Learning begins at home

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By Friedrich Froebel

The school year is about to start in September, and we have great respect for those inspirational and dedicated teachers who are passionate about imparting knowledge to their students; and recognize that they may, all too often, be hampered and constrained by bureaucratic burdens and syllabuses that are, frankly, long past their “sell by date”.

Parents, you should bear in mind that, while the school year may seem interminable once it starts, its design is still, in most cases, the relic of a pre-industrial society, and may consequently feel as if designed to interfere with your child’s absorption of knowledge.

While there is no “right way” to teach, or parent for that matter, it should, by now, be accepted as a truism that the greater respect in which the teaching profession is held, the higher the standards demanded of those permitted to teach; and the more discretion they are permitted in how they do so, the more students are likely to learn and the better they will perform.

Even with this, how is an anxious parent to help their child in achieving his or her potential in the face of a system which sometimes seems designed to stifle?

Start at home.

First, set expectations. Any normal child wants to learn. As the saying goes, their minds are like sponges; and in biological terms they have the capacity to encode huge amounts of information almost effortlessly- particularly when young. If a parent calls his or her child “stupid”, they are doing a grave dis-service. Standards need to be set out, explained and applied. Of course, human potential is graded on a curve, but there is increasing evidence that it is not fixed. Setting a high bar for achievement (as long as it is realistic) is a key first step.

Bermuda National Library in Hamilton
The Bermuda National Library (File photograph)

Second, provide the tools and means with which to learn. Encourage reading as an essential habit, which is an undoubted way to learn and become a more rounded person. If you cannot afford books, go to the Bermuda National Library or Youth Library; or create a “book swap” club. Similarly, while much of life seems now to be focused on the use of electronics, the act of writing is invaluable in helping a child channel his or her thoughts and process information. Provide a journal book.

Third, limit the unstructured use of mobile and smartphones during periods of study. They are a distraction. While online learning holds great promise, it needs to be structured and based upon the best and most reputable sources and applications.

Fourth, at the end of each school day take some time to talk to your child about how their day went; what they were taught; what they learnt; and what was unclear. This helps show interest and engagement, as well as act as a means of discerning potential issues or problems.

Fifth, provide enrichment through trips and visits to museums, galleries, and institutes such as the BUEI. If you can, travel with them abroad. Expose your child to other cultures and ideas.

Sixth, challenge them intellectually. Create a programme of learning outside the school, not as a poor simulacrum of the classroom, but rather as an extension of what they have learnt there, which is often set at the level of the lowest common denominator.

Seventh, engage with their teachers. Ask them how you can help them better achieve their goals. And, if a particular teacher is uncooperative or indifferent, complain! Do not accept obstruction.

And last, make your child understand that their schooldays are simply the start of a life-long learning process ––  a stage upon the way to becoming the best person they can be.

No doubt, many will say that all this is unrealistic, or that they do not have the time because they work several jobs, or don’t have the money, which makes all this a fantasy. Yes, that may be so. Life is full of constraints and the need to prioritize; but any one of the above suggestions will make a difference to your child’s life.

Does your child not come first in everything? And, if not, why not?

Finally, a quote:

“Our offices are filled with people working their lives out to enrich their boss, government or company.”  – Sunday Adelaja.

The goal is to enrich your child’s life, for his/her benefit, not for that of others. A good education, in the proper sense of the word, is still the best way to prepare him/her and provide choices and opportunities. It starts in school, but it should never end.

 This article was originally published in the August 2018 edition of the RG Back-to-School supplement.

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