By Roger Broadie
Whatever other impacts the COVID-19 virus may have on education systems, there will be a big impact on parents which is likely to change attitudes.
Children going to school has allowed parents to take a more or less peripheral interest in their children's education. While most parents are interested and helpful, they largely just go along with what the school decides their children should learn and with how this learning should happen.
With many children now not going to school parents are discovering how willing their children are to do work set by the school and how engaging and possible they find this. And without peer incentives or the structure of classes children will dictate the pace of days. There will only be a few parents who manage to impose anything like a 'school day' at home. That kind of expectation needs to be built from birth, it cannot suddenly be imposed on a 'normal' family relationship.
Many parents will question the purpose of schools attempting to get their pupils to follow some kind of school curriculum at home. And many will question the value of aspects of that school curriculum, reflecting on whether they still remember learning such things and whether they have any current importance in their life.
Once through the first week of attempts to do as school asks, with very mixed success, I strongly suspect parents' concern will move to the matter of how to keep their children gainfully employed for at least part of the day. This will be reinforced by their children regularly proclaiming "I'm bored!", and perhaps by their own boredom as well. Watching TV palls after a while.
As this process works through, what should parents be advised to do?
I suggest we should first of all make it clear to parents that schools will inevitably have to re-teach things required by tests and exams as these get re-instated, which will reveal just how important many of the things schools teach actually are. And which just get ignored.
And to suggest to parents that what is most important is to help their children maintain desire to learn and confidence in their learning and creative abilities. A sensible plan for parents could be:
- Establish a definite getting up time. And a standard of dress, not pyjamas.
- Require something to be produced during the morning: writing, a drawing, a lego or cardboard model, a search history of something being researched, a video that explains something (even if it's an analysis of where the cat likes to sleep). And shown to parents just before lunch.
- Require some household job to be done during the day - there is bound to be something that needs cleaning.
- Lunch, as a fixed point in the day, at a set time, with some real food eaten. And possibly some creative help in making lunch an interesting moment in the day, with their help in producing it. Artistic arrangement of food on a plate works well.
- In the afternoon, establish a time to talk about “something I have learnt today". And to make a plan for tomorrow. It's good to wake up knowing there is something you intend to do that day.
- In the evening some multimedia reading, on screen or paper; you can find out about anything on YouTube. With a standard question in the morning, what did you read/watch/listen to last night? And with the parent listening with interest, even if what was read was my little pony or something about violent films - this is part of seeing them up and dressed in the morning, enjoying a bit of breakfast.
Perhaps when parents have done this for some weeks they will become more aware of, and more questioning of the curriculum the school provides, and whether it represents a good education, or just schooling to fill the school day.