“Parents are the primary educators of their children.” This phrase was echoed in my training as a health educator and social worker so often it became a mantra to me. Modern educators hear it a lot, although they may not always understand the core of what it really means. The primary, consistent and most influential teachers any child has are his or her own parents or caregivers. This seems obvious, but we often forget this in our interactions with parents and families of young children. We all think we know what’s best, whether we are a grandparent in the grocery store aisle, a teacher or social service provider.
The sheer amount of time spent with primary caregivers, especially before enrolling in formal education (including preschool) is enormous. And even after going to a public or private school full-time, children still spend the vast majority of their waking hours before the age of 18 with their family of origin, not inside the classroom.
Average school year is 900-1000 hours in the US, consistent between states. For comparison, there are just over 8765 hours/year.
Even children who attend daycare (averaging 35 hrs/wk), spend nearly twice as many hours with this ‘secondary’ caregiver as they do in school.
See: ChildCare Aware America – http://www.naccrra.org/about-child-care.
This is why I encourage all parents to see themselves as “homeschoolers”. For parents of kids in public schools, in particular, this is an ideological shift, and possibly a painful one. It requires a realization that our casual, hope-we-don’t-miss-anything approach to educating our children may not be enough, especially for some of our kid’s more unique challenges.
We have heard that parenting is tough, but we didn’t know we’d need a curriculum! But what homeschooling can offer children … the enrichment and excitement about life-long learning … those things are available to ALL children who have parents who are deeply engaged in their educations. Not all of us have the time, energy, resources or temperaments to be our child’s primary teacher for every subject, but that doesn’t mean we can’t facilitate learning opportunities, both inside and outside of the classroom environment.
This also means there is a critical role for informal educators (e.g. childcare providers, after-school program staff, children’s librarians & museum staff). They are part of the home-school connection – the village that is intentionally raising our community’s kids together. Our children’s educations cannot afford to be seen as something that happens only during the limited hours they spend each year in formal education. Most schools beg us to do this, if only to maintain learning over holidays and summer break. Teachers will tell you that one of the hardest things about their jobs is figuring out how to get families engaged in the academic process – we are such a critical part of the equation that equals student success.
Families that choose to replace this classroom experience with homeschool lessons, often find that a seamless blend of learning can take place across a spectrum that includes nearly all the activities in a child’s day. Helping with chores is a teaching opportunity, cooking dinner involves math & science, a trip to a museum as a family explores the social sciences, reading together enhances literacy, etc. We can take a great lesson from these families that have blended established teaching techniques with a trail-blazing approach to new educational innovations and modern technology.
64% of homeschoolers use technology every day in their homeschool & rated their expertise with technology as “intermediate.” 87% believe that homeschoolers will use technology even more in the future.
See: Homeschoolers May Be Ahead of The Technological Curve – http://homeschooling.about.com/od/computersinternet/a/technology.htm
In our rush to test and retest every aspect of our school curricula, academic philosophy and teaching technique, I think we may have overlooked the primary teachers of every child. Supporting, engaging and providing resources to these fundamentally essential educators of every child should be as important, or perhaps even more important, when we ask ourselves why our school system is failing certain students in serious ways and all students in fundamental ways.
How do you support your child(ren)’s learning at home?
How do you think our schools could do better when reaching out to parents & families?
What role should families be expected to play in 21st century education?
Share your thoughts in the comments!
Category: iPads in Education