The following appeared initially as a Facebook post. It has been lightly edited and is republished with permission.
Online schooling is bringing out many emotions in so many people. It is placing students at the center of their own learning experience. Some schools are doing amazingly well and others less so. Some parents love the journey with their kids, others are finding it overwhelming and stressful. Either way – parents have been forced into positions we never chose. We have all become full time educators and for the first time we are seeing all the positive qualities of our children while experiencing first-hand the learning challenges our children deal with. We now know what they need to work on. It is not simple for anyone. The governments, schools, parents, and children are all trying to survive. Some are trying to thrive and adapt. The education system we know is not perfect – and it will be interesting to see what education will look like post COVID-19.
These are the 5 attributes I feel my children are developing in this unique moment in time:
- Adaptability: All kids have had to deal with a new reality. Resilience is a muscle and it is being tested now. It’s a good life lesson.
- Responsibility: Kids have to navigate their own learning agenda. Spoon feeding is impossible in this moment. Kids have had to step up, get organized. Slightly older kids are able to make a physical learning space for themselves, check their timetable, enter zoom, find their assignments. Parents are pulled from all directions if we have more than one child. And often I feel like an octopus juggling multiple Zooms etc… And so, each kid has had to take responsibility.
- Accountability: This is a big one. In adult life we are accountable for our actions. When an adult does not deliver the work as a certain standard and quality, they get fired or lose money or prospective clients. In a homeschooling environment, there needs to be accountability. It is difficult for educators to enforce real consequences to distant learners. Kids have had to show up and be accountable for completing their projects and tasks. They have had to learn respect. It’s a process I can see my children learning – a slow process. It’s a very useful tool in life to have a sense of accountability and to stop making excuses for our behavior. And in this environment – there are so many possible (and likely valid) excuses… it’s up to each learner to have accountability and stop using excuses as to why they could not complete their tasks. When something is too difficult, they need to work out a way to get the help they need to complete the task – google the info, ask a friend or adult, break up the task into smaller and more manageable parts. As parents and educators our job is to help our children navigate this process, yet let the kids take ownership of the consequences of their actions. I would love it if my 11-year-old could say at the end of this, “I am proud of the work I did” or “it was my fault that I never completed my math homework” and perhaps “could you please help me find ways to complete my project and do it myself?”
- Curiosity: As adults, we generally set our own trajectory in life… choose our jobs and careers and put ourselves where we want to be (or feel is best for ourselves and our families). Kids have less choice. Parents put their children in a certain schooling system and the system directs the kids learning path. The system is relatively rigid and has the same set of learning goals for all children, even though each child has their own learning style. Online learning has the potential for children to travel to wherever their own curiosity lies. I think our role as head educators of our homes is to spark our children’s curiosity. What is interesting to them? What motivates them? What drives them? What learning is fun for them? What would happen if children could choose where their learning journey took them? What if we allowed them to follow their own curiosity? My 14-year-old has a new found hobby. She is exercising every day. She is curious about the science of exercise and nutrition – she researched and found a Coursera course and we are studying it together. She is still doing what her school asks her to – but I am so proud that she is following what she is curious to learn about.
- Raising the bar: I often wonder if we expect too little or too much from our kids. Each kid is different. Each child has a different style of learning. Some are auditory learners, some are visual. Some are stronger readers and some are brilliant at math. Adults also have different strengths and weaknesses. What happens when we discover what style of learning works best for our kids…and then we raise the bar and challenge them to do things that may be slightly challenging for them? I have been so impressed by my children. I raised the bar of what I thought they could do (understanding each kids’ capacity). I gave them learning goals beyond what they were expected to do at school – and they have thrived. What would happen if our system scrapped the useless information that kids are expected to learn and instead sent our kids on a journey to explore skills and tools necessary in today’s real-life world? What if we as parents raise the bar for our kids?
At the start of COVID-19 homeschooling, I quickly realized that homeschooling kids in Hebrew was not viable for our family. We live in Israel and my Hebrew is not sufficient to help kids in 4th, 6th, and 8th grade. So, a friend and I developed our own home curriculum and learning journey. We chose our own topic and carefully constructed a learning journey we felt we could navigate our families through. We focused on an Impact Journey to highlight to our children what impact they could make in the world and give them skills to do it. We constructed a curriculum based on the 17 sustainable learning goals that the UN set out to achieve by 2030. We have all been on a journey exploring how to prevent poverty, hunger, prevent diseases. They have learnt financial literacy and digital literacy skills. They have become makers, doers, explorers. They learnt entrepreneurship and we have invited guest speakers, professors, CEOs, startups, and professionals to speak to our kids on each topic we explore. They have had business coaching sessions on presentation skills and collaboration and the art of failure. The Kids Impact Forum that we have created for our kids has given them a sense of accountability, responsibility, adaptability, and curiosity and raised the bar to what we think they can achieve. And we have been privileged to learn along with them.
I hope everyone survives the homeschooling stage and that we all just get through each day!! But what if we can manage to guide our kids to a much deeper and richer learning space than they were in before?