Beyond schooling: Getting More Involved in Your Child’s Education

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We live in uncertain times. Despite its best efforts, formal education will not necessarily make your children a living, and schools alone will not prepare them for the challenges that lie ahead.

The perception of schools as the weakest link in the quest for education is a long-standing phenomenon. Recent debate suggests that schools are at risk of coming apart:

– Being a student has become a complex and laborious affair.
– Teachers, parents and kids are worn out by the multiple demands of a system whose critics increase by the day.
– Schools have proved unable or unwilling to attend to the development of the whole person.

One of the recurring ideas is that schools are failing to provide students with adequate knowledge frameworks to respond to a rapidly changing world. When your children begin school, you expect certain things:

  • You expect they will learn important lessons that will enable them to make it in life.
  • You expect that they will learn to be responsible.
  • You expect that they will develop and reach their potential.
  • You expect that they will develop social skills.
  • You expect that when they finally leave school, they will find the jobs for which they have been prepared.

Much of the debate around education supports the view that the gap between schooling and holistic education has widened considerably because of the tendency to focus on test scores.

Many formal education systems view education primarily as an intellectual affair. Schooling has therefore become top-down, rather than open and self-directed.

There’s never been a more urgent time to focus on holistic education. And never has it been more certain that the scapegoating of teachers only masks the real challenges associated with ensuring that children receive an all-round education.

Education is more than just a teacher issue. It’s also a parent issue, a student issue and a community issue. Education is a shared responsibility.

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Different people define holistic education in different ways. I particularly like Scott Forbes’ description: Holistic education focuses on the fullest possible development of the person, encouraging individuals to become the very best or finest that they can be and enabling them to experience all they can from life and reach their goals.

Holistic education requires much time, effort and patience from teachers, parents and students. It involves all the activities that take place in school, at home and during extracurricular activities.

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Why Should You Get More Involved in the Education of Your Kids?

– Because schools may be unable or unwilling to adopt holistic education. Many teachers define their job as “teaching” and consider it the parents’ responsibility to “solve their children’s problems”.

– Because education is a journey, not a destination. Education begins at home and never ends. It is a lifelong process.

– Because schooling can be an obstacle to education. Schools tend to promote conformity over independence and can therefore be a barrier to children’s learning. As Dr Gray argues, teachers focus on keeping order and on following the curriculum, rather than on students’ individual needs.

– Because education is more than developing technical skills. Schools primarily focus on academic work but this is just one aspect of a successful education. Education is more than just knowing how to read, write and excel in standardised tests. It involves developing critical thinking skills, virtue, openness, creativity, independent thought and how to live in society.

– Because education happens everywhere. Schooling takes place in formal settings, education occurs everywhere. Education takes place anytime and anywhere, in both formal and informal settings.

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How Can You Get Involved?

1. By making education active. Many studies suggest that the more children are involved in the learning process, the more likely they are to benefit from it. You can help your children by providing resources and opportunities for them to learn and then letting them learn by themselves.

2. By helping them develop a heightened sense of self. The first step in helping your kids develop a strong sense of self is by loving them unconditionally. Do not compare them unfavourably to their siblings or to other children. Helping them identify their strengths and preferences and focusing on those also helps them develop a sense of self.

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3. By giving them chores. According to a recent Braun research study, giving children regular chores may have long-lasting benefits academically, socially, emotionally and professionally. Other studies have found that the earlier (from age 3) children are assigned chores, the more self-reliant and independent they become, and they also become more responsible and tend to do better in school.

4. By spending quality time with them. Groundbreaking research shows that it’s not the amount of time you spend with your kids that counts – it’s the quality. Little pieces of time matter. Spend time on things you both enjoy. Read to them or with them. Talk with them. Let them participate in your activities.

5. By letting them fail. It’s hard to stand by and watch your child fail but many things can be learnt from failure. Teach your kids that failure provides an opportunity to learn useful lessons. Failure can make kids resilient and boost their creativity.

6. By being a role model. Whether you like it or not, your kids learn by watching you. Past studies have shown that kids of anxious parents are more likely to take on their anxiety. Help your kids by modelling the behaviour you would like to see.

7. By providing challenges. When you encourage children to try unpleasant or difficult activities, you help them develop tenacity. However, you need to take into account their age and their level of fear.

8. By holding high expectations. Believe in your children and set high but achievable expectations of them. A study conducted by researcher from Indiana University found that children often met their parents’ expectations. Those whose parents expected them to succeed did; those who parents did not failed. Let your kids know what you expect from them and encourage them to work hard to fulfil those expectations.

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