Your Child Learns Everywhere – (Reassurance for parents of Primary School Children during the Corona Virus Pandemic)…

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Dear Parents, Please don’t worry about whether your children will miss out on too much learning while confined to home during the school closures concerning the Corona Virus. The good news is: Your children learn EVERYWHERE!! In case, you are worried that your child will miss out on a lot of what is on the Primary School Curriculum, I will endeavour to inform you in as concise a way as possible what IS on the Primary School curriculum. Firstly, the main aims of the 1999 Primary School Curriculum are to 1. develop each child’s potential to the full, 2. encourage a love of learning and 3. help children develop skills they will use throughout their lives. Is this not something that you parents, as the “primary educators” of your children already do really well?

The 7 subject areas covered in the Primary School Curriculum are 1. Language: English and Irish, 2. Maths, 3. SESE (Social, Environmental and Scientific Education) which includes History, Geography and Science, 4. Arts Education which includes Visual Arts, Music and Drama, 5. PE (Physical Education), 6. SPHE (Social, Personal Health Education) and 7. RE (Religious Education or Ethical Education). There is so much that can be done under all of these areas in a natural, fun and interesting way while your children are at home. This unprecedented event in History that we are all living through can provide many huge learning experiences for your children. Education is about way more than what happens in the four walls of a classroom or school. As American philosopher and psychologist, John Dewey famously stated, “Education is not preparation for life. It IS life itself”.

Thinking about language, the main elements of the New Primary Language Curriculum 2019 are Communicating, Understanding, Exploring and Using. When you and other members of the family intentionally listen to and talk to your children, you are helping them develop in these areas. Tell them stories, factual and fictitious and listen to theirs. Share stories specific to your family, culture and background. This gives your children a deeper sense of their identity. Use rich and wonderful words. If your children don’t understand them now, they will later. Have fun with language, make up words. Talk about words that rhyme. Recite poems, nursery rhymes, sing together. Tell jokes. Laugh together! You’re not only sharing an amazing learning experience with your child when you do this but you’re positively promoting their wellbeing and your own. If you speak Irish or another language, speak it to your children in a fun way. Play songs in that language. Watch TV, Youtube videos, cartoons etc… in these languages. Let your children take the lead and choose what it is that they are interested in and what they want to learn. They MAY surprise you, in great ways.

Some other quick and simple ideas to enhance your child’s learning at home are: a) play outside in the garden and / or go for a walk (as well as getting fresh air, your child could be engaging in real-life Maths through measuring, exploring shape and space, counting twigs, leaves etc.., using SESE skills of exploring, investigating and developing their understanding of local environments and their awareness and care for the environment, covering Athletics, Dance, Games, Outdoor and Adventure activities strands of the PE curriculum) b) engage in Art activities. If you don’t have paints or colours at home, don’t worry. Other strands of the Visual Arts curriculum are Drawing, Print, Clay, Construction, Fabric and Fibre. Every home or outdoor space has some of these freely available for children to add their creativity and imagination to in producing something way beyond our adult imaginations. c) help with household chores eg. emptying the dishwasher, pairing socks. Let them count and sort the cutlery. This is real-life Maths. d) bake or help making a meal. In addition to the literacy and language involved in reading or listening to a recipe or a conversation regarding the task at hand, children are involved again in Maths (weighing, sorting, counting) and Science (investigating which ingredients go together, exploring and discussing why vegetables are good for us etc…) e) read. This might be the chance for your child to read that book or comic they got for Christmas or anything at all that is of interest to them in the house. Shopping catalogues and brochures can be a great, free resource for Maths and reading as well as a stimulus for conversations. Finally, considering the RE or Ethical Education area of the curriculum, now is definitely a time to answer or at least discuss some of those ‘big’ questions your child might have, to pray together depending on what your religion may be, to be mindful and in the present moment together and to acknowledge the interconnectedness of us all.

Undoubtedly, there will be periods during the day when your child will want to play games and /or watch videos on technology. Knowing that children learn a lot also from observing other children, why not encourage them to check out some of the videos of children making speeches that can be found here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HAMLOnSNwzA&list=PLBVl5vgfwYEwABKG9vx9_zf0CnytXAY-A

Remember, your children are hard-wired to learn. Just because they are not at school does not mean they are not learning. As a teacher, I know from experience, that children learn way more from what we do than what we say. They also learn actively from what THEY do and are involved in. Right now, they will be learning, from all the adults in their life but especially those closest to them, how to deal with uncertainty. Do we panic? Do we remain calm? Do we read and trust everything we see on social media? Do we listen to and heed medical experts? How do we look after ourselves? How do we look after others? How do we take responsibility for our actions and demonstrate that we are good citizens? Rest assured that your children will continue to learn and grow in relation to much of what’s on the curriculum. Here, in addition, in this time of unprecedented uncertainty, lies the opportunity to develop the very important changemaking skills of empathy, leadership, creativity and teamwork. Our children ARE learning, moment to moment, day to day through this global pandemic of the Corona virus in the natural learning environment of their homes, immediate communities and the wider world. Let’s trust, direct and support them, as best we can, to grow through this experience for their good and the good of us all.