October 26, 2015

Home School Sweet Spot- Parental Engagement

Parental engagement is vital to homeschooling, especially in the early years. Young children learn with ease when they are developmentally ready for what they are learning.  They learn better when the parent is engaged than when just assigned learning tasks or academic chores.

What is an academic chore? An academic chore is an assignment the child does on his own. For many children, these assignments are driven by fear of educational gaps and the need for a paper trail. After the novelty wears off of “playing school,” most children do not have the self-discipline, attention span and development to stay on task for long periods of time alone. Even with parent engagement, attention span is still small. Once a child’s attention span is exceeded, learning can tend to diminish. Completing work does not mean a child knows, understands, and can apply the concepts in real life. 

What is parent engagement?

Engagement includes a parent sharing a learning experience. One way a parent can engage is by reading aloud and discussing what was read aloud. While knowing the facts and being able to rehearse the story sequentially are important, comprehension is vital. Self-reflection is important. Self-reflection includes comprehension. A child cannot reflect or apply if he does not understand! “Was it right that he did such a thing?”  “Why is it not right to do that?” “What would you do in this situation?” This kind of thinking is less likely to happen when a child reads a book alone. I am not trying to discourage a child from reading alone. I am promoting parental involvement. Children learn more when books are discussed. Here, parental involvement is key. Children have limited life experience and do not always understand elements in stories. Discussion can broaden their understanding and thereby appropriate application.

Engagement includes being there and learning with them. Children learn better from the parent teaching them new concepts than trying to self-teach from busywork, worksheets, and workbooks. A parent can sense any hesitation in rendering answers, forming letters, and difficulties children might have with learning. The worksheet or workbook cannot. This enables the parent to look for a different way to learn a concept or to explain and demonstrate what the child may need to know. Engagement can also help a parent see that a child might not be ready yet for academic work the child is doing.

Positive engagement validates the child and communicates to a child that they are valued. The adults in their lives are taking time to be with them. Positive engagement can nurture the relationship. Positive engagement can build trust. We all thrive with validating positive engagement. Children are not mini adults and do not think and reason as adults do. Negative engagement and leaving the child stranded to learn on their own can be overwhelming and cause the child to shut down or melt down. On the other hand, positive engagement can encourage learning,

I developed a way for parents to share the learning experience with their children and to work with them one-on-one in a positive engaged fashion. For shared learning, I created the Power of an Hour: Gateway to a Classical Education. It includes engagement through shared reading and discussion of Bible stories, Classic read-alouds and the parent sharing new concepts and ideas. The ideas and concepts range from the 3 Rs to the arts and sciences. I also developed a way to value each child by positively engaging with them one-on-one. I call it the Bicycle Approach to Education, which is a system designed to meet the needs of a family. The parent spends one-on-one with each child, helping them with rudiments of learning, coaching them, and mentoring their child. This is done with respect towards the child’s development and attention span.

Parental engagement with elementary aged children can enhance their learning. Parental involvement does not need to take all day to be effective. It just needs to be regular, clear and done with respect to the child’s development and attention span. You can do this using the Power of an Hour and the Bicycle Approach.

What ways of parental engagement have you found effective with your children?

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