Tory Vidler is the founder of Expand Education, and like so many of The Grace Tales readers, she’s facing the prospect of homeschooling now. But Tory believes that this is a blessing. She tells us why...
Like everybody right now, I am uncertain about what the future holds. I’m scared for my community and my family, especially my Italian family and father-in-law still working as a doctor in Milan.
When it comes to education, however, I’m more positive. I run a face-to-face learning program for students aged 4-18, and we’ve had to move online over the past fortnight. It’s been new and challenging, for our staff and clients, but the response has been positive. From what I can gather, most schools around the world are trying to do the same.
I, like millions of other parents, am daunted at the thought of being stuck at home with my children – but I also relish the opportunity to spend more time reading and being present with them. Reading rates have dropped significantly over the past decade, across all age groups, and this is an opportunity to change that. For children who struggle to read, there are other options – such as audiobooks, or siblings reading to them.
The education system in Australia, and globally, has been in desperate need of reform. I believe this crisis may be the impetus the system needs to start to deliver for all students, and to become better at delivering skills for a resilient and nimble future workforce.
Will schools change the way the school days operate? Will educators realise that students are better focusing on learning English, maths and essential technology and communication skills each morning, and on creative, physical and entrepreneurial skills in the afternoon? Will we see shorter school days? Will we see a change in the way we train teachers, with more experienced professionals becoming teachers and learning on the job rather than at university? Will we see schools collaborating more with small and medium enterprises, with students helping to develop websites and run social media?
Will universities stop offering courses where there are no longer good job prospects, and start specialising more? Will we see micro-credentials offered online via Coursera, EdX or Udacity and even General Assembly offering better skill building opportunities for job seekers?
Students are at school for over six hours a day, five days a week. During this time, how much do our children actually learn? I believe in the importance of socialisation at school, but in terms of learning, how much do students actually learn at school each day? In teacher-led classrooms, many children are regularly lost and disengaged. Most students learn by doing, than by listening. We are seeing changes in teaching, with Socratic style teaching happening in many classrooms, which focuses on questioning and developing communication and critical thinking skills. Some schools are trying to ensure students become self-directed learners, but in reality most schools are still spoon-feeding students. Will we also see more collaboration between schools and parents, to ensure learning outcomes are achieved at home and at school?
The next few weeks and months present a chance for us as parents to set guidelines for and with our children, and to help them plan their time to learn effectively. We can guide them in discussions and help them become self-directed learners in the morning. In the afternoons and evenings, they can be encouraged to discover the joy of reading for pleasure.
If primary school students can do 1-2 hours of learning each morning, it is a win. For secondary students, most schools use great learning management systems where they can access work and their outlines, and follow along. If secondary students are disciplined, they could spend 3-4 hours a day learning potentially more than they do at school. The issue is discipline – as technology is a great distracter, as well as a brilliant way to find information. Timetables, limits on technology, and planning are going to be paramount.
I hope the result of this period will be schools, in particular private schools, realising that they don’t need fancy buildings to help children learn. They need to focus on quality relationships with students, and better understanding of individual learning differences. Nobody knows your children better than you, and always remember reading with them is the very best learning experience a parent can give a child. You might even end up wanting to home school them.
Teacher and founder of Expand Education