Building Foundational learning skills in children, at home

The kids have been home for almost two months and by all measures it seems like the idea of school that we have experienced so far will be vastly different in the post pandemic world. Schools are still working and teachers still need their jobs, they are doing everything they can to keep the system running and the children prepared for returning to the classrooms at some point. While initially it seemed like a great idea to move teaching online the reality has proven very different especially because it involves parental participation to a great extent which parents are not prepared for.

The idea of homeschooling seems too hard and we are struggling to keep up with it all. Although logically if you think about it learning shouldn’t be so hard, not on the child and not on the adult. Our curriculum and system is designed for the classroom, homeschooling is a completely different idea.

 

Art for learning
Learning through art

The way, the means, the delivery and the outcomes of homeschooling can be different from what happens in the classroom setting. As parents juggling so many things right now, as adults with social, financial and emotional needs right now I think we should at least be able to ease out on the schooling bit.

Instead we can focus on the tenets or skills of learning that don’t require schooling but rather build independence in the child. What are these skills and why should we focus on these?

What qualities have helped us learn? (I’m not talking about math but focus on things like cooking or driving for that matter).

Attention, focus, concentration, practice, comprehension, reasoning etc are what help us learn in the long term. How about we help our children build these key skills during this time? Skills that will help them aid in learning when they go back to the classrooms.

 

Attention, focus, concentration – involving children in everyday activities that require focus like cleaning the car, baking, reading, any form of involved play, art all help in building your child’s attention and improve concentration levels. This in turn will help them focus when classroom education resumes. It also sets the stage for the other learning skills. We do a lot of art or nature play ourselves and helps the kids stay at a table for over 30 minutes. Then after spurts of movement we come back to the table over an hour and a half typically completing one art project, study session or cooking.

 

Understanding and comprehension – Any form of communicative experience that requires instruction and execution will support this. Are you gardening or building a fort together, talk through it divide the tasks and provide specific instruction for your kids to follow. ‘Would you like to make the roof while I make the walls? How can we make this taller?’ No matter what we do with our kids what matters is how we communicate with them to better their comprehension or understanding skills. Help them speak and give you instructions in turn ‘ how are you cutting that, what would you like me to do? Role reversal is a great way to help your child take the lead.

Self regulation – This aspect of learning is what I’ve found to be most effective at home. Are they able to transition between activities easily? Can they handle disappointment? Are they able to manage their emotions well when their need is not immediately met? Establishing chores is a good way to manage this, I have found giving my children a task each and asking them to execute everyday has helped a lot. It could be as simple as cleaning the table after each meal or start the laundry, clean up after play or activities, establish specific screen times. When children know what to expect they learn to regulate better. Throw in some sensory play to help calm them when emotions are running high – kinetic sand, rice / lentil bins, oobleck, art supplies – paints, crayons and pastels all work great.

 

Memory – Extended play, read and recall, hands on learning, repetition and practice are natural tools to improve memory.

Gross and fine motor coordination – This is in fact one of the most fun things to do in the home setting. Everything from shelling peas to squeezing lemons can improve gross and fine motor coordination. Allow the child to participate in daily activities that you will have to anyway do at home and you will be giving them a chance to improve their coordination.

Creativity – this is a personal favourite. Most children during regular times have very structured days consisting of school, classes, sessions etc but now we are in a completely at home setting this offers a new opportunity to discover where the child’s interests lie. Allow them time during the day to do something of their choice, build a hobby, research and talk to them about it during dinner. Allow them complete autonomy over this and only offer guidance when asked. We ourselves do a lot of art and nature adventures since the kids are used to it and we do have the supplies already. Art helps us unwind and release some energy as well.

I think the most important thing right now is for us to be present when we are with them. Trust their choices and allow them the time and space to enjoy themselves while picking up the skills that will help them catch up with school work when the time comes.

Forcing the idea of schooling at home doesn’t seem like an ideal solution for everyone concerned especially the children. For all we know this maybe the beginning of a change in the way we look at education for the future.

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