A Classroom in Every Household: Begin with Listening
I know parents who are nervous about how they will cope with the shutting down of their schools during the COVID-19 pandemic. While it may not reassure these families, the option of starting a school in your home might just be what everyone needed.
It would be a good time to take a long look at what parents still need to learn about parenting and how to unlock your child's curious mind into deeper critical thinking skills and curiosity. Time to binge-watch the kids!
Having worked with students of all learning abilities on all age levels, I know its a challenge to prescribe a common core-type learning regiment. Let's not do that. Here's how we began our voluntary quarantine academy, you can try it too.
First, slow down.
Make a meal together and tell your student that you need to have an important discussion. Ask them if they know what's happening and if they don't, explain things as best you can, what the lock out/social distancing/voluntary quarantine situation looks like and why. They need to know this is not spring break. This is an historic event unlike any other and they are a part of it. Their safety is important, and so is their education.
Oh, and...This should happen at the dining room table- where serious reflection about learning takes place from now on.
Make sure the table is free of clutter. The rest of the world- inside, out, online is the classroom.
Make sure they know this is not punishment or isolation. It's a chance for them to own their education, know themselves better, and make contact with resources formerly out of their reach. Yes they should call their friends.
Tell them that chores will be a part of this learning path. That's crucial. Everyone in the house will re-learn their roles when this is over. The kids can make your own breakfast, lunch, dinner, and curriculum. If you give them the guidance, they can live more independently, feeding their own mind and body themselves.
And next, we'll take a look at what resources your teacher has provided. You don't need the structure of the school day. But you do need structure of some kind. Make a schedule and calendar. Everyone will be involved in deciding how and when you'd like to take on any assignments from school, special projects, or open engaged learning.
The student is in charge of their own learning.
Now let that sink in for a moment.
Then ask: What do you want to learn most of all? What do you want to improve? Take notes.
Ask them: What would be the best way to learn these things?
It's fine, if they don't know but think about it in another way. How can we help and improve our community? Our world?
Maybe rephrase the question a few different ways: What problems do you want to solve? What questions do you have? What challenges do you want to overcome?
But before you leave the table, get out a dictionary and a highlighter and look up some words, reading and discuss each one's definition. Does it mean what they thought it means? What other words are they curious about? What words can you find?:
Now keep that dictionary handy, because you're going to decide how to talk as humans who love to learn. When you come across a new word, look it up, highlight it, put it on the vocabulary test.
Give them a notebook, pencil and have them look up a few more to learn. They should start to feel like this is wide open space, but stick close by and make it a conversation with no distractions for 25 minutes. This book should be their journal to reflect on their learning, take time daily to record their thoughts.
Now have a discussion using those words. Listen! Don't interrupt, or try to steer them! Repeat back to them what they said to prove that you understood!
Congratulations, teacher and student, your learning journeys are beginning now.
And if you skip a day to hang out and play games, that's ok too.
Open-ended and hands-on, the PinBox3000 brings maker excitement and game design into every houshold classroom!
- Ben t. Matchstick