Planning Your Child’s Education In A Digital Learning Age ...by Bill Knell
I attended high school in the early 1970s and at that time most of my younger teachers were convinced that we would be living in a paperless society within ten to twenty years. Well, we are still not there although I suppose that one could argue that we’re getting close. The point is that education is now available in many forms to children and parents have to consider which of those best suit their kids. Having raised seven children I am in a good position to offer advice on this matter, at least as far as the USA goes because that is where I live and brought up my kids.
A school recently began offering online Physical Education courses. Huh? That’s right! Children watch other kids working out, playing games or performing various exercises. After watching the online videos the children try to physically copy what they see and must send short videos of their own attempts back to the provider. I never much cared for the lack of privacy generated by kids going through puberty having to shower together after physical education class ended for the day, so that would have been perfect for me. Even some Shop classes are now available online. These unusual choices are an example of how far we have come since home schooling first appeared on the scene years ago. However, home schooling and computer courses are not for everyone.
While my kids were growing up I was either working at home or fulfilling speaking dates on the road for months at a time. This placed a lot of pressure on my wife who also had a small home office style business. When I was at home I shared the responsibility for watching the kids and transporting them where they needed to go. We decided that home schooling was not practical for our family due to the number of children we had at home and the fact that both of us were busy working during most of the day. However, just because you send your kids to traditional school does not mean you do not need to devote a lot of time to their education.
Every school our kids ever attended seemed to feel that parents should be at the beck and call of the teachers and administrators. It seemed like they felt that parents needed to be as involved with the education of their kids as the teachers were. That sounds great and seems right, but when you have to earn a living there are certain practicalities that insert themselves into your life like working eight or more hours each week day. Then, there were the endless fund raising events and programs. Whatever happened to all that lotto money the states were supposed to be sending to their schools?
My wife and I have always been supportive of teachers and each time a new semester started we sent far more supplies in than were requested to make sure that our children’s educators would not have to dip too far in their own pockets for supplies and such. The fact that teachers are under paid and under supplied is a national tragedy and just wrong. Having said that, we often felt that there were many times when teachers or administrators over reacted to situations or demanded too much parental involvement in school activities and those times ended up costing our family in terms of lost revenue. Lost revenue is a big thing when you have seven kids.
Overall, I would say that going to traditional school benefitted our children regardless of our battles with educators and even though the social interactions they had were not always positive. Kids will be kids and that means occasion fights, disagreements and peer pressure situations will occur. My feeling is that those are all things that most of us will face at some time in life anyway so kids might as well learn how to deal with them while they are still young. In a perfect world school would be just about learning and people would all get along. Sadly, we do not live in a perfect world. Some parents believe that many unfortunate situations can be avoided by home schooling and have made that choice.
The upside to home schooling is that most kids taught that way end up better educated and focused on learning. They tend to be more open to all subjects rather than just those that interest them and many of these children develop superior study habits. Although they miss out on things like social interactions, sports and other elective activities, even the most traditional educators are now beginning to question the actual value of expensive elective programs that seem to benefit the few more than the many. In a world of tight budgets and less money available for education tough choices have to be made. I understand that and just hope that the choices made reflect reality instead of just the need to be politically correct or take things away from kids that can enhance their educational experience.
In the case of people who have various restrictions based on things like religion or their lifestyle choices most traditional schools and even many home learning programs may not meet their needs. Private schools exist for most of those folks and that may be their best bet. They can also check out some of the religious or lifestyle based home schooling programs available if they can spare the time needed to supervise their children while they learn at home and afford the costs involved. The key to making any decision about your child’s education is to start educating yourself about the choices out there for schooling of any type long before they are ready to start school.
Learning starts at birth. My wife and I spent a lot of time talking with our children and interacting with them as often as possible from the time they were born. As soon as they began showing signs that they could understand us we began teaching them things like manners, reading to them and choosing what we felt they should watch on TV. We also researched the various methods of education available to us at that time. We chose traditional schools, but enhanced that choice by spending time with them, sharing family history and making sure that our kids knew that we did not always agree with everything that educators said or curriculums taught. Sometimes that brought us in direct conflict with the schools they attended. Those situations were just part of the price of being parents as far as we were concerned.
Many states now offer online learning for kids. I believe this is the natural development of how deeply digital devices have intruded into our lives and would have eventually come to pass no matter how many people might oppose it. For some this is a huge benefit, especially for kids who live in areas where a trip to their local school could mean a long bus ride if school buses were even available. It also benefits children who might live in areas where an early morning walk or public bus ride to school could put them in physical or stranger danger. Digital learning in this form can also benefit children who are gifted or require special attention that their traditional school situation might not have available to best suit their needs.
In the end any educational choice you make for your kids will probably come back to haunt you at some point because we do not live in a perfect world. That is why it is so important to block out the noise from everyone who feels that a certain type of learning environment is just what your children need. You need make that decision for yourself based on your own family situation. If they are nothing else children are extremely adaptable. As an only child I hated my first few weeks of school and having to mingle with so many kids. By the end of that first semester I had made friends with several of my classmates and could not wait to return to school after the holidays.
If you do your homework and take into consideration the needs of your children as well as the needs of your family when you make learning choices you will probably have the right outcome for your situation. The one thing that kids need more than anything else is time with their parents. So make sure that any choice you make includes that vital element. Share your family values, history, stories and genealogy with your kids. Knowing where you came from is as important as knowing where you are going in life and I feel that the more you know about your family, the more you can discover about yourself.