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New Modes of Learning

To make out-of-school learning sustainable at home, lead with what you love
Family hiking with compass

The temporary shift to distance schooling can be a time for both parents and teachers to reshape their understanding of what learning can be, says Professor Jal Mehta.

As John Dewey famously theorized, education is about “linking the growing web of knowledge in a child’s head with a growing web of knowledge in the world. That means that almost anything can be an opportunity for learning,” says Mehta, whose research explores the benefits of deeper learning. “My suggestion is to look for activities that are fun but have educational value.”

Drawing on his recent experiences with his own children (6 and 9), Mehta had the following suggestions for parent-educators at home:

  • Though without the structure of a physical classroom and teacher presence, kids will still want to do things that are familiar. Try allotting blocks of time for general subjects like math, reading, and writing.
  • If you are the one directing the learning, draw on your own interests. If you’re not invested in the learning opportunity, it likely won’t be sustainable over the course of a few weeks.
  • The learning that kids are expected to do at home does not necessarily have to replicate the learning in the classroom. In fact, this can be a time to experiment.
    • Math can include sudoku and kakuro alongside general lessons on multiplication and division.
    • Let kids read the books that interest them and use that as an opportunity to think about how stories are structured.
    • Writing fiction or telling stories can compliment non-fiction writing assigned as schoolwork, and vice versa.
    • Go for a hike — bring along a compass and a map for some applied geography.

“This is a chance for [children] to find something they love and do more of it than they would otherwise get to,” says Mehta. “Ultimately, you want them to look back at this period as one where they got to spend some happy time with their family, and got to do some learning that they couldn’t do in school.”

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