Much has been said about helping teachers and students adapt to the accelerated shift to blended learning that the pandemic forced upon them, but the current discourse sometimes forgets that education is a three-way street that involves not only students and educators, but families as well.
Learners of any age perform demonstrably better in traditional school when parents or guardians follow and support their path to education and present a united front with their teachers. Why should it be any different for blended learning?
Families, however, may be diffident or confused in the face of a form of learning so far outside of their own experience. This is a natural reaction: change can frighten anyone, and parents are only human, after all. That is why if they wish to be supportive, families need support in turn. Here are some ways parents can stand by their children’s side in their new blended learning adventure.
Parents should stay active and informed too
If your main concern is that you do not understand the workings of the educational software your child is using, you have misgivings about their online privacy and safety, or you feel you cannot support them in their research endeavours in the same way you used to be able to help them with offline resources, then this is a prime occasion to learn.
Plenty of information about the most common EdTech resources employed by schools is available online, and if you do not feel confident enough with a computer, you can simply ask your child’s teachers for a better understanding or discuss them with your children themselves.
Having an open conversation about blended learning with the younger members of your family kills two birds with one stone: your children will see that you are actively interested in what is going on in their lives, and you will learn with them and perhaps even from them.
Now is the perfect time to bridge the generation gap. With some humility and willingness to learn, you can make better students out of your children by becoming a student yourself and letting them bring you up to speed. After all, sometimes teaching a concept is the best way to master it. Ask your children relevant and thoughtful questions about blended learning and you will all come out on the other side as better, more informed netizens with a stronger bond of love, communication and trust.
What matters is that you should never face this new chapter in your lives with preconceived notions such as ‘all screen time is a distraction’ and ‘the Internet is inherently inferior to books as a source of reliable information’: all learning requires an open mind and educating yourself about blended learning is no exception.
Set reasonable limits
Casting yourself as the student and your child as the teacher, however, does not stop you from having more traditional parental duties as a guide and sometimes an enforcer of rules.
Always remember that the keyword in blended learning is ‘blended’: while not all the time spent doing online assignments should be demonized and seen as taking away from effective studying, not all learning has to come from online sources. Encourage your children to take healthy breaks from their devices and supplement their online learning with the traditional methods you are more familiar with: textbook and encyclopaedias have not, in fact, gone extinct!
Another important thing you can do as a parent is help your children establish a schedule and take responsibility for their own education: while a day of blended learning looks very different from a day of attending a brick-and-mortar school in the morning, doing homework in the afternoon, and being free once your duty is done, structure and routine are still essential, especially in an educational model that encourages forging your own path. Depending on your child’s level of maturity, the increased flexibility of a blended learning schedule may or may not lead to procrastination and other damaging study habits, and it is up to you as a parent to remind them of their assignments (where notifications fail, that is) and impress upon them that keeping up with their schoolwork without opening any other tempting app pays off in the long term.