"It is by no means the whole answer"

Sir Ken speaks to Natalie, a mother of four children of ranging ages, 21 (a college student), 16 (a high school student), 11 and 6, from Salt Lake, Utah, USA. She has a full-time job and is also studying part-time herself. Natalie’s early experience of learning from home was overwhelming, not least of all because she received over 70 school-related emails in one week alone; even her kindergartner has five different websites where her learning is taking place.

One of the first hurdles Natalie and her family faced was simply figuring out how to facilitate their children’s learning practically, as the family did not have enough computers for each child to have their own. This is a limitation many families around the world have been facing. Luckily, the children’s school rented out their laptops to make sure that all of their children were able to access education in this new format.

"There’s so much room for error in the current set up"

The main challenge the family are currently facing is the expectations of the work the children are being set. Natalie remarked that her children are struggling to understand their school’s demands and requirements, particularly due to a lack of co-ordination and consistency between teachers – each teacher has been sending different instructions and using different websites and platforms. To top it off, this lack of clarity has led to poor grades for their work, which they have found incredibly disheartening in the circumstances. Natalie has found the teachers to be lenient and understanding when she has contacted them about specific grades, but she acknowledges that it is simply unrealistic for her to email every teacher about each piece of work. She comments ‘there’s so much room for error in the current set up’ as so many assignments are set using written guidelines only.

Remote learning has been particularly difficult for Natalie’s kindergartner, who due to her age is not able to navigate multiple websites on her own or understand the assignments she has been set without close parental supervision. This has proven tricky for Natalie, causing her to both lose out on time for herself and struggle to juggle her other responsibilities. This also means that Natalie’s youngest is spending a lot of time in front of a screen, which is affecting her behaviour, and is causing her to not only develop negative associations with being on the laptop, but also with learning in general.

"I’m really curious about how much my children are getting out of this type of online schooling"

On the other hand, Natalie’s 11 year old is coping the best with lockdown and this ‘new normal.’ Natalie thinks this is largely the result of a more positive approach set up by her teachers, who have co-created a system that allows the students to have daily video calls with their teachers and classmates, allowing vital social connection as well as the opportunity to clarify any aspects of their assignments. Minimising confusion and providing a consistent routine has helped her daughter and is a system Natalie feels is easily replicable.

Despite their challenges with remote learning, the family have made a real effort to go outside every day, for hikes and to play games, to encourage outdoor activity to break away from screens. Natalie has always actively minimised her children’s screen time in the past so the requirement for constant screen time in these circumstances is troubling to her.

“I’m really curious about how much my children are getting out of this type of online schooling,” says Natalie, querying their engagement and retention. As Sir Ken points out: “there are fantastic benefits online, but it is by no means the whole answer.’ This was true in education pre-pandemic and is even more so now. Finding ways of encouraging learning without relying solely on access to technology would be incredibly beneficial to this family, as well as to many others.

Education and creativity expert Sir Ken Robinson is speaking with families, education leaders and parenting experts as part of his global call out for stories, questions, concerns and insights into what education looks like during the pandemic. This series brings us together to share what has been working well when supporting and overseeing our children’s learning during this difficult time, and provides a platform for sharing helpful resources and tips to  make things a little easier. If you haven’t watched the other episodes in this series, you can here.

"They're losing their fear to be wrong, and it's so liberating"

There is no doubt that the current pandemic we are all facing has endless challenges, one of which is that many families around the world are now supporting or overseeing their children’s education from home. According to UNESCO, as of May 21st 2020, 68.5% of the world’s enrolled learners are affected by country-wide school closures, with localised closures of education institutes impacting millions more pupils. This has left parents and carers in an unprecedented situation, where they are now responsible for their children’s learning in a way they never have been before.

In light of this, education and creativity expert Sir Ken Robinson has invited people all over the world to share their experiences of learning from home. In April, Sir Ken released a global call out for families’ stories, questions, concerns and insights, that will be used to  bring us all together, share what has been working well when it comes to supporting our children’s education at home, and to connect families with helpful resources which might make things a little easier.

One of the first parents Sir Ken spoke with as part of this project was Sonia from Monterrey, Mexico. Thirty-seven and a half million learners in Mexico have had their education affected by Covid-19 (UNESCO, 2020). Four of these learners are Sonia’s children, aged 6, 9, 11 and 13. Sonia is an architect, and at the time she and Sir Ken spoke her company was working on a project which required her to go out to go to work, although she has also been working from home.

"I'll do it all!"

Sonia shared that the start of lockdown was challenging – her children struggled to shift their understanding to the idea that school has not permanently ended, they also were resistant at first to the idea that their mother was now their teacher, and found it difficult to organise the day. Sonia started off with a rigid schedule, thinking that would enable her to continue running the house and would encourage her children to focus on their learning, but found this approach did not work for them. Once Sonia learned about the Montessori school’s approach to scheduling the day and adopted it, they found it all immediately became easier. The flexibility has helped her children choose how they structure their day, and has allowed Sonia more freedom to carry on with her own work as well as making sure her children take responsibility for their own learning.

Sonia has found herself increasingly keen to be more active in her children’s learning throughout this time, changing or adding to the activities suggested by the school to increase opportunities for art and natural curiosity. She has been encouraging her kids to take on the teacher role; her eldest son, for example, has been helping her youngest daughter with maths, increasing his confidence in his own abilities. This is a hugely empowering way of reinforcing a young person’s learning. Her youngest (who is in pre-school) also became a ‘YouTuber,’ and taught the rest of the family what she had been learning through pretend video tutorials. Through tailoring their education to how each of her children learn best, Sonia has found that they are “losing their fear to be wrong, and it’s so liberating.”

"We have all the time

and it is so good!"

Involving her children with the house has also been integral. “The first week I was like “I’ll do it all!” and then that didn’t work, of course… I mean I could, but it would not be healthy for anyone in this house,” she said, “so the involvement has been key for us.” This has also opened countless learning opportunities outside of the school curriculum, for example, her children have been helping her cook, which is not traditionally a part of their schooling, and they all have chores they must do.

This increased time at home allows for new and exciting ways of discovering and learning in a less formal setting. Sonia added that her family are spending much more quality time together which is wonderful; not only have they been cooking, they have time for board games and to be outside. Her living room is now the ‘headquarters’ of the family home. “The rush has gone,” she says “we have all the time and it is so good.’

To hear the full interview between Sir Ken and Sonia, please click here, and to find out more about our project and for some helpful resources, please review our Learning from Home section.

"The World's Largest Lesson" - Written by Sir Ken Robinson

On September 25th 2015, 193 world leaders will commit to the Global Goals for Sustainable Development. 17 goals to achieve 3 extraordinary things in the next 15 years. End extreme poverty. Fight inequality and injustice. Fix climate change. If every school in the world teaches children about these goals, we will help them become the generation that changed the world.

More info: https://www.tes.com/worldslargestlesson/


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