Hello, friends. As our family tries to adapt to the new normal and the COVID pandemic, I wanted to start reflecting on how our family plans to promote a learning culture. Over the years, InspiredToEducate.NET has taken on the mission of helping students love learning through making, tinkering, and engineering. As working professionals, Sarah and I want to make sure we’re still providing the best learning environment for our kids. Like many other families, we have decided to home school/virtual school our kids due to health risks. To serve other parents struggling with these transitions, I wanted to share some the ideas we’ve researched. Make sure to check out the blog posts at the end of this article.
PRO’s of virtual school + home school approach
- Personalized learning: In general, Sarah and I find the concept of personalized learning attractive. Every student has different strengths and weaknesses. The asynchronous nature of online learning can provide the student to learn at their own pace. In many cases, lectures will be assigned in recorded in video format. If you don’t understand something, you can always hit the pause button and rewind. Does your student need more context on a topic? Students can jump on YouTube and find a Khan academy video that probably complements the class material.
Gaining key career skills: It’s interesting to consider the 21st century career skills our kids will explore with online virtual school. In the spring, I greatly enjoyed seeing my son prepare a pretty awesome history presentation that he shared with his class. He was very intentional about the visual look of the slides. I also admired how he practiced his presentation for clarity. I know he aspires to run his own YouTube channel some day. So, he’s getting some pretty cool practice through this online learning experience. It’s important to reflect upon the long term benefits of the “online” learning modality.
- Exploring game based learning, simulations and project based learning: Some online teachers have started leaning into the benefits of a flipped classroom model. Under this model, students take in videos/lectures as homework assignments. When the student and teacher have “face to face” time, they can leverage their interactions to clarify knowledge and explore. Some teachers have exploited learning games or hands-on learning projects to deepen knowledge.
Our honest pain points with home schooling/virtual schooling
As our family has moved to online learning out of necessity, I have gained a great respect for families who have decided to home school their kids outside the scope of the pandemic. The self discipline and habits required to make a great learning environment at home do not come naturally. It takes a lot of work.
In our family in the Spring, if we didn’t create a good plan for the week, we could easily miss assignments or support time for our kids. Like many families, Sarah and I both work full time jobs with busy calendars. It’s not trivial to keep a mode of “focused” work in a professional context while supporting our kids. I do want to thank my niece Rosemary for helping us in the Spring. While living with us during the virus outbreak, she has been very helpful supporting our kids in school work and helping them stay focused and organized. Our appreciation for her can not be understated.
As we reflect on our Spring adventures with home schooling/online learning, Sarah and I know we have to up our game plan for the fall. Here’s our plan in progress.
Themes of our learning culture plan
- Becoming a better Peacher(Parent/Teacher/Project manager): As we think through the fall, I know that Sarah and I will need to schedule regular time to answer questions and times for regular teacher communication. In some of our previous explorations of maker mindset in teaching, we found many good themes that will become helpful. Teaching isn’t always about being the fountain of knowledge and sharing it. Teaching sometimes looks a bit more like project management where we’re teaching students how to break big problems into small problems. We teach students how to ask better questions. We connect students with the key search tools they need to discover their own knowledge. We meet students where they’re at.
Family weekly planning: From looking at blogs on virtual schools, it’s common for these schools to provide assignment tracking and organization tools. I think it will be important to find these tools and organize them into a system. I hope that we can take this a step forward though. At my work, we chunk our work into two week cycles or plans. We start each cycle with a meeting called “sprint planning.” This enables us to find the most valuable and easy work we can be doing to help the project move forward and meet deadlines. I think Sarah and I will come up with a family version of this meeting us. We’ll probably use some tools like MindMeister, Google Documents, or Trello to help us stay organized and monitor work.
Here’s a cool video exploring the idea of family weekly planning using Agile ideas …
If you need an agenda for this kind of meeting, check out our post here.
- Inspect and adapt: We know that we will not make a perfect plan. With that in mind, we plan to have a meeting weekly to see how we’re doing as a family. What’s working well? What are common road blocks? How can we get better? What resources can we leverage outside our family to promote a peaceful, prayerful, healthy and a happy family?
Creating zones of focus: Sarah and I have a good degree of schedule flexibility. We’re very fortunate to have this situation. We’re thinking through how we can rigorously leverage our calendars to weave school support into lives while meeting the requirements of our jobs. In brutal honesty, this will be crazy hard.
Elements of a good weekly schedule
- Schedule prayer time
- Schedule breaks and play time
- Try to keep a normal work schedule
- Schedule time for music practice
- Keep a good backlog of projects/hobby projects
- Schedule time for socially distance sports or outdoor time
- Schedule time-box for reading
- Seek out index of good support/course videos: We already love resources like Khan academy, Coursera, prodigygame.com, and Tynker.com. What other open courseware tools are available to families at low cost? Check out https://www.lifehack.org/articles/money/25-killer-sites-for-free-online-education.html
Experiment with time management patterns: Adding Pomodoro to my day: I’m thinking about trying out Pomodoro in my professional work. ( https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pomodoro_Technique ) In this work pattern, you try to enter a zone of focused work for 25 minutes. After the 25 minutes, you take a break for 5 minutes. In those 5 minutes, it may be possible to do a check-in on kids. We’ll let you know if this works or not.
Interested in project based learning for families? Interested in sharing ideas for helping your kids love learning by making cool stuff? We want to welcome you to our new InspiredToEducate.NET facebook group. In this community, we hope learn and support each other as we promote learning cultures in our families.
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