The pandemic has confined children and education to homes for almost a year. Learning from home is the new normal. Everything from the classes at school, training sessions, and even exams are being conducted from home. Evidently, homeschooling seems to be the new norm in the current scenario.
Hello everyone! Today we have with us Ms. Arti Rohra. And the topic for today’s live session is "Homeschooling is the new Norm".
Please tell us something about yourself.
I am an educator by profession. I have been teaching for the past 10 years. We have lived in Singapore for 10 years. We are permanent residents there. When I was working there, I was working in an international pre-school. Then I gradually progressed to becoming a principal and managing over 100 children as well as around 20 teachers. So we had a very big team where we followed different methodologies of teaching and it was a pleasure working there.
When I conceived my baby, we decided to move back to be with the family. That was most important then. Now my child is 18 months old, and I have started to homeschool him. Also, one of the reasons for homeschooling him is because of the pandemic. Of course, I would have been teaching him at home a lot. But now he is completely under my care of learning, from the point of view that there are no schools because of the pandemic and it seems to become the new norm of the world now. Homeschooling is operational in every home in every part of the world. I think in very few countries schools are operating at the moment now. So that is why homeschooling has become the new norm.
What is homeschooling and how did you get through the idea?
So, homeschooling is schools being replaced by homes where learning is happening. Teachers have been replaced by parents, family, and grandparents. Everybody is involved in the teaching process. Especially when there is a family involving 2 or 3 children it is very difficult for them to give online lessons. So everybody is involved in supporting children and older children especially.
The teaching is replaced by the online Zoom classes which have become very popular. All schools, even my son’s school, are scheduling online classes for all their students. Outdoor play has been replaced by indoor play. So this is how lifestyle has changed. COVID has brought a complete change in everyone’s lifestyles. Parents are operating from home. Home has become everything for everybody. So that is what homeschooling is in my eyes.
What methodology do you follow here?
I started Edukrish during the pandemic and I did it to document this entire process on my Instagram handle. That’s why I named it Edukrish after my son’s name. So it’s basically ‘Krish and educating him’. So that is the whole thought process of coming up with the name and due credit to my husband for coming up with the name.
The methodology that I follow is that I follow "Montessori", I do "Play Way" and I do "Reggio Emilia". These are the three fields I follow through and I take the best out of every lesson that I am planning through. The two approaches that I look at while I am planning a lesson are the inquiry-based approach and the theme-based approach.
Inquiry is nothing but it is dependant on the teacher, from the perspective that a good teacher results in good responses, good progress in the child; from that perspective, it depends on the question that the teacher is going to ask the child, or the answers the teacher is being able to get back from the child. Those are the 5 WH questions that are the most important while following the inquiry-based approach - who, when, why, what, and how. These are the questions that the teacher keeps in mind while teaching her child or teaching the children at school.
In the theme-based approach, I take a theme like colors and shapes, numbers, family, etc, and cover it through with my child. And I integrate everything into that learning experience. So it helps the child to learn about the theme as well as learn about the different aspects.
While planning these lessons, what are the areas of development that you keep under consideration? How do these help the children?
While I am planning the lesson, I keep in mind 5 areas of development.
One is cognitive development. Cognitive development is all regarding the mind. It is all about logical thinking. Now, for example, tomorrow I am going to start with a new theme called wild animals. So, for cognitive development, I can’t tell my child that this is for cognitive development, so I integrate it into the theme. So as I start with the theme tomorrow, I will be focusing on the tiger, because the tiger is India’s national animal and we have just introduced it to my son last Friday. Orange and black are what the colors of a tiger are. So I am going to be giving him some colored blocks and get him to sort through them. This is my first step to start planning the lesson. And this is nothing but cognitive development where the child is sorting orange and black. And if he likes, he could draw some lines and markings on the paper with orange and black colors. So this is all about cognitive development. I will also be doing a puzzle with him for cognitive development. So this is how I integrate it. So I get him to sort and to solve a puzzle. He’s got to use his logical thinking while making the puzzle as well as he’s got to think visually when he’s doing the sorting of orange and black. And tomorrow, we are going to be only using orange and black while we are working with the tiger.
The second is communication and language. I try to build communication by reading a book to him. I give him language games from the perspective that I give him a bag where I put different objects of daily use and I get him to sort it out. Once he gets an object out, we talk about the object, we talk about the colors of the object. This is how I play language games with him. This is how I teach him communication and language.
The third area is social development. Now, social development is one of the areas that everybody is finding a big challenge. Our children of this generation are going to have a big struggle when they are going to go back to that normal world. Because, at the moment, they are antisocial as they are not having an opportunity to meet their friends, their peers. They are not having a chance to go and play outdoors with their friends as they normally would do. Like, I took my son out for the first time when he was 5 months and he was zapped at seeing why he had come down. It took him two or three times to understand that this world exists. He had completely forgotten about it. So when he is seeing a stranger he is reacting very differently, which he wouldn’t have reacted to. At the end of the day, our children are suffering socially, from a social aspect. So from my perspective, what I helped him to do is I gave him a lot of pretend play to do. Like, pretending to play with his friends or pretending to play with the toys. For example, he loves to ride his car. We get him to sit in the car and I ride him around the house. What I have started doing now is getting him to place his animals in the car. And he rides them around. So while we are riding the animals around I am singing the songs to him. So we are pretending to take the dog for a ride in the car. We are pretending to take different animals in the car or the teddy bear in the car, whoever he wishes to. So this is one form of pretend play.
The fourth area is physical and motor development and is very important for children developing at that age. Physical and motor development is made up of fine motor skills as well as gross motor skills. Fine motor skills are the small muscles that we are talking about, like finger muscles that are used for eating, writing, using a spoon, using crayons. And gross is the large motor skills that are playing with the ball, climbing up and down the steps, sitting on a chair. What I do is I give him a lot of fine motor skill activities. Like tomorrow, we are working on the tiger. We are going to be making footprints of a toy tiger or the play dough or else, we are going to be molding a tiger. And we will be placing black stripes on the tiger. This is how we have planned the activity for our fine motor skills.
Now the last area is self-help and taking care of oneself. My son loves wearing socks. He likes to wear five pairs of socks simultaneously. It gets very challenging to get them out. Halfway through he will help himself but then I also get him to remove it out. And then, clean-up is one of the biggest struggles that all parents face. So I introduced this clean-up with a song. He knows the song and will gradually start cleaning up after himself. A child should have the habit of cleaning up otherwise he will never learn. He will just learn that he can open up all the toys and then throw them away. And, feeding himself is what I have started working on. He has started feeding himself. So these are the self-help skills I am working on with him.
What does a day at Edukrish look like?
We normally have our school sessions in the morning at around 10:30. The session lasts for 20-25 minutes. It depends on how active he is, or what mood he is in. So if he is not really in the mood to sit down and play then it doesn’t work. Also, he has stopped napping. So what I plan to do with him is I plan to sit down in the afternoon with him for a good hour where we plan up all our activities.
So when I begin the activities, I start with circle time. Circle time is nothing but basically, I am getting all the musical instruments together and getting him to sing the song. We start with the good morning song, we do days of the week, and we do the weather song. These are the three common songs that we do every day. And then, we also work on cognitive and communication skills by counting and doing language through nursery rhymes. So this is how I begin. For example, if we are talking about the tiger, then we will introduce the tiger at circle time where we count the legs of the tiger; I tell him what food the tiger eats. So this is how I will get him to talk at circle time. He may not talk at the moment because he is talking very few words but he will take the language in, he is absorbing.
And, after circle time I plan a structured activity for him. Structured activity is nothing but basically, I either give him a puzzle to do and if he wants to he can sort some beads. After that, we will do some painting activity. So that is all about our structured play. We put in all our puzzles, we put in our counting, and we put in our communication and language into structured play.
From there on we go to the most fun part which he enjoys and that is sensory play. So for my sensory play, I have got a box setup where I have tried to give him language development by putting the letters of the word tiger out there. Then he will explore the tiger. And he will do scooping and spooning of the oats placed there to work on different skills at one time. Every day I plan different sensory activities. Sensory play is very important at this age because everything that you want your child to retain is sent through the senses. That is why it is very important to include sensory activities and I try to give him sensory play every day.
After the sensory play, we do reading of a book. It is one of the most important skills. So for tomorrow, I have again planned the book ‘In the Jungle’ and I will get him to match the animals. This is like a reading combined with matching the animals.
After reading, we do fine motor skills. But for tomorrow, the fine motor got combined with in-the-box activity and the molding of the tiger.
Our next activity would be our self-help skills. Self-help skills are nothing but feeding oneself, taking care of oneself. Of course, we will do a big clean-up after the whole activity is over. My son loves to feed me when he is getting fed. So I plan to get him to feed the tiger. So we plan to do a feeding activity with the tiger.
This is how I have taken you through the whole plan of tomorrow, which I have planned up to show how I integrate the whole process. And putting it together is most important and how it helps is it keeps the topic very interesting. Kids love animals, so does my son. He is gradually developing an interest in animals, understanding how they move and understanding the movements of the animals. For physical motor development, I plan to make him crawl like a tiger or move like a tiger, while making some animal sounds.
And how this helps is, basically it helps a child holistically, from the perspective that by bringing in our cognitive, communication, language, physical and motor development as well as our self-development. This has helped in his overall development and holistic development. With this theme, we have put all five areas together.
What are the challenges that you face in the process?
There are lots and lots of challenges. One challenge is to get a toddler to sit down and do an activity. So I have understood my child and getting him to sit down is giving him an activity with water. He loves to play with water. So you need to understand what your child loves. If your child loves to play with playdough, put in the activity with play dough, put in the activity with what your child is fond of and is engaged by.
For my son, it is important to have water around him. If he has water then he will get engaged in any activity. For these 45 minutes or 1 hour, I close the room door so there is no distraction and he is not distracted to step out of the room. And he knows it is his work time. So to get him to focus I basically try to build an interest in him gradually. When I know that he is getting bored or losing interest, I move him to the next activity.
Even though some days he may not be in the mood to sit down and do an activity, he would be observing me. So I let him observe what I will say. Observing does not mean that the child is not learning. Observing means that he is seeing it and he will do it the next time. And this has happened multiple times. Even I avoid forcing him into the activity. I will just tell him don’t do it if you don’t want to but watch me doing it.
You can’t force a child, because, at the end of the day, we have to develop the mantra ‘Love for Learning’. It is the most important thing for a child. If we give him that gift of love for learning, we will take that child leaps ahead. And that love for learning comes only from within a child, but parents and school are also responsible for that. At the moment, school is in the parents’ hands. The teachers are no more there. Parents are the only teachers. So we have to nurture and develop their curiosity. That helps them to develop a love for learning and gain from new experiences.
This is what I have learnt in my journey. Of course, I have been a teacher and I have learned a lot from that. But when it comes to your child, your baby, then you want to try and put in everything. All mothers are like that. They are always worried about what their child's doing and what they are not. So as a mother you get a little more paranoid. As a teacher, of course, you are paranoid because they are your children. But as a mother, I would say there is a little bit more worry. So enjoying the process is important and not the end goal.
Any message for the parents out there?
Nurture and develop the curiosity in them. Have fun while learning and enjoy the process, not the end goal. They will all talk, they will all eat, and they will all do everything at their own time. Every child is unique. Every child is different.