best of Poignant Moments
3) Finding the Right Curriculum
4) Support from Family
5) Support from wider Home-Schooling Community
An Overwhelming sense of Responsibility
In an unforeseen turn of events parents have had to add another role to their mantle. This is stressful for parents, especially for those with older (grade 4-8) children/students whose studies are more complex and hence the stakes are higher. By high-school students should have developed a degree of independence and self-sufficiency it’s the students in elementary and middle school grades that require the most parental support.
Even though, the situation can seem daunting: parents, who exercise the control and freedom being afforded to them now, seem to flourish. The first step for a parent is to understand what his or her child’s needs are and then adopt a plan according to those. Tools such as diagnostic test can explicitly outline the gaps in a student’s knowledge base and create custom-learning paths accordingly. Perhaps the years of in-school standardized instruction has left gaps in your child’s knowledge base. This is a good opportunity to rectify this and become truly involved in your child’s academic journey.
Misbehavior/ lack of motivation from the child can be the most frustrating part of homeschooling for home-educators. In a traditional school setting the teacher and student relation is almost always more impersonal than the parent-child relation. This means it’s markedly easier for schoolteachers to maintain discipline compared to parents engaged in homeschooling. As a home educator you have the opportunity to not only see what your child is learning but also how he or she is learning. Parents who view homeschooling as an act of discipleship and mentorship create an opportunity to understand their child more intimately. You may be able to identify issues your child faces in his or her learning process, or issues in the way he or she views the world or the problems he or she faces. This good opportunity to enrich the parent-child relation and also mold your child’s perspective and outlook with what is more inline with what you think is suitable. Other measures such as a rewards system and schedule may be helpful in motivating your child and helping him or her maintain discipline and a schedule.
Ensuring Suitable Curriculum
With virtual learning in full swing, it is important to recognize that only the medium of teaching is being changed not the content. If you see your child struggling heavily with distance learning. There could be a few possible reasons. It may be that they are not particularly suited to the curriculum they are studying. For example your child may not be suited to the International Baccalaureate’s method of teaching. This could be food for thought when planning out your child’s long-term academic career path in terms of whether or not a change of curriculum would be beneficial.
This would be a severe case; it is more likely that your child has learning gaps, which can be filled by identifying the concepts he or she is weak in. In the current situation student workloads have dropped due to reduced course loads and more time is available as there is no time lost to travel or commute. This is an opportunity to catch-up academically or enhances your competence level. Parents should ensure their children make the use this time in a way that will be beneficial to them in the long run.
Stereotypes & Stigmas
There are plenty of stigmas associated with distance learning especially that of excessive screen times being detrimental for children. The notion that screen time is bad for children is rather misconceived. A study conducted by the Royal College of Pediatrics and Child Health concluded that there are no causal links between screen time and negative outcomes such as: obesity, mental health issues, and loss of health. It is important, however, to make sure that the content being consumed is beneficial. Finding supplementary material that both educates and entertains is a good way to maximize the academic benefits of screen time.
Managing the homeschooling process is strenuous to say the least. Parents and older siblings should all play a role in administration of the child’s distance learning and supporting the child however is necessary.
Distractions & Extra Curricular Activities
With ever decreasing attention spans one of the toughest challenges with distance learning is keeping the child focused. This can be focused through some form of supervision or reward based system. Secondly, schools have cut extracurricular classes and activities. Parents may find it useful to set up their own extracurricular activities such as baking, arts & craft, stay at home exercise or yoga. By doing so you help keep a balance in your child’s life and reduce the chances of burnout. Parents especially mothers may be able to form social media groups on Whatsapp or Facebook to connect with other parents and collaborate and discuss ideas that would be beneficial in the homeschooling process. Forming tight knit communities amongst parents will be mutually beneficial to all and will reap be useful even when schools return to their normal mode of operation.