Talking and collaborating with your children is just as, if not more, important than home schooling

Although the typical school day is divided into structured periods of learning based on a subject area, we all know that children are learning and developing personal attributes continually; a child’s personal growth does not slot neatly into staggered 60-minute periods! Through a teacher’s guidance or through interaction with peers, as well as through their own reflection and introspection, a child learns a multitude of lessons in a day that have nothing to do with fractions or sonnets or the contours on a map.

From the group dynamics as children queue up for registration in the morning to parent/teacher meetings where a student has to listen to and accept productive criticism alongside praise, children develop interpersonal and communications skills that are vital for everyday life. We want our children to be reflective, resilient, creative and independent and, more than ever, future employers are valuing these qualities. Perhaps unfairly, these skills are labelled as ‘soft’ skills compared to the ‘hard’ technical skills that a specific subject or job area requires and yet it is often these skills that are the hardest and most valuable to learn.

So, this begs the question – how do we teach young people these important skills when the current situation means that they are interacting with others far less? How can we teach skills of collaboration, for example, when our children have few people to collaborate with within the home school setting? Unless the family dog is keen on group discussions and peer-assessment, this challenges adults to put their own ‘soft’ skills to the test.

The good news is that the situation we all find ourselves in is, innately, a fantastic opportunity to help children develop and appreciate these skills. We are all having to be adaptable at the moment; our children are watching us adapt our daily lives and they are already showing their ability to adapt. Praising our young people for their ability to cope with change and remaining positives ourselves is a great life lesson for us all.

Encouraging children to share learning resources with siblings or other adults in the house, helping each other with schoolwork and household chores or working together to choose and follow a recipe for a family meal. These are all activities that are happening in homes everywhere and, though this type of teamwork may come more naturally to some than others, celebrating when you and your children collaborate and achieve something together should not be undervalued.

If ever there was a time to make lemonade out of lemons, now is it. If you’re several weeks into lockdown and home schooling, you and your children have probably had your fair share of ‘lemons’. But, equally, that time you devised a fun game to learn spellings; or that morning you and your child negotiated down time in exchange for a certain amount of completed work; that’s home schooling lemonade right there! 

We are all adapting, creating, problem-solving, collaborating and learning from mistakes as we go. The brilliant thing is that our children are with us every step of the way; they will be learning life lessons and developing an inordinate amount of ‘soft’ skills that will stand them in good stead for years to come.