4 life lessons we can learn from homeschooling
As restrictions ease, education expert Dr Selina Samuels shares 4 lessons parents and carers have learned from homeschooling.
Remote education during COVID-19 has given many parents insight into their child's learning – what they're studying, the friction points, perhaps even areas in which they struggle. And although most try to "keep an eye on things" when it comes to their child's homework or overall progress, this period of lockdown has been an intense example of what full-time homeschooling can be like.
While formal homeschooling is a choice some parents make, the coronavirus restrictions meant that most parents found themselves more responsible for their child's day-to-day learning.
This was brought home to me in a recent study we did at Cluey Learning (where I work). We found that an incredible 85% of primary school parents spent at least a couple of hours each day supporting their child's at-home learning during isolation. Of that figure, 30% of parents were dedicating their "whole day" to remote learning.
Although this time came with many pressures, we did realise some of the more beneficial ways children learn – and how these lessons can help guide us all forward.
1. Homeschooling is an opportunity to learn more about your kids
Even if you were lucky enough to be provided with online classes and/or worksheets during the coronavirus restrictions, it's likely you were still the one coaxing and cajoling, checking in and making sure your kids had everything they needed for lessons over the past 12 weeks (or longer).
This is a really significant amount of time, especially for younger students. No doubt you're happy to pass the baton back to teachers, but hopefully you can use the experience to gain some insight into the way your child learns.
For starters, you will have a better understanding of what your child is doing at school, the things they enjoy and the content or subject areas they avoid. You may also have an idea of their attitude towards spelling or numbers and their sense of themselves as learners.
As they head back to classrooms (or continue on with formal homeschooling) you could use this time to take stock of what you have learned about your child – and how you can support them moving forward. For example, engaging extra help for them to support any gaps in their learning or finding ways to provide feedback that helps them to learn from their mistakes.
2. Kids don't just learn from their teachers
A lot of parents feel that their child's learning has suffered during isolation – almost one-third of the respondents in Cluey Learning's study shared this sentiment. What's more, 47% cited a lack of peer-to-peer learning as the biggest educational challenge for their child.
This tells us that kids don't just learn from their teachers, with their peers also playing an important role in their academic progress. Feeling connected to others helps children learn.
In order to maintain this, you might involve older siblings to help with the younger ones' homework or organise small group tutoring, group outings and collaborative learning sessions. As an added bonus, when older siblings help younger ones, they also benefit by consolidating their own learning and developing communication skills.
3. Taking a classroom and simply moving it online doesn't really work
Australian teachers adapted tremendously fast to the change that was forced on all of us and we should heap praise on them for years to come. However, only some students were able to access live-streamed classes during the period. In fact, asynchronous learning methods (i.e. not in real time) in the form of worksheets and pre-recorded sessions were the most common form of delivery in most schools.
This approach is missing the personalised feedback and live elements which really fuel learning. In 2017, when Cluey Learning developed its approach to teaching and learning, we put the emphasis on real-time human connection between the student and teacher.
Looking forward, make sure you take the time to understand how your child is receiving regular feedback. Ask their teacher if they're engaging in class discussions and contributing during group sessions. These can be good indicators of any struggles or confidence issues.
4. Parents can't do it all
When it comes to quality of life, 29% of primary school parents admit at-home learning has negatively impacted them. In light of this, I think it's safe to say that this period of forced homeschooling has given us a better appreciation of the teachers who support our children, while also showing many of us the value of professional assistance.
What's more, we now realise that there's room to rethink the way students learn and how education is delivered. Children thrive when matched with the right support. Thanks to COVID-19, many parents have discovered the benefits of personalised, targeted learning, and perhaps how truly adaptable children can be when we put the right tools in front of them.
Dr Selina Samuels is the Chief Learning Officer at online education company Cluey Learning. She has been in education for over three decades and has been working with schools since 2013 to establish and provide remote education programs across a range of subjects.
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