Radhakrishnan C, Principal, Hillside School, Hyderabad: Calls parents to help children learn at home

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Radhakrishnan C

“I have never let my schooling interfere with my education.” – Mark Twain

After the closure of schools on account of COVID-19 threat, parents are very anxious about what will happen to the education/schooling of their kids. As a parent of two school-going kids, I take this as an opportunity to experiment with developing self-learning habits and life skills necessary to thrive in the upcoming years. From the above-stated quote of Mark Twain, we can understand that education is not merely learning what is prescribed in the standardized curriculum to appear for standardized exams to get certified.

Education is not just sitting in the classrooms, listening to teachers and following the rules. Since, we have gone through a systematized, structured and compartmentalized schooling system and our busy occupation with our professional life, we forgot to introspect on what should be the components of real education.

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Some of us excelled at learning what was offered and then thought, wow! I am so smart. This perception has made us repose our faith in the traditional twentieth-century schooling system which has emerged during the industrial revolution. Education has much wider implications.

Education – A Wider Perspective:

It’s high time for all stakeholders to understand that education is not only for preparing kids to become a professional or an entrepreneur, but also for making them a good human being who can be compassionate, kind-hearted, accommodate differences, involve in spiritual and philanthropic activities, and above all serve the needy.

In a nutshell, education is a journey towards creating footprints or legacies on this planet. If we accept this as the ultimate goal of education, we can’t restrict educating our kids to the four walls of classrooms or schools. It has to be a partnership between the school, the parents, the community and the government. But this partnership has broken during the last few decades due to various reasons like the busy nature of parents’ professional life, societal compulsions and aspirations, political compulsions, etc.

The COVID-19 shutdown is an opportunity for parents to rebuild their partnership role in educating their kids to make them good human beings by instilling in them family values and life skills to make them good family persons. As we know, the family is the basic unit of our society, nation and the globalised community. Once we succeed in establishing good families and family bonds; the foundation of a better society, nation and a globalised community are done. This naturally helps us end many conflicts that trouble us and put us in great strife and stress daily.

Parents Role during COVID-19 Lockdown:

We can narrow down this responsibility into three categories:

1. Life Skills:

“Life skills” are defined by UNICEF as psychosocial abilities for adaptive and positive behaviour that enable individuals to deal effectively with the demands and challenges of everyday life. They are loosely grouped into three broad categories of skills: cognitive skills for analyzing and using information, personal skills for developing personal agency and managing oneself, and inter-personal skills for communicating and interacting effectively with others.

Activities: a) Based on this parents can provide information about their own families, e.g. financial conditions, family needs, expectations, etc., and allow the children to discuss with other members of the family and analyse the information provided and gathered, and reach to their own strategies and conclusions. After completing the process parents can give them a chance to present it, and brief them about its pros and cons and how to improve upon their skills to understand and analyse an issue or problem they face.

b) Provide them the opportunity to involve in housekeeping activities. E.g. assessing the total area available for the storage of different materials; plotting a plan for classifying the materials and finding suitable places for arranging it, etc. Once the plan is ready to allow them to sit and discuss with parents and provide them guidance for necessary amendments and allow them to arrange it according to the plan.

c) Involve your kids in kitchen management activities and guide them on how you plan, schedule the menu, prepare the procurement based on the family budget. Let them help you with cooking and serving. Train them to prepare/cook basic food items and beverages. Teach them how to wash vessels and arrange them. Skill them on safety and use of cooking equipment like the gas stove, wall-mounted chimney operations, pressure cooker, grinder, mixer, etc.

d) Have roundtable discussions daily with your kids on various current issues, maybe household or social or political or spiritual matters. Allow the children freely express their views, help them present their viewpoints with facts and talk to the point. Use this platform to talk on family history, values, traditions, ethics, gender equality, respecting elders, and whatever you perceive as good family and social value your children should have or represent in society.

2. Lifelong learning:

Collins dictionary defines Lifelong learning as the provision or use of both formal and informal learning opportunities throughout people’s lives in order to foster the continuous development and improvement of the knowledge and skills needed for employment and personal fulfilment. This is one of the most crucial skills our children should have to thrive in the coming years.

To develop this, we have to imbibe in them a habit of listening and reading. Direct them to find interesting audio storytelling sessions, talks on various subjects by reputed leaders from different spheres, watch movies, music and a whole lot of things. After completing listening to a story or a talk or watching a movie; talk to them about it and get to know what take away they could bring to the table.

Help them choose good books (in digital or print) according to their interest and help them diversify their interest in reading. Provide them free access to lot many choices for reading. Parents also practice reading in the presence of children to role model them. Talk to them about the book you read and how it is going to improve your career or life. Motivate them to present the take away of their reading. Observing their choices of reading and listening, can help you understand their aptitude and then talk to them extensively connected to that. This can help you guide them to choose their future choices of study and career.

Let them involve in their hobbies like gardening, drawing, painting, craft, embroidery work, writing, etc. If you have terrace/courtyard garden involve your kids in the maintenance of the same. If you are in your farm house, let them get associated with farming activities. Those interested in technical aspects, provide them with materials to experiment and play with. Let them create and be part of co-creation. Allow them to have mobile-chat or video chat for collaboration and co-creation with friends and peer group. While you encourage all these lots of learning will take place related to school curriculum too. Here learning takes place unknowingly and continuously, which is called lifelong learning.

3. Emotional, Spiritual and Physical Rejuvenation:

Parents can do a lot at home in this regard, without much effort. Role modelling is the key. Set a proper schedule for daily happenings at home. Much of the emotional upheaval happens due to lack of planning, hastiness, the opportunity to express feelings, fear of failures, consequences, physical drowsiness and lack of spiritual connection. We should have specified daily timings for prayers, meditations and physical exercises along with our kids. Let this be a team activity.

Allow the kids to practice daily at home the exercises they learned in their mass physical education sessions in the school. It would be great if parents can also join the same.

Encourage them to look after pets, maintain a bird feeder, and involve them in feeding stray animals around your home. If you are preparing food packets for distribution to poor people in your neighbourhood with the consent of public health department or the Police force allow your kids to play a key role in talking to these officials and planning and executing it. This can help develop compassion and the habit of giving back to the society.

Teach them religious texts and prayers you know or your practice. Let them read holy books of your faith and other faiths. Explain to the children about different religious faiths and cultures to enable them to accommodate people belonging to various faiths and cultures.

Keep calm at home and talk and behave to everyone at home with the utmost respect and compassion. If we can practice these on a day to day basis at home there is no need for any EQ test or package to boost the EQ of our kids.

To conclude, what I would suggest is never get trapped by the enormous online packages to educate your kids. There are a lot many things we can do ourselves without spending either money or time. What we need to have is an attitude to be with the kids and role model right aptitudes. Never try to convert your home to a school by subscribing to the various online mode of school content delivery. Understand that our kids are also stressed due to this lockdown. They are not able to meet their classmates, friends, relatives and others. They are also worried about their syllabus and curriculum. Be an instrument of stress relief for them at this juncture of a pandemic. Grasp the fact that if the schools are closed for one or two months nothing is going to happen, even if your kids are in the board exam classes. The Government and education boards will come up with strategies to mitigate the situation. We can request the education boards and governments to reduce the content for the next academic year’s examinations, and I am dam sure that education boards will introspect and do that to reduce the stress level of kids and see smiling faces of our kids all over.

Let us unite and practice social distancing and stay at home to save us and reduce the length of lockdown.

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