Last week I sat in my garden with my not-so-toddler 6 year old son. As I started narrating him a story ,he interrupted my narration by saying “Oh papa is this story also about Diyan ?” Well, yes it had to be. I have been home schooling my son for few weeks now and all stories have the name Diyan because that’s his name. I had read somewhere that if the child is told stories with their names they relate to them more. But my child was different. “Don’t you know more names ?” He innocently inquired.
My son was to start his school this year but owing to the COVID-19 crisis ,everything has been on a standstill. As a family ,my wife and I decided to homeschool him until the situation eased out. With both of us working from home, we had tastefully organised our schedules to work and teach him alongside. However, this small tete-a-tete with him questioning my knowledge of names brought me to a thought ‘Were we equipped to teach him ?’
In order to self assess my teaching skills I enrolled him for a free online class trial. I had also been self educating myself on youtube. I dint know they teach the formation of letters so differently these days. Its not like how we learnt it. Some had a rhyme to each formation description and others had a game around it. Running my business in the feild of education, I have never undermined the impact of schools or never doubted it but owing to this sudden change of scenario I think I may have been experimenting my skills.
As parents often our stories carry stereotypes or notions that we grew up with. I remember that rhyme about circular objects in hindi where its ‘father’s money (coin) round and mother’s roti (bread) round’ where the reality is far from it. Both my wife and I make a decent amount of money and take turns to make not so round but edible rotis. But come to think of it that rhyme was so engraved on my mind that I could not help pouring it over my son. Where clearly the message being conveyed is not something I abide by.
Beyond passing our own stereotypes, I also feel that the peer learning is missing. I do end up in different role plays with him but I am only pretending. An actual child will be as curious as he is. A peer his age will be as innocent as he is. They will together be a blank slate experimenting and exploring. When I attended the free class I saw the teacher behind the screen showing the children a box asking them to guess what was inside. Each child gave a unique answer which was such a great addition to the vocabulary of all others. I was truly amazed.
Often while he is doing a worksheet with me or doodling on his own ,my wife and I have simultaneously fed him or changed his clothes if they are dirty or even attended to our calls in between. That would definitely break his continuity. The online class in this aspect was very different. It had a regime that was to be followed. He sat patiently receiving and reacting on the information that was being shared. This forced both me and my wife to be more disciplined. While I sat next to him ,my wife took the other room to make her calls. He himself was mindful of how he sat and looked at the camera. These were skills that we were definitely depriving him off.
We also noticed that he had much more to share post the session. From what another child wore ,to an idea he picked up from another child’s drawing on how to make a house, he was full of different ideas that he wanted to share with us. It is interesting that we could actually reason out with him as these discussions were led by his observations not by what we had told him. He was speaking his mind and not merely echoing our thoughts.
A combination of free flow of ideas, imagination, disciplined routine, peer learning and social skills made a convincing case in favour of online classes.
Most of us feel that having studied the same thing as a child, it is not tough to transact it into a lesson for our own kids. Whereas the fact is, with the new pedagogies and trainings the teachers are equipped to make these lessons easy for the child. The learning style of each child is taken into consideration while mapping these lessons which make it enjoyable for the learner be it in school or online. The schools are taking good care about the time being spent on the screen. Limited screen exposure but enough food for thought is the outcome of these short online classes each day. There is ample work being given to the child that revolves around research, reading and creating different things. Of course with age the subject matter and time increases but the factors that prove the credibility of the online classes over home schooling remain the same. In fact we are still homeschooling our son but a lot in sync with the way he is learning in the class and in order to support him for home assignments.
A blend of online classes with adequate and streamlined involvement from parents in my view can make this new phase of learning exciting for all children.