home-schooling & COVID-19

Parents can just admit that they struggle with a topic when children are home-schooling, then model what a great learner does by jumping in and learning about it together. Laugh with each other when you make a mistake, and celebrate when you get things right!

Dr Bradley Shipway is a lecturer in the School of Education, and teaches Civics and Democracy in the Early Childhood and Primary Teaching degrees.

“For too long our mainstream education system has been focused on “the basics”. Every year we get our Naplan scores back, only to engage in yet another round of hand-wringing about the continuing decline in literacy and numeracy rates” Dr Shipway says.

“The current fashionable response to this is to give our students more explicit instruction, but that’s just a fancy word for rote learning.”

“The problem is that right now we are entering into the 4th Industrial Revolution. Why do we need to be teaching our kids about how to code, when we already have robots that can code other robots?”

Dr Shipway, who is a passionate advocate for home-schooling, believes the current problems offer a powerful “teachable moment” for our children – an opportunity for us to rekindle their natural curiosity about how the world “works”.

“For too long our schools have been too crowded and school life has been too rushed. The curriculum is so full children have no real agency. They don’t feel like they can control anything… it’s the perfect atmosphere for creating disengaged democratic citizens”, says Dr Shipway

“If your child is doing school at home for a while, it can be a great opportunity to let them have an input into what they learn, instead of being dictated to by the formal curriculum, and funnily enough, it’s much more like real life,” he said.

“It’s also incredibly efficient. What takes you six hours to do in mainstream schools can be done in three hours at home.”

Dr Shipway’s number one tip in the current environment is to find out what your children like and allow them do a project on it.

“So, find out what your child’s favourite thing is at the moment. Is it surfing? Then do a project on surfing – when did it start? (History), where is it done and why? (Geography), what are the different shapes for? (Maths), what does it feel like to catch a wave? (English). Even if their favourite thing is the dreaded video gaming, the same tactic applies. How, when and where did video games start? Why do so many people like them so much? What are some good things and bad things about them? What might they look like in the future?”

With any interest that your child has, it will already be full of maths, English, science, history, geography, arts.

“It’s just a matter of asking the right questions to help bring all that out”, explains Dr Shipway tells all those parents who are wondering how to handle home schooling.
He also says there are many teachable moments that we miss every day because we are just not accustomed to looking out for them.

Another tip Dr Shipway talks about is including children in cooking while in home schooling.

“How about just starting to include your kids in the cooking? There’s so much maths that happens in the kitchen it’s not funny, and cooking is actually chemistry” says Dr Shipway.

“Even when you’re just watching TV you can pause it and ask them things about the motivations and actions of the characters: ‘See how that person treated the other person, how would you do it differently? Why do you think they acted that way?’. Just simple questions like these, asked at the right time, can teach important critical thinking skills.”

For parents who worry about home schooling thinking that if they’re not good at something, they can’t teach it, Dr Shipway says if they’re willing to sit down and struggle alongside the student and learn together, then learning becomes incredibly powerful.

Painting home-schooling as fun, Dr Shipway clarifies that those parents who may struggle with a topic can just admit and then model what a great learner does by jumping in and learning about it together.

“Laugh with each other when you make a mistake, and celebrate when you get things right” adds Dr Shipway.

Home-schooling will mark a new beginning for many parents as well in this new world of COVID-19’s making!

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