Homebound... An opportunity for parents and children to learn differently
My mother and I were chuckling at a video of my niece’s new home-schooling routine, encapsulated by a moment in which she sits in front of her laptop, screaming numbers in response to a math teacher’s questions. Her answers are only amplified and made more adorable by a chorus of classmates’ voices emanating from her laptop, screaming at a similarly jarring decibel.
Waxing philosophical about this short video, we continued to talk about the ways in which schools are having to adapt their modes and methods as this pandemic unfolds, and my mother explained that she believed this was a fascinating opportunity and challenge—a time for schools and classroom teachers to support parents as they assume the role of primary, weekday educator.
Though this pivot that teachers and parents are having to make is absolutely exhausting and unexpected, it could be a great time for them to partner in the study of children’s preferred learning styles and natural gravitations. It may be a time ripe for success for the child who ordinarily struggles against the structure of traditional classrooms and frontal learning. It may be his or her time to thrive. And it may also be a parent or caregiver’s time to unearth untapped educator strengths—to find an inner confidence about one’s own capacity to teach.
When I was a classroom teacher, I often found that parents deferred to the “experts,” believing that content mastery was the key to superior educator skills. But parents and caregivers are privy to more holistic and diverse views of their children, and I so often wanted them to lean into their own “content mastery” and more confidently partner in the education of their children. I also wanted them to use the tools at their disposal—chiefly, the comforts of home—to aid their children’s learning processes. Parents can use laughter, play, favorite hiding places, backyards, breakfast nooks and all of the magical spaces and coziness of home to make learning, in whatever form it takes—whether casual discussion, activities or pen-to-paper textbook exercises—more inviting and empowering. And now is a moment for teachers to be imaginative and encouraging about the use of home and family as the building blocks of great education.
And if, as we so often say, it is best to “teach a child according to his or her way,” it may also be best for parents and caregivers to find their unique educator voices. Maybe teachers can encourage parents to use this as an opportunity to be the equivalent of classroom aides, closely following the virtual learning curriculum developed by their children’s schools. Or maybe, instead, they can leave that portion of the day’s learning to the onscreen professionals while, during breaks and throughout the evenings, they will masterfully narrate the chores and activities in which they involve their children. Like a true student of Mr. Rogers, my own mother used to carefully explain every step of our food preparation and relinquished control during our trips to the post office—no matter how much my assuming primary responsibility slowed her afternoon of errands—all for the sake of learning.
So, teachers—how will you encourage parents to be primary educators at this time? How can you help them explore their strengths and weaknesses as they look to you for advice in tackling this overwhelming challenge? Send me an email and let me know.
Malka Fleischmann is the Director of Knowledge and Ideas for The Jewish Education Project.