As a parent of two primary aged children, and having been a secondary school teacher before my children were born, it’s very clear to me how the classroom learning environment is changing. However, it’s also clear that there are some true constants in education and in the behaviours and habits that are needed to make a success of a child’s time in school.
The question we as parents need to ask ourselves is:
“As education becomes increasingly focussed around practical experiences and digital learning how can we prepare our children of today to be more ready for the education of tomorrow?”
What’s the same as it’s always been?
When you and I were at school there were some straightforward attributes and habits that were more likely to make us successful. For example:
- Completing homework to the best of our ability and handing it in on time
- Having natural curiosity and an enthusiasm for learning
- Regular reading for pleasure
- Knowing that our parents were interested in what we were learning and that they cared about our educational achievements
- Being willing to have a go and learn by making mistakes
None of these things have changed and there are simple ways that parents today can cultivate these things to support our children’s success at school that I’ll touch more on later.
So, if these things have stood the test of time, and will continue to do so, what has changed about modern education? Most obviously there is the use of technology as a tool for learning. The other thing that is more important than ever before is an emphasis on creativity, problem solving and skills over and above knowledge.
In terms of creativity, problem solving and the development of skills – these are a major development in modern education that is different from what our generation experienced at school. The emphasis in the past was on knowing facts. Now, the emphasis is more on the application of skills in particular academic contexts. This is good because it’s far more relevant to the way people work.
What can we do to get our children ready for the education of tomorrow?
1. Create a routine that works for them
Work with your child to create a homework routine that works for them. If they have regular tasks like reading, times table practice or spellings talk to them about when they prefer to do them in their day. I find, with my own children, that mornings often work best. This is partly because they’re fresh and eager to learn (whereas they’re tired after school) and also because with clubs and activities after school it’s harder to fit these things in.
2. Show the same natural curiosity and an enthusiasm for learning
Show an interest in what your children are learning at school. Every evening, when my children get home from school I ask them, ‘What did you learn today?’ Sometimes they’ll be too tired and will have moved on mentally and give a silly response like ‘Nothing!’ (my four year old son is inclined to say this). Other times they’ll come out of school so enthused by their learning that they just want to come home and learn more.
You can take your interest in what your children are learning at school one step further by helping them to research topics on the internet and at the library. You could even take them on a day out connected with their school work.
“When my daughter was studying rainforests in reception I took her to the rainforest glasshouse at Cambridge University Botanical Garden so that she could feel the humid atmosphere, see the leathery leaves of the plants and how many of the plants climbed and grew on others.”
This immersive experience gave her a much clearer mental picture of what a rainforest is actually like than anyone can get from pictures and video (without actually getting on a plane and going to Brazil!).
3. Become a reader and have books around the home
By being a reader and having books in the house you set an example to your children by letting them see you reading. And, having a house full of books encourages them to be curious about books and see them as a normal form of education and entertainment.
4. Be willing to have a go and learn by making mistakes
Cultivating a ‘have a go’ or ‘growth’ mindset is vital for both rapid progression and happiness in learning. The children who are scared to give the wrong answer lose their playful engagement with the learning process. Instead of being a joyous exploration of knowledge, learning becomes a fearful and staid experience.
5. Encourage technology confidence
In the home you can encourage the use of technology by owning things like tablets and a laptop or desktop computer. Encourage your child to use the apps and software they’re learning about at school. The thing here is that they should develop confidence and fluency in their use of technology – be willing to have a go and experiment, not be scared to press the wrong button or break something. But of course, everything in moderation – balance screen time with plenty of fresh air, exercise and creative play.
6. Get practical on problem solving
At home you can coach your children through solving practical problems. Using creative toys like Lego can be a safe place to start this, but as children get older get them involved in practical household tasks and get them to help you to solve everyday problems. Creativity really comes from the same root as problem solving – they share the same sort of thought process.
As parents we can look forward with optimism and confidence to the changing educational landscape. The foundation of success at school remains the same as it always has been. However, the things that are changing can be happily supported at home by thoughtfully supporting and encouraging children in their explorations of the possibilities of technology and by creatively solving household problems.
Lucy Parsons is an Academic Coach who helps students to get the top grades in their exams and into their dream universities. Her book, The Ten Step Guide to Acing Every Exam You Ever Take, is available now. You can visit Lucy’s website at www.lifemoreextraordinary.com or follow her on twitter @LucyCParsons.