It's not the resources, it's how you use them
As we’ve gotten to spend more and more time supporting parents to successfully navigate this new world of home learning, what has become evident is that in most cases families are not wanting for educational resources. There are now so many digital resources available for free and schools are doing an excellent job providing access to their materials. In most cases, kids have learning plans and are not wanting for things to do.
In many cases, parents have a clear understanding of work expectations and have been getting regular communication from teachers. They are able to look up weekly or daily assignments and help track their child’s progress in order to better support them with work completion. In this sense, these families have some support in understanding how to use all the resources that are available to them.
What few parents are receiving is guidance around how else to support their child’s learning at home. Parents need more help in understanding some of the foundational components of learning that we use in schools all the time. Here are our three keys to successful home learning for parents.
Keep it Positive - Educators all know the importance of creating a positive culture in the classroom, using Positive Behavior Systems (PBS), and building relationships with students. However, in some cases what has been interpreted by parents is that they just need to manage their child’s engagement with the teacher and their child’s work completion. This is leading to a lot of conflict as parents attempt to “hold their child accountable” for the work being assigned. As educators we don’t just create a discipline system in our classroom, we start with creating a positive culture that prevents much of the need for discipline. We need to help parents develop their own positive systems at home or support them in using their existing system to help facilitate learning from home.
Meet Students Physical and Emotional Needs - As educators we understand the importance of brain breaks, state changes, physical movement, and social interaction in learning. In this new state of education, it is easy for students to get little of all of those things. Imagine a student sitting in front of a screen for long periods of time with little real interaction and then completing additional work on their own. Parents tell us that one of the biggest surprises for them from our training is just understanding some of these basic needs in a learning environment. Once we talk about the need to take breaks, add physical movement, and foster virtual social interaction, parents have an aha moment. Of course we need those things to be happy and successful!
Keep it Simple - while this applies to the first two areas described above, we also need to help parents create some simple systems for students that are foundational to effective learning. First, we all know the importance of organizing our materials and space. This will look really different from family to family, but helping parents help their child organize those two things is a critical first step to learning. Second, we need to support parents in creating a daily schedule and other routines. We all know the importance of routines in classes, but we can’t assume families all use routines. We’ve heard from parents that this alone made their lives so much easier, because having a schedule spelled out made them all feel less uncertain about what to do. Lastly, we need to help parents co-create a simple task management system for students. How will they track assignments? Connecting with the teacher’s system for giving assignments and then having a shared system that both the parent and student can access keeps everyone on the same page and prevents conflict between parents and their child on what they should be doing.
If we want home learning to be successful, we need to provide parents with the support they need to make it happen. While resources are important, the underlying keys of positivity, physical and emotional needs, and simple organizational systems are foundational to successfully using the resources and engaging in learning.