'Children need to enjoy the process of learning'

Covid-19

'Children need to enjoy the process of learning'

Parent gives tips for homeschooling

Saturday, October 03, 2020

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IN 2012, Shauna-Gay Case and her husband made the decision to homeschool their children.

Seven years later, in September 2019, the two older children, at ages 11 and 13, were re-enrolled in the formal school system, while the youngest, at five years old, continued to be tutored at home.

However, with the onset of the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic and the subsequent closure of schools in March, the children are now back in the homeschool setting.

Case told JIS News that the initial decision to homeschool her children was because she and her husband wanted to be a part of the children's learning experience.

She said, too, that as parents they also wanted to be the biggest influence in their children's lives and ensure that they enjoyed learning.

“From my own experience, I grew up with a lot of pressure to learn and so I attached my identity to performance. I am not sure I really learnt much and even though I was able to get As, after the exams I usually did not remember what I learnt. The decision to homeschool also comes from anxiety,” she added.

Case is among several parents who are turning to homeschooling as the country continues to grapple with COVID-19.

Simply put, homeschooling involves children being taught in a controlled setting at home instead of being sent to a traditional public or private school.

The homeschool system allows children to work at their own pace, in which teaching and learning is facilitated by parents, family member or a trained tutor at the expense of the parent/guardian.

The Independent Schools Unit in the Ministry of Education, Youth and Information has responsibility for the registration, approval and regulation of homeschools in Jamaica.

Registrar of the unit, Dr Euphemia Burke-Robinson, told JIS News that parents and guardians who choose to homeschool their children must take full responsibility to ensure that they are educated in a safe and conducive learning environment, guided by the standards provided by the ministry.

The unit, in executing its responsibility in regulating homeschools, provides information on the standards and guidelines for the registration of homeschools, reviews and appraises completed applications for submission to the Independent Schools Committee for approval of registration, inspects home facilities and designated records pertinent to the validity and reliability of the structure and delivery of instructions in home-schools, and deregisters homeschools that have failed in the maintenance of the basic standards on the recommendation of the Independent Schools Committee.

Dr Burke-Robinson advised parents who wish to have their child/children homeschooled for the new school year, occasioned by the COVID-19 pandemic, to write to the board of management of the school in which the student is enrolled to indicate that the child has been approved for homeschooling and to request that their child's/children's registration at the institution be retained.

This request should be supported by a certified copy of the approval granted by the Independent Schools Unit for the child to be homeschooled.

This will ensure that students can be reintegrated in school, should that decision be taken by the parent.

Meanwhile, for parents or guardians contemplating homeschooling, Case is offering some tips that have worked for her family.

She advised parents to “evaluate what works best for the children and not to be hard and fast”.

She pointed out that while structure is important for effective homeschooling it does not need to be rigid or mirror the formal school system.

She advised, further, that if the child is struggling with or having an aversion to a particular topic “do not push it that day, as learning needs to be fun. They need to enjoy the process of learning”.

Case, who told J IS News that her children's lessons are guided by the formal school curriculum, said parents may choose subjects such as mathematics, English and science as compulsory, then allow the child to choose electives.

“In doing this, you get more out of the child because he or she is doing a subject that they enjoy,” she pointed out.

Reading aloud to your child, even the older ones, helps a lot, Case also noted. “I used to think reading aloud was for the younger ones only, however, I discovered that reading to the older ones gives them confidence. My 14-year-old still loves when we sit down and read together. It helps to develop their reading and writing skill,” she said.

Case noted that with homeschooling, parents have to be completely engaged in the child's learning process, especially when electronic devices are involved.

“You don't have to be consistently looking over the child's shoulder, but do pass by every now and then to see what they are doing,” she suggested

In addition, she pointed out that children are easily distracted and with the use of smart devices, distraction is just a click away without the teacher's knowledge. She, however, noted out that safeguards must be put in place to track what the child is doing online. “Parents should do their research to ensure that they have the most effective cybersecurity system. For example, one that limits the amount of time spent online and also limits the sites the child may visit. It is very important to have this level of monitoring, because even if the child is trustworthy, undesirable information will always pop up and they will be tempted to click on them,” she said.

Another important aspect of homeschooling is the physical space, according to Case. She said the environment must be comfortable and quiet and that a desk and chair should be set up for schoolwork, and children must not be encouraged to lounge in a couch.

She said also that the space must be ergonomic, allowing for efficiency and comfort, as the children will be there for extended periods.

“I also recommend creating an ambience by playing 'study music'. This triggers something in their brain so they know it is school time. It calms them and sets a mood for learning,” Case added.

She urged parents to find fun ways to engage their homeschoolers. “During bath time is a golden opportunity for learning, especially with the younger ones. It is a good time to teach them about body parts, maths (simple sums), songs, science,” she pointed out. “Also, getting them involved in cooking is one way of making learning practical and fun. For example, when I taught the kids multiplication and division, I used pizza and we baked cookies. I make sure they understood the concept first practically. Playing dominoes can also be used to teach math concepts,” she said.

In the meantime, she stressed that study breaks are also important.

She suggested that for children aged four to 10 years old, they should not be engaged in any one subject for more than 20 to 25 minutes at a time. “When it comes to actual teaching, break it up as much as possible. If after 15 minutes their body language changes, for example, they may start yawning, it means they are no longer learning,” she noted.

– JIS


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