Home Learning 2020
I'd like to thank MUMZ for inviting me as a panelist on 20th August. MUMZ is a fabulous group for mothers who are entrepreneurs based in Hong Kong. And their MUMZ TALK series is a brilliant platform that brings experts in their fields together to answer those burning parent-child relationship questions.
As there were quite a few busy mothers, with children in primary and lower secondary, who could not make the live session, here are some of the tips I talked about.
TIP 1: You are not the teacher.
It might be hard to accept that we don't need to correct or improve all of our child's work or answer all their questions while they are home learning. An important thing to remember is that you are the parent. And that's a whole different relationship to a pupil-teacher relationship.
So what do you do if your child has problems with their work? If the question is not related to their school work or content, go ahead and support your child. But if it is, 'I don't know how to do this,' or 'I can't answer the question,' or 'I don't know what my teacher said,' well then, contact the classroom teacher. Encourage your child to ask their teachers questions. It seems simple enough but this very act teaches them to be a little bit more autonomous with their learning. You do not want to be their crutch. You will not be there in the classroom when school resumes face-to-face lessons. Instead, they would be raising their hands and asking questions.
With little ones, most teachers know that they will not be able to sit still for too long, so most lessons are created with that in mind. It is ok for your child to stand up whilst online. It is ok for them to move around a little whilst online. If it is not, the teacher should/would be the one to call them on it.
You do not need to sit by your child as they learn. Being in the room or around the house is good enough.
Of course, setting rules and boundaries are also necessary. The meshing of home and school has been difficult, confusing and at times, frustrating. So negotiate what is acceptable and unacceptable behaviour. Create a reward chart so your child can 'see' their good behaviour and progress.
As a parent, our job is to create, as far as possible, a safe and suitable environment for our child to learn in. A simple desk, chair, writing materials, and an electronic gadget is what most children need. Want to make it even more special? Why not try creating a sign
together for your child's workspace? 'Call in progress', 'Genius at Work', 'Brain hard at work'.
Also, children thrive on routines. So write or print out their study schedule. Mark out the lessons, break times and fun times. In my home, we love crossing out the tasks we have completed on our homes learning schedule.
Remember, academic teaching is mostly the teacher's job. Helping your child be ready to learn is yours.
TIP 2: Developing responsible and autonomous learners
I know it can be hard to let certain things go. As parents, it is understandable that we want the best for our child. So bear in mind that one of the most important lessons we can help our children learn is how to be responsible for their own learning. There are many levels to developing a responsible and autonomous learner.
First, observe how your child learns - do they need to write to remember? Do they respond well to audio or visuals? Do they enjoy doodling and using colours in their work? Do they need to get up and move after 30 minutes? Do they enjoy experiments and putting things together?
Help your child understand how they are learning. Children need to know that they are in charge of their own thinking, learning and behaviours.
You can kickstart the process of becoming responsible and autonomous learners at home.
You may have prepared the study area and materials on days 1, 2 and 3. How about now giving that responsibility over to your child? Try asking them (gentle) questions to help trigger the preparation process.
- Shall we check today's timetable?
- What do we need for today's learning?
- What might you like to eat at break time, A or B?
As schools focus on inquiry-based learning, we can, as parents, encourage and extend that process. Encourage thinking and reflection using guiding questions.
For older learners
- Tell me about your (Maths, English, etc) lesson.
- What 2 things did you learn?
- What would you have liked to find out/learn more about today?
- How did Ms X / Mr Y help you understand today's lesson?
- How do you feel about today's lessons?
- What helped you learn today?
- Is there anything you wold improve, include, use to help you with tomorrow's learning?
For younger learners
- Your teacher read you a story. Who was in the story? What was it about?
- Let's draw a character from the story.
- I like the song you learnt. Let's sing it together.
- I know you are probably tired of being in front the screen. Let's do a dance/move around/play a game.
- Please teach me how to...
Note: children will need time to think of their answer and formulate a response. This wait time is really important. Their brains are still growing and the connections or synapses are working hard so give them time to think. Also, do not bombard them with questions. Pick one and allow the conversation to flow.
TIPS 3: Scaffold the learning
As a teacher trainer, I am a big advocate of scaffolding teaching and learning. As parents we need to move away from our assistance mode to guidance mode. Yes, it is easier said than done. Children learn from adding on to their prior knowledge. Similarly, as we learn to guide our children during home learning, we, too, are building upon our prior knowledge in parenting.
So what is 'assistance mode'? This refers to the 'doing' mode - doing things for our children, doing their homework, getting them to do the things we want - lots and lots of doing goes on.
In 'guidance mode', as parents we gently manoeuvre our children through questions, providing opportunities for failure and learning to take place; we help them manage negative feelings about learning; we praise good effort and perseverance.
Think of scaffolding like this:
When we learnt to walk and our body understood balance, so we tried running and skipping and jumping and climbing and cycling. Then we learnt our ABCs, so started spelling words, constructing sentences, and now we write emails, prepare presentations and read novels.
Learning is a life long process and we are all so very eager to get our children to the finishing line whether they are ready or now. Every child is different. Every child will need different tools in a different order to get to that finishing line.
Help your child get to that finishing line by building upon their prior knowledge, using their internal resources and abilities. Ask thinking, open-ended questions. Provide engaging tasks and activities. Repetition makes for quicker mastery of a skill. But most of all, with home learning, we are in it together.
I'd love to hear your comments or ideas about how you and your family are coping with home learning. Thanks Ekta Tejwani for this opportunity.