Due to the global pandemic an unprecedented number of families will be learning at home this fall. For many, it is an intimidating prospect. Balancing academic work, mental health and well-being, and the everyday chores of life is a tall order.
But there is one thing that will make or break at-home learning:
So I'm here to encourage you to make your relationship with your child(ren) the first, second, and third priority of your educational plan this fall. If you do, everything will be alright.
And here is why and how to nurture that essential aspect of life...
There are no educational emergencies.
Children are natural born learners. Infants learn to crawl, walk, run, jump, talk, and eat and drink. It serves their survival and well-being and springs from an inner pool of curiosity.
As children grow, curiosity-driven learning does not necessarily die. But as parents we notice that what our children are curious about doesn't always dovetail with academic learning. And that makes us uncomfortable. It sure would be nice if my child was curious about their math worksheet, wouldn't it?
Instead, they are curious about video games, TV shows, or playground play. And I'd like you to pause and imagine all the ways reading, writing, arithmetic, science, history, and art emerge from untraditional places. For instance, I've seen this:
- a dyslexic learns to read because Minecraft manuals are not offered as audiobooks
- writing, spelling, and grammar are learned from typing to communicate game play strategy
- creativity explodes when a child wants to re-imagine how a TV show story unfolded
- scientific inquiry happens at the playground as our kids play with swings, slides, balls
- talk about civics and government arises in the car when you drive past a beggar
The list goes on and on.
Just because their learning does not produce neatly-answered worksheets or a five paragraph essay does not mean they aren't learning. It just means that the evidence of their learning is harder to capture.
Children learn every single day even if we don't teach them or recognize the learning when it happens. That is why I believe there are no educational emergencies.
(For more and a different perspective, read "There are no educational emergencies" by the Brave Writer here.)
Three relationships to consider.
So if you accept that there are no educational emergencies then you can take your time working from the ground up. Here's what I mean...
In any learning endeavor there are three entities to consider:
None of these should be neglected. You need to take care of yourself so you can be in the right frame of mind to approach your child and learning a subject with them. The subject needs to be considered, even briefly, before you step toward it - find books, videos, or experiences to scaffold your conversation with you child about it. And your child will need to feel cared for and content before he or she or they are ready to spend time with you learning a subject.
So cultivate patience, establish good self-care, and do some research into whatever it is that you will be learning about. Make sure your child is well-rested, nourished, and feels cared-for and connected. Once you, your child, and the subject have been considered in and of themselves, you can approach learning from a relationship standpoint.
There are three relationships in any learning endeavor:
- The relationship between the teacher and the student
- The relationship between the teacher and the subject
- The relationship between the student and the subject
If your relationship with your child is tight, then the triangle becomes skinnier. Hand in hand, you and your child can approach the subject together.
For example, if you are tight with your child and you both will be learning about trucks, then you might read aloud a book about trucks to him or her or them and have "aha!" moments together. Then you will go outside together and notice trucks, where they work, what they do, etc. Together you will develop a repertoire about trucks. (This is what happened to me when my toddler was interested in working machines. I was not "tight" with trucks, so I had to learn about them from scratch and alongside my son. But it also applies to academic work!)
If your relationship with the subject is tight and your relationship with your child is tight, then you will have even less of a traverse to make for your child to develop understanding of that subject! I happen to be tight with mathematics. I see it everywhere so I point it out when we are on nature walks, driving to karate lessons, or cooking together. You will have the easiest time teaching the subjects you are tight with. Whether it is reading, sports, computer coding, or art, make the most of it!
Having success teaching a subject about which you are passionate is an important buoy. So celebrate the learning that happens whenever it happens. That will make your relationship with your child stronger. And with a strong relationship with your child, you will be able to approach any subject (even the ones that seem daunting) with confidence and courage.
The Most Important Relationships in Your Life
There are a lot of resources out there to help you cultivate a great relationship with your child. And when you do, you will reap the rewards of easy, enjoyable, and effective learning.
So take it easy on yourself and your family, breathe deep, and put your energy into the most important relationships in your life - your relationship with yourself and your relationship with your child. Then you can approach the subject together. Everything else will follow.
Explore Resources for Help with Social-Emotional Learning
If you would like more support for social-emotional development for your family, I highly recommend these resources:
- Love Languages by Dr. Gary Chapman: "This revolutionary concept has improved millions of relationships across the globe. The premise is simple: different people with different personalities express love in different ways. Gary called these ways of expressing and receiving love the “5 Love Languages.” They are Words of Affirmation, Acts of Service, Receiving Gifts, Quality Time, and Physical Touch. Each individual has at least one language that they prefer above the other… and this is where it gets interesting."
- Relationships by Happily Family: "Welcome! You’ve come to the right place if you want to create a strong, loving relationship with your kids. You don’t have time to read all the books about brain science, child development and psychology. You've heard that studies show punishments and rewards are not effective in the long term. You feel lost when your kids melt down or when they don’t 'play nicely.'"
- Lives in the Balance by Dr. Ross Greene: "We have some ideas. Ideas about how behaviorally challenging kids should be understood and about how to treat them in ways that are more compassionate and effective. Ideas about treating all kids in ways that are non-punitive, non-adversarial, and collaborative, and that teach them skills on the better side of human nature. And ideas about how to advocate to change things for the better. Get to know us!"
No one should stress over worksheets so I wrote the guide for learning math from everyday life...because when the world is your classroom you are free to learn math that matters.
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