New age parenting: Ideas for a 360 degree education

Progressive schools around the world are adopting new approaches to education. These include stress on concept learning, self-directed research, analytical thinking, cross-platform skills, collaborative effort and so on.

By Ritika Jain

The world at large seems to be more aware of itself than ever before. And it’s not just because of easy access to information via the internet. It’s a natural progression to evolve and reform. This seems to apply in every sphere, be it psychology, parenting or education.

When I was growing up, my parents didn’t always know of my whereabouts. It hardly means that it was a safer atmosphere back then. One can surmise that a lot of people shed taboos and came forward over the years to share their stories, which in turn made people more aware of predators. In the same way, recognising emotional needs of children and responding in an appropriate manner-speaking softly and creating distractions when a child throws a tantrum instead of yelling and losing your calm-all seems like something new age parents do.

Similarly, educators have come up to speed in certain areas. They now know that certain kids need special attention and certain kids in the same class may be bored because they’re brighter than the rest. Not to mention recent developments like testing for dyslexia or ADHD, or knowing whether a kid is an auditory or visual learner.

Well-informed parents know of the various boards and kind of examinations that are followed around the world. There are parent groups exchanging notes on which system their kid fits best in, according to his or her temperament. There was a time when getting an education meant memorising everything to score well in an exam but that is long gone. Progressive schools around the world are adopting new approaches to education. These include stress on concept learning, self-directed research, analytical thinking, cross-platform skills, collaborative effort and so on.

No matter which school your children attend or what grade they are in, here are some ideas that you can use to help them get a 360 degree education beyond the classroom:

Travel for varied experiences

What better way to expose your child to other cultures and get a sense of geography than to do it in person. Like the saying goes, ‘tell them and they’ll forget; show them and they’ll remember; involve them and they’ll understand.’ Take them birding, visit sites of historical importance and talk to the locals, try all kinds of cuisines. Buy them a camera or let them keep a visual diary to record their observations. This just may be the encouragement needed for future geologists, linguists, anthropologists or documentary makers.

Draw timelines

History may be boring when it’s just about an event in isolation. Connect the dots by drawing a timeline so you can map what was happening simultaneously in other parts of the world and how one thing led to the other. Make it into a story. You just might be nurturing an art historian or have a journalist in the making.

Encourage varied reading

All reading is good reading. Do not stop your child from borrowing a manga just like you wouldn’t mind him borrowing an encyclopedia. Just make sure they’re age appropriate. Encourage him or her to swap books with friends for a wider range. Positively encourage them if they choose titles beyond fiction. But the underlying idea is that they should enjoy reading so let them choose the material independently.

Use props

Kids usually dive in when the topic is around something that personally interests them. A child that likes planes and tanks may want to read up more about the world wars, where these things were actually used. Similarly, another kid may be fascinated with inventors and want science kits to experiment with. Sometimes it may not be feasible to buy expensive things like a telescope or a potter’s wheel. You could let your children participate in frequent workshops that enable them to further their interests.

Refer to audio-visual material

There are many videos online, ranging from animation explaining the life cycle of a plastic bottle to the hardest moves in ballet, from stories of mythological heroes to actual footage of life under water. Count these hours as exploration, not time wasted. In fact, add your two bits of personal experiences or knowledge. For example, I would tell my daughter about how a storyboard artist draws the frames required for the making of any animation.

Try the flipped class

Ask your child to teach you about a subject or give you a presentation over a specific period of time. This way, he or she will have to do enough research to be able to tell you more than the most obvious facts. Ask open-ended questions that require them to come up with their own conclusions or start a debate.

Make time for extra-curricular projects/activities

Encourage any hobby, be it collecting postage stamps or wanting to know the meaning of the lyrics of a Korean song. Basically, you’ll be encouraging passion. If the school doesn’t offer swimming, it doesn’t mean you can’t join a sports academy. Some kids like to experiment before they settle down on one thing. It may be because of how interesting the teacher made it or because they found one thing genuinely more appealing than the others. Give them the room to try out various things. Even if it’s going to a shelter to pet puppies.

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