” Schools are closed; children are at home. I really don’t know what to do with them” – a number of parents appear to be lamenting. Some consider their presence at home as loss of their own personal freedom and find it difficult to engage with them in a meaningful and purposeful manner. Taking care of them at home, in a few cases, appears to add to the internal stress of the parents simply because of their lack of understanding of the child psychology or their developmental process. They seem to take some authoritarian role to hold them in clutters, restraining their freedom of thinking and action. Such a situation, has largely arisen, because in the last decade or two, the social psyche had become excessively consumerist, both personally and socially, with excessive focus on performance, growth, achievement, attainment and assimilation. On the contrary, they should feel it is an opportunity that they have got to consolidate and reinforce their relationship with their children.
With schools closed due to the pandemic, there is a compulsory home stay for both children and a large number of parents and a lot of opportunities to remain engaged face to face. It is indeed the time for them to understand each other more intensely and engage with each more closely. What could parents do, during such a time to engage with their growing children so that their learning curve is continually empowered?
1. Facilitate informal learning
Schooling is only one facet of learning process. A lot of learning happens outside the school, without the text books, without any designed formal curriculum and in an informal manner. Quite a lot of inputs gained through informal learning are indeed powerful, are transferred to long term memory, sometimes they are experiential and oftentimes it carries with it a lot of emotionally competent stimuli. They help in formulation of opinions, thoughts, concepts and directions for a healthy life. Home provides an excellent environment for such learning, as they happen without any element of stress and in an environment of cordiality. Further, the learners tend to believe in the authenticity of the content of learning because it is delivered and gained from their own parents. They attribute a lot of credibility, reliability and validity to the message they receive from their parents and grandparents. Such learning inputs reach on the dining table, on the reading desks, during conversations and at bed time conversations.
2. Participate and collaborate in learning
At home, there is a lot of opportunity for participatory and collaborative learning. Such learning experiences are largely dynamic, scaffolding, reinforcing and mutually motivational. It is important for parents to ensure that they don’t display any sense of authority, one up Manship, intellectual superiority or an ivory tower priestly approach. Such learning could be by play way methods, sharing of experiences, story telling and by narratives and anecdotes from the past which help to understand legacy, heritage and culture. Very often the children get motivated to see parents are doing the same thing along with them. Such feeling help to effectively mentor the children in the right direction.
3. Introduce and promote Native culture
It is an excellent time to familiarize them with a large number of activities that promote native culture, indigenous knowledge. Helping them to understand the past is very important as many of these native experiences are hardly available in text books or other literature. Playing ancient local games, explaining to them the lives of local heroes, familiarizing them to the evolution of local culture, folk songs, folk dances and the like will help them to reposition their conditioned learning in the schools. Efforts should be made to promote local languages. The richness of their literature, proverbs and saying from the local communities of the past will help them with richness of inputs that are hardly available to them anywhere else.
4. Trigger and Nurture their curiosity
Curiosity is a powerful tonic. It helps in building self-identity, self-esteem, self-confidence and a sense of achievement and fulfilment. One doesn’t need to make a heavy investment to promote and nurture curiosity. It could just start as a play or as a hobby; then it could even develop as a skill, as a profession or as a life-time engagement driven by passion. Allow them to spend their time in drawing, painting, learning music, play on instruments, writing stories and poems. While using the digital mode is the order of the day, it is important for parents to encourage children to engage in real-time and direct modes of experience than through virtual modes.
5. Facilitate in building Relationships
In an increasingly consumerist society, the concept of relationships is getting totally redefined. They are presently driven largely be needs, usefulness, contexts and comfort levels. There is indeed a need to refocus on relationships as necessities of human engagements both at the personal and social levels. Hence, to understand the concept of family, family relationships, family tree and the generational linkages of the families could be helpful to the young members of the family. Though it might look a little disinteresting for them to start with, its relevance and importance would be understood at a later stage of life. Further, help them to discuss their emotional and other needs frankly and purposefully with the members of the family. This would help them to eliminate false sense of ego, self-pride, misgivings and other emotional infectants.
6. Train them in Home-making
Home making is an art and science in itself. It helps to develop self-confidence and a sense of discipline to life and chosen personal style of living. Right from making a cup of tea or coffee, to cooking and home maintenance could help them to develop a self-dependant and self-organized life style. At no point of time in their life, they would feel helpless, low and as one who need to depend on other people or systems. Further, it would help them to understand on understanding the home economics at a preliminary level. It will also help them to understand the different type of produce which are in common use, their modes of growth, acquisition, management and their value in nutrition management. It will help them to understand the cost of home making, the value of money and the need for objective consumerism.
7. Encourage their Reading Skills
“A reader lives a thousand lives before he dies... The man who never reads lives only one.” Says George Martin. “Reading maketh a full man.” Says Sir Francis Bacon. For those who love reading, it is said that they are never alone. They will always find a company in each character of a story, a novel, a play or any narrative. Reading opens the wings of the mind and allows the reader to travel to any of his chosen geographies, landmarks of the histories or a situation where they can place themselves or identify themselves. Reading helps them to identify a spectrum of emotions and helps them with the ability to handle them with a sense of wisdom and maturity. Reading helps them to connect the inner world with the outer and vice-versa. Reading transports them to delve deep into the experiences of people whom they had never met and thus acquire the essence of all in a very short period of time. Reading enhances the abilities of comprehension, acquisition of knowledge, their logical organization, their analysis and their message for personal utility. Parents should help children acquire good reading habits, possibly, modelling themselves. It is important to introduce them to the classics of world literature apart from their preferences to modern literature and those that excite, thrill or keep them on their emotional launch pads.
8. Assist in building their Emotional intelligence
In the modern world, there is an increasing evidence of aggression, emotional outbursts, insatiable gratification urges and vulgar display of power, ego and authority. The Gen-next is becoming a victim to these modern trends. Parents should find these periods as excellent opportunities to talk to them and prepare their psychological profile to become simple, humble and sensitive citizens. This would indeed prepare them to meet the challenges of life with better understanding, empathy and compassion. The parents should help the children to differentiate between ‘money’ and ‘wealth’. Several facets of wealth like – health, knowledge, relationships, trust, faith, self-esteem and inter-personal relations.
9. Help them to understand their spiritual power
Sri Aurobindo considers ‘spiritual education’ as one of the vital components of the learning process. The spiritual power of an individual is not limited by his knowledge, perception and practices of any religion, but it extends beyond to his relationship with the entire universe. It includes his relationship with nature, with living organisms, with creatures that contribute to the planet earth’s survival directly or indirectly. It helps to elevate the individual from one’s ‘baser needs’ to ‘the divine power’ where ‘the power of giving’ dominates over ‘the power of receiving.’ It helps the individual to relate to the entire cosmos in an integral manner and seek a meaning for the self in the context of the dynamics of the universe. It helps the individual at all times to win over the self, to battle fearlessly against all odds, to forgive others with compassion and conviction, to share the possessions with others equitably. It is best understood as the ‘power of Being’ than as the ‘power of Becoming.’ Parents can use the interacting opportunities to enhance this belief in the ‘power of Being.’
10. Build their social consciousness
Social consciousness is a gratitude we express to the society which lets us to be what we are. The celebration of independence and freedom is a gift of the society to each of us to celebrate our lives. In this celebration, it is important for us to let others have their human rights, basics for living, their freedom to express and communicate, their passion to pursue what they want to do – and all these under the provisions of the constitutional definitions. Insatiable consumerism often tempts us to rob others from what is due to them. Living a life of comfort, when others suffer in pain, poverty, needs and despair is a negation of social consciousness. Parents should take time to develop the elements of social consciousness through appropriate interventions, models and examples so that the development of the learner is holistic.
As such many of the above suggestions can be introduced and can become effective only to a limited extent in a formal school situation. Hence the home-schooling opportunities, as and when available should be used to cater to these essential life skills.