Effective learning environment at home
It was one of those days when I was relaxing and lost in my own world reading a book on Dr. APJ Abdul Kalam and lessons from his teachings when my six-year-old sat next to me and asked me to read the book aloud, I like any other parent, told her she won’t understand anything of this book. It is better that she leaves me alone and plays with her toys. When she continued asking, I agreed to read a book of her choice which she can understand better but she insisted me on reading the same book aloud and we ended up in an argument and finally a statement of hers made me give up. She said “I just want to hear and not listen”. This not only made me think but brought back a decade of my training experience where I have been training individuals on differences between hearing and listening and importance of listening skills and here I was where my six-year-old daughter was making me realise on how my profession and the talks related to it had become a learning experience for her. She wanted to hear my style of reading and follow it when she knew she would not understand or will not be able to listen to the text.
In my previous article we saw how crucial it was to maintain an open and fruitful relationship with our child’s school and the teachers. It is equally important to create a learning environment at home in order for us to support our children in what they want to achieve. And this learning environment should be a holistic one including academics, co-curricular, life skills and human values.
I would like to share a response email to one of my articles in this column from a senior citizen, “I have found that invariably today's children are frank enough to ask anything in front of others. They don't mind how others think about it. They don't respect the teachers.” Not only this but in due course of my interaction with parents, grandparents, teachers and elders, I find them complaining about the behavior and attitude of the present generation. The new generation not able to take over the inherited cultural and social traditions, not able to imbibe the value systems as perceived and practiced by their elders are some of the common concerns of my fellow and senior generations. Let me remind you all of the famous saying, “When you point your finger at someone, three fingers are pointing back at you” Don’t you think as elders, no matter whichever role we are in, parents, grandparents, uncles, aunts, guardians or teachers, it is our responsibility to raise a socially responsible and culturally aware generation who can inherit a value system which we inculcated in them and whom we can be proud of. I understand the change in times, situation, work culture, busy life schedules, society, ideologies and most important media and technology has had a lot of influence on the present generation but that should not stop us from doing what we need to do in order to mold them into responsible citizens of tomorrow.
Value Systems and Value Education- a concern for schools and families from time immemorial. Schools expect this to happen at home and families expect their children to learn values from the school and in this tug of war and blame game, our children end up either being confused about their values or restrict the value systems to some moral stories they heard from their grandparents. I would suggest, as parents, we should take up the responsibility of bringing up our children with the necessary values and beliefs which will help them to lead a meaningful and fruitful life. Let that be values, beliefs, knowledge or wisdom, in my opinion, should not be given in different capsules but should be a comprehensive learning experience from a daily life scenario. Here I would like to appreciate CBSE’s initiative of bringing in multidisciplinary projects and intertwining value systems with individual subjects as part of the school curriculum, but I am not quite sure how many schools and teachers are able to follow this in a genuine way due to multiple constraints, most importantly the higher student number in most of the classes. But I am sure at home, where we have only one or two of them to manage, we can easily convert the home environment into a learning environment where the child acquires wisdom, values, life skills, knowledge and beliefs in a holistic manner.
Here are few examples and suggestions to have a healthy, positive learning environment at home:
Get them engaged in daily household chores:
Even if you do not consciously invite your children to be a part of your daily routine at home, you will probably find them right next to you anyway. An activity that may not seem exciting to you may be fascinating to your child. For example, I once happened to observe a grand mom peeling and picking up pea kernels from the whole pea and grandchild joining her to help and as he helped he became most intrigued as he discovered a surprise within each pea. His sensory-motor skill development and imagination became alive during this simple, shared work at home.
Be a role model
You serve as an influential role model for your children as they learn about their world. It is fun for them to imitate you and copy your daily activities while they gain new skills and practice some old ones. I understand in today’s world it is difficult to spend some exclusive time with your children especially for the working women but I think we can work out ways to communicate to them, play with them as we complete our task, just a little practice on multi-tasking might be required.
For Example: While you are working in the kitchen. Give your child his own safe working station—a metal tray on the table or a box of pans on the floor near the wall and as you do this do a lot of talking to your child about healthy food habits, discuss the choice of food, snacks, vegetables, nutrient value etc.
Another example is in the dressing room as you get busy getting dressed up for work or occasion, and you feel your child is nagging you and not letting you get ready, give them their own toys or dolls and a couple of old dresses to get them dressed, this would provide a stress free opportunity for your child to involve in decision making.
As you practice this and as they grow older they will get habituated in working with you, helping you, understanding you and supporting you and you can see them growing into responsible young individuals adored by all.
Minimise the habit of distraction
In the modern world, children are attached to iPods, smart phones, text messages, Facebook and instant message. From early on, children have developed the habit of checking these sources several times hourly. Those habits break into a child's concentration during study, reminding him or her that it is time to check the phone or computer. Some of them inherit the habit of watching the daily soaps from their parents, I understand it is difficult to control them from watching television or computers but they can be prevented from developing a habit towards the daily soaps or any periodic shows for that matter as that not only effects their emotional health but also creates an anxiety and becomes a source of distraction for them. Create a distraction-free zone during learning time. Refrain yourself and your child from watching television serials instead set a good example by watching news programs and documentaries on TV& educational videos. Keep the smart phones and iPods out of arm's reach. Remove instant messaging from the computer and ban Facebook during study time.
Let them get bored
We often find kids complaining about boredom and to get them engaged we either switch the TV on or give them some gadget or bunch of toys and always want them to be engaged as we fear to face the resultant nagging. I would suggest it is ok for them to feel bored for some time, you might have to tell them in firm and affirmative terms that they need to sit doing nothing. Like adults, kids also need alone time. Time without talking to anyone, without watching or reading anything, time to do nothing but think their own thoughts. Create a quiet area in your home for your child to reflect whenever he or she wishes.
Develop a routine
Set aside a regular time and place when your child does their reading and or homework. With a set routine, your child will know when it is time to work and will get into a regular habit of doing so.
Parents play a very important role in fostering children’s literacy and cognitive development to help them build the strong foundation for future learning in school. Let us all strive to provide our children with a peaceful, healthy, distraction free, cognitively stimulating learning environment at home during their school years.
(The author is the founder and Chief Executive Officer of Learning Arena, an e-learning company)