PRE-SCHOOLING: THE NEW PARADIGM

The Covid-19 pandemic has necessitated a new way of life for all. The need for change in one of the critical areas is ‘education’.  The effects of coronavirus and the observance of preventive measures announced by the government has changed the entire outlook of the education system, resetting the life of students, parents, and teachers exponentially.

When pandemic started, schools had to shift to online teaching. Many of them have been successful in turning the physical school into virtual school, while some are yet to achieve it for all the grades.

The time spent during the lockdowns & transition to online learning has given parents the direction to adapt and cater to their kids’ learning & development themselves customised with online lessons to the changed scenario.

In India, while the schools are still closed, parents of playschool and preschool going children want to know whether their children’s admission can be postponed by a year or should they be learning online through the classes arranged by the schools. Or just let the children be, not doing anything at all, as far as a formal way of learning goes.

Some parents are hesitant (not wanting to, despite peer pressure) enrolling their children between the age group 2-4 years for online preschool classes as they are not comfortable with the idea of their toddlers spending two-three hours in front of the screens as this being their first time experience and exposure to the formal way of preparing their children. The screen time of many children presently has anyways increased, so to draw children away or to minimize the screen time, some parents feel home teaching is the best way of learning- teaching right now. But one of the big concerns then is, their children are losing the peer group to play and interact with, giving them the important social skills.

For all stakeholders, the safety of children is essential, especially during the time of the pandemic. So, parents and children have options to either choose the new learning environment and make the learning possible through online resources or home school their kids or give the best of both worlds (if possible).

Swati Popat Vats, author and early childhood education expert, says, “Parents need to know that preschool contributes to the foundation of the child. Parents can defer the enrolment into a physical school, but they must not defer the academic year of the kids.  Even if the schools are physically closed, parents are unable to give language stimulations at home, but the brain of the child still needs these invigorations, so parents can defer an academic year, but not the child’s learning.”                                                                                

90% of a child’s brain development happens by the age of five. Children have a natural motivation to learn. Children are curious learners; they like discovering everything around them, and exploring every object under their reach. Just as they learn to stand and walk on their own by trying continually and master their walking, the same goes with learning to read, write, and speak.

Home is the first best place to start the journey of early childhood learning. Parents and teachers can integrate many learning principles in daily life by observing the child’s interest, noticing what they often like exploring & delving into, encouraging their curiosity and guiding appropriately, also setting some ground rules so that they learn to be respectful, can assist in nurturing the child’s uniqueness and, all the while, spending time together with parents.   

Children’s perceptions are built at home; they start learning about objects and things around them with their sense of touch, feel, sight, hear and interaction, to understand and experience the nature of the world. Majority of the activities that children can perform should be physical explorations where they have an assurance that they are safe and have plenty of time.  If children are physically active, they engage mentally fast. No better place than home for this and no better adults than parents to facilitate the learning for a child there can be. Parents can make it possible and provide a well-rounded education to their children with the help of online activity guidance, book kit and preschool material kits.

As a child grows, they start to become explorative, inquisitive and the desire of acing all activities increases. Workbooks and picture books are good companions for a child at this age. In this stage, augmented reality enabled books to deliver interactive content, focused on curriculum-based education are a good resource. With stories, rhymes, alphabets, words, images, storytelling-precisely explained and projected just like physical learning with a teacher, concept building and early childhood learning can be strengthened by parents. Parents get virtual teachers on the pages of the books that provide instant support and guidance on how to teach their children on the particular concept or activity of the book. Hands-on learning also comes with a virtual teacher. This is convenient for the parents to learn the procedure in a few minutes and guide the child to perform the activities correctly.

A good education system always needs an effective, age-wise curriculum that imparts the urge for learning, making it easy and fun-filled. To enhance the child’s ability to apply the knowledge, parents can teach and encourage the activity-based and innovative learning approach. Dr Maria Montessori says “The hands are the instruments of man’s intelligence” and that the hand and brain must develop in harmony. 

For toddler group, aged up to 3 years, lot of well-crafted hands-on training materials are available online; parents can use these training materials to train a few activities such as music and movement, language, arts and crafts, hand-eye coordination. For children, 3 to 6 years, parents can teach languages, phonics, numbers, read bedtime stories, practical life exercises with the help of online materials.  Besides, parents can give their children pretend play items, building blocks, hand-eye coordination materials and many more items that reduce the screen time and keep the child actively involved for a longer duration. Some of our favourites for early structured age-wise educational supplies & programmes are from firstcryintelli kit and flintoclass@home.

Today, homeschooling is also largely accepted by many parents, and they are more comfortable with the alternatives of imparting education to their kids. All thanks to the Internet! The Internet has revolutionized, parents and children can access all the knowledge in the world.  There are some brilliant educational websites for kids like National Geographic kids, STEM works, Exploratorium, how stuff works, science buddies and many more that provide an excellent way for kids to learn.

Children need the right age-related learning resources. Digital resources are available on an easy to navigate portals where parents can teach a child with just a click. Learning resources are set up in a clutter-free form and are available age-wise. As children progress through the curriculum, level-by-level, lessons become challenging, exactly the way it happens in schoolroom learning. This is called adaptive learning.

Online learning helps the parents, teachers and children learn-teach, whether on an aeroplane trip across the country or on a quick ride in the car. Wherever they are, parents can take the preschool with them on the laptop, tablet or even on the smartphone, if required.

Although parents have busy schedules and many both working, they can fine-tune their timings; can swap shifts or work from home, so that one of them can supervise the child when the other is at work. Children’s academic schedule when well-planned in advance, a day prior or weekly or even monthly overview can help in channelling resources in a better way. Also, parents keeping themselves flexible and open to the changes that may come uninvited in the schedules would serve a multitude in maintaining one’s peace and harmony.

Children need holistic development, they must be in a safe and secure environment, and all this can happen harmoniously only if there is genuine understanding, cooperation and support from the family and all participating members in the education of the child.

Happy parenting and happy schooling!

Homeschooling in India – Know more

The term ‘Homeschooling’ has gained momentum in the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic period. With this term, confusion in the minds of parents has also increased, especially among the Indian parents. Homeschooling is not something new. It is already a practised and a legal form of learning and imparting education in some countries. According to ‘Right to Education’ (RTE) Act, 2009, under the article 21A of the Indian Constitution, education is the right of every child and is compulsory till the age of 14. It doesn’t outline the mode of education or teaching methodology (Homeschooling or sending to school or virtual learning) decided by parents for their child. Things are good to go as long as the education of the child is in place. In India, Homeschooling is still a grey sphere.

Homeschooling is a mode of education and a way of imparting knowledge to school-aged children at the premise of their own home, instead of schools. Homeschooling gives the parents a chance to provide a tailored teaching experience to the child with lots of hands-on activities. Studies suggest that a homeschooled child perform academically better and score more percentiles than regular school students.

Homeschooling is a big responsibility and life-alerting for both parents and the child. Parents get a chance to relive their life while helping the children discover their passion. But it can feel daunting, unstructured and puzzling at times. The path is full of enlightening, fun, adventurous and challenging experiences, for both, parents and the kids taking on the world.

Children love learning new things. Besides regular studies in Homeschooling, it offers flexible time to kids for exploring different aspects of life, including social conduct and personality development, etc. and allows uncover their passions. Parents need not be certified teachers to homeschool their child. Parents are aware of the child’s progress and develop a syllabus that fits suitable according to their child’s learning style & psychological state.

Homeschooling is a bigger segment and should be better organised. Parents who are Homeschooling their kids can help each other through online groups and forums, regular meet-ups, and coordinated activities like zoo trips, museum visits, excursions to religious places etc. Thus, kids interact with other kids and share their knowledge and do not lack socialisation. Homeschooled kids are socialising by virtual means like online tours, virtual playdates and video calling, during the Covid-19 period, which is quite a similar experience for formal school goers at this time around.

Homeschooled kids have a strong sense of autonomy. When they were reviewed on topics related to leadership, care for community, self-discipline, peer play, and on various course related subjects, their answers were promising. And they performed well on measures of emotional intelligence and mental well-being. The real world is as bright for them as it is for everyone else. Home educated children go on to do challenging work even, as adults. They stand out, and their involvement in social activities and community building is thorough and sincere too.

In recent times, a growing number of families have started considering Homeschooling as an option. However, home schooling is not widespread in India but slowly catching up in major cities like Mumbai, Hyderabad, Pune and Bangalore. Safety concerns and exorbitant school fees kindled interest about Homeschooling among parents in metropolitan cities. Indian parents prefer Homeschooling over formal education to provide religious and moral instructions, also due to their concerns about the learning culture in the schools. They are uncomfortable with the large volume of homework after school, mugging up the textbooks without understanding the concepts and the lack of time for the kids to read beyond the syllabus.

Parents in rural areas prefer homeschooling for transportation convenience. Public transport may not reach the students home or, if they do, they may take long hours over the poor roads. Rural parents have an opportunity to instil in their children an acknowledgement for local values and places and integrate the local economy into education. 

The common question most parents ask is about the legalities of Homeschooling in India. At present, no formal institution or body governs Homeschooling in India. Nonetheless, parents who wish to home school their children can do so. RTE does not put-downs or rules out Homeschooling in India. Children studying through homeschools can appear for board exams through the National Institute of Open Schooling (NIOS), IGCSE or state boards.

Presently, where we in India stand in terms of universality and versatility of education, full acceptance of Homeschooling is still afar. It will require multidimensional progress in terms of economic, social, and political culture. And even then Homeschooling will be able to replace schooling; we have our concerns over that.

Conventional schooling, too, provides a plethora of benefits, which schooling in other modes may fail to deliver. Schooling allows our children to learn among peers who come from various diverse backgrounds. It not only helps our children learn social skills but also develop deeper relations like friendships. Extracurricular activities ranging from athletics to theatre allow children to recognise their interests, which many a time turn into a passion they wish to take ahead in life. Learning from teachers who are experts in their domain adds to the quality of learning, helping develop an interest in subjects that might form the basis for career choices. Also, the school environment helps children learn to handle and cope up with a multitude of situations on their own, adding to their growth and sense of individualism.

In my viewpoint, a feasible and practical approach to educating our children will bring together the best of both worlds, where the essential elements of schooling like peer learning can align and mix together with the right ingredients of Homeschooling!

A model of education where formal schooling continues but is joined by Homeschooling in a complementary role, in certain areas depending upon the individual needs of our children and spheres that can incorporate learning in the form of fun activities might pose to be an ideal one!

The unlock period provides a good opportunity to experiment around Homeschooling!

There are quite a lot of resources available for parents turned into Homeschooling educators. Many apps are available online to support parents and children with home learning. Whether full-time Homeschooling or just to support a child’s education. Here are few apps most beneficial for everyone.

They are:

Khan Academy and Khan Academy Kids: It offers interactive exercises and lessons on all topics. The lessons can be of great use to parents and students.  

NASA for students: This website includes a free catalogue of articles and topics related to space exploration and aeronautics.

Homeschool.com:  It provides information about getting started, lessons, links to local groups makes this site a great resource, especially those who are new to Homeschooling.

Project Gutenberg:  It has a large collection of eBooks, children’s classic literature. It is an amazing resource for starting their own library on a budget.

Xtramath: It lends free math videos, lessons and activities for teachers and parents.

Technology can enable educational curriculums and students can educate themselves on the go. They can learn anything they like from their parents, friends, teachers and the community. Parents can understand the kids better than anyone and can give their child the best to shine. 

Happy schooling!