Ideally, Learning in Depth (LiD) in a perfect world would be owned and driven by the individual student, not the schools or homes where students reside. It would be up to students as to how well or how much they do or whom they ask for assistance with their LiD work. However, that being said, students today are not all self- starting, independent learners. Therefore, guiding/supervising students starting and throughout their learning journey is a necessary and valuable resource that educators and parents alike can provide. Educators/parents not only offer students the time and space for learning, they offer their personal interest and encouragement as well, which sends a strong message of the importance of learning.
In the this paper I hope to make a case for encouraging school and home to work in tandem for the benefit of students. To facilitate this working relationship between home and school I have included on the Resources page, a set of cards called ‘Home-School Tips of the Week’. The cards have questions and suggestions to aide students and help adults guide/supervise learning.
Part of the charm of LiD is the ease with which it can move between home and school. Since LiD is not graded and the topics carry on over the life of grade school students, it makes sense to move the topic portfolio with the students as they progress through elementary and then high school.
LiD, over time, develops a sense of ownership and comfort. If everyone knows you are the “Transportation” topic guy, or she is “Oceans”, then everyone knows it! The comfort develops from everyone travelling along their learning path while occasionally ‘bumping’ into other peoples’ learning paths when topics merge and intersect. What fun to find others may share part of your topic and that you are not alone on your journey. Wherever you are, is wherever you are. There are no external measures or benchmarks, just a long-term journey where everyone is developing a relationship with their topic.
LiD is a continuum of learning on a long journey with ‘pauses’ (sharing sessions) along the way, where students share what they are discovering and learning about their topic. Having LiD being based with the student, rather than a class, grade or school allows students to research, discover and create anywhere in the world and possibly in the future, with others in the world.
Speaking of worlds other than school, students spend a lot more time at home than in school and it is only reasonable to assume home will have an impact on how a students’ LiD life develops. One of the premises of LiD is that the more one learns about something the more interesting that something becomes. Learning takes place everywhere and we would be remiss to not utilize parents/families in facilitating their children’s’ learning.
When I first started LiD in 2008 my primary focus was on how to implement LiD in a living, breathing classroom of 5 to 9 year olds. Having parents informed of what we were doing in class was imperative for me. I have seen student progress significantly with parental involvement and encouragement. Wanting to give LiD the best chance for success, I sent letters home to parents: first, letters about the program and then later letters indicating how parents could assist their children. I made sure I held information meetings after school and even spoke to the Parent Advisory Council meeting about LiD. All in all, there was not a lot of interest, or excitement from parents for LiD. So, what I decided to do was teach parents about LiD—and get them more excited and involved–by tapping into their children’s excitement for LiD.
After each LiD class I would have students go home and share one amazing thing they learned about their topic or ask their parents a question they were exploring about their LiD topic. I encouraged my students to ask lots of questions, especially when they did not know the answers.
As months passed by, parents began to ask questions about what was this ‘topic’ their child had? A few parents asked me why their children were asking so many questions and what LiD was all about—they were beginning to take an interest.
After a few years most parents were more knowledgeable about Learning in Depth, but they tended to remain passive observers of what was being produced by their children. I had managed to successfully inform parents about LiD but I had not yet engaged them in the process of LiD itself. Parents attended the children’s LiD symposiums, while cheering and applauding the presentations. What this emphasized for me was a focus on the outcome rather than the process. I had not engaged parents in the day-to-day discoveries and wonders of learning.
Talking with parents I realized four main issues were being expressed. Some parents said to me that they did not know how to “work” with their children with a program that did not have an end point. (That is a chapter unto itself!) Other parents were too busy, while other parents said it was the teacher’s job to teach. Finally, there were parents who wanted to help but they didn’t know how. Through these conversations it became clear to me that some parents would not join in LiD, others would continue to encourage their children, while other parents wanted to learn how to facilitate their children’s LiD learning.
SO… In order to engage willing parents and educators in the process, I have created the LiD Home-School activity cards, questions and challenges for students. These inquiry activities are purely up to the student as to whether the suggestions are explored or not. Families/educators are there to guide/supervise, whether that includes a fieldtrip to explore, a discussion of possibilities or assisting in creative activities. Remember, there are no grades or recording of outcomes, just learning and the sharing of that learning. The questions and suggestions show students, families and teachers many imaginative ways to look at, explore and enjoy learning about a topic. The goal of the LiD Home-School cards… to encourage parents/educators to explore topics along with their children and hopefully… to realize how valuable parent supervision/guidance is to their children’s learning.
Dr. Anita Gurian, a professor of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry at NYU School of Medicine wrote an article stating results of research of how much parents could impact their children’s school success, titled “Involved parents: The hidden resource in their children’s education.” She writes:
“Although parents conscientiously send their children off to school every day and expect them to do well, they can add an important extra ingredient that will boost their children’s success. Parent participation is the ingredient that makes the difference. Parents’ active involvement with their child’s education at home and in school brings great rewards and has can have a significant impact on their children’s child’s lives. According to research studies, the children of involved parents:
- are absent less frequently
- behave better
- do better academically from pre-school through high school
- go farther in school
- go to better schools
Research also shows that a home environment that encourages learning is even more important than parents’ income, education level, or cultural background. By actively participating in their child’s education at home and in school, parents send some critical messages to their child; they’re demonstrating their interest in his/her activities and reinforcing the idea that school is important.”
Article accessible at AboutOurKids.org. NYU Child Study Center.
Joyce Maynard, an American author wrote, “It’s not only children who grow. Parents do too. As much as we watch to see what our children do with their lives, they are watching us to see what we do with ours. I can’t tell my children to reach for the sun. All I can do is reach for it, myself.”
I know that with every parent teacher conference I attend, parents want to know how they can help their children be the best they can be in school. Education is important to parents and they look to teachers to educate their children, while teachers look to parents to support, encourage and celebrate learners. What I find is, when parents step up to participate in the learning of their children, children learn more than the lesson being taught, they learn an interest in the process of learning itself. Schools full of professionals have a lot to do with assisting students to be the best academic, socially trained individual, but if we take into consideration the time a child spends in school and compare it with out of class time, a case can be made for the number one educators of children are … their parents. The Home-School cards attached will hopefully assist Parents and Teachers alike to facilitate student’s lifelong quest of learning.
“Example is not the main thing in influencing others. It is the only thing.”