Home Together: Understanding the Research
Updated: Jun 3, 2020
Research-based practices that nurture joy, learning and life-work-play balance
This program is designed to help parents and caregivers identify new habits, routines, and activities (for yourself and your children) that support your child’s natural learning and development through the challenges of Covid-19 and beyond. Our goal is to bring you accessible, useful information that you can start implementing immediately. We admit, however, that to get the most out of this program, we’ll ask you to do a tiny bit of homework each week.
We know you’re out there creatively adapting every day, and we want to hear from you!
If you are on Facebook, please join our private group: Home Together. As you try out new methods and let us know how it’s going, the Facebook page can become an online support community to share, ask questions and inspire each other through this challenging time and hopefully beyond. Feel free to email to stay in touch as well: firstname.lastname@example.org
This program consists of 4 webinar sessions. For the super-distilled content, we include a PDF of the high points from each week’s webinar. This quick-look page contains insights and exercises to get you started as you try out these ideas. We strongly encourage you to print this page if possible, and keep it visible for quick reference as you go about your week. If you only have time for one thing each week, please see the PDF.
So, choose your path:
Print (or screenshot) the PDF only (minimal time each week)
PDF plus email content. Please note that this email contains many live links in blue that will connect you to videos or articles for enhanced learning.
Listen to the webinar here (it’s ~35 minutes long; we are new at this so please bear with us!) and follow the PDF.
We are glad you’re here with us, and we look forward to hearing from you!
WEBINAR 1 SUMMARY AND RESOURCES
Families are spending lots of time together, but under unprecedented circumstances. Unlike summer or holiday breaks, without school, childcare, extracurricular activities and peer experiences, parents now feel the broad responsibility to nurture ALL of the needs of their children AND work from home! Add to this the stress of a global pandemic, and it is no wonder most of us are feeling bewildered, overwhelmed and stressed. We are forced to change everything, with no preparation. We all know that change is hard, but when we are at the edge of what we know and what we feel we are capable of, we grow. In this case, we have a unique opportunity to tweak our days to better nurture everyone in the home.
First, the reassurance.
When we look deeply into child development and research to understand what children of all ages need for healthy, holistic development (cognitive, physical, social, emotional and creative growth and learning), we uncover something pretty remarkable: much of what children need to be successful can be addressed at home. You may ask “Wait, what? How is that possible?” Let’s take a look.
EQ vs. IQ: There is more learning happening at home than you may realize!
While IQ (a measure of our ability to reason and solve problems) is important, a child’s emotional intelligence quotient (EQ) is also very important, and some researchers say more important, than IQ. In the article EQ vs IQ: Why emotional intelligence will take your kid further in life, we read:
“(David) Goleman, one of the first people to raise awareness of EQ, is the author of Emotional Intelligence, a groundbreaking book that came out in 1995. Since its release, study after study has proven EQ’s importance: that emotional intelligence predicts future success in relationships, health and quality of life. It’s been shown that children with high EQs earn better grades, stay in school longer and make healthier choices overall (for example, they are less likely to smoke); teachers also report that high-EQ students are more co-operative and make better leaders in the classroom. There’s also a relationship between emotional intelligence and bullying, with EQ education initiatives seen as a way to help prevent it. What’s more, having a high emotional intelligence is a greater predictor of career success than having a high IQ, which means it’s valued by employers looking for candidates who can complete work and get along with people in progressively collaborative workplaces.
Your child won’t necessarily fall behind and not be ready for school. In the recent article Coronavirus School Closures: An Educational Opportunity, Peter Gray, PhD, research professor at Boston College reminds us:
“Really, truly, very little is learned in a few months of school that is remembered over time. There is even evidence that the skills schools are most concerned about—literacy and numeracy skills—are actually more deeply learned in out-of-school activities than in school. Despite popular concern about the so-called “summer slide” in academic skills, research indicates that reading ability and mathematical reasoning skills may actually improve more rapidly during summer vacation from school than during school months. When children are reading for fun or solving real-world problems that involve math, they acquire these skills more deeply, in ways that make sense and are remembered, than when they are doing them as school assignments.”
For more reassurance and guidance to plan your time at home with your children, we encourage you to read the full article and learn more about Peter Gray and his work. We highly recommend his book, Free to Learn: Why Unleashing the Instinct to Play Will Make Our Children Happier, More Self-Reliant, and Better Students for Life, and his work as president of the Alliance for Self-Directed Education, and founding member of Let Grow, a nonprofit organization that promotes independence as a critical part of growing up.
Now, more research. Why? Because you need to know you’re doing better than you may think. Check out the list below, then pat yourself on the back for all of these things that are likely already happening at home:
Young children learn best through free play and direct interaction with their environment. Listen here to pediatric occupational therapist Angela Hanscom discuss her book Balanced and Barefoot: How Unrestricted Outdoor Play Makes for Strong, Confident, and Capable Children, or follow her blog here.
Movement and cognition are closely entwined. Our brains evolved in a world in which we MOVE and DO, not a world in which we sit at desks and consider abstractions. Both Maria Montessori and Jean Piaget noted that thinking seems to be expressed by the hands before it can be put into words. In small children, thinking and moving are the same process. Recent research implies that education should involve movement to enhance learning, yet schools struggle to fit in the recess time kids really need. At home, kids can have as much recess as they want, it’s good for them and they are learning many “worthy skills” by doing it (2018, Julie Wilson) by doing it.
Learning and well-being are improved when people are interested in what they’re learning. Choices help children stay motivated. In The Key Benefits of Choice, we learn that when adults can step back and allow children to have more choices in either what they learn, how they learn or even simply allowing them to decide when they learn:
Students engage in deeper, richer learning.
Students display more on-task behavior.
Students' social and emotional learning increases.
The learning environment becomes more collaborative and more fun.
When children are concentrating on play or learning activities, they are more content and in better control of their emotions. Maria Montessori and other educational theorists observed that focused concentration supports children in “normalizing their personalities”, noting that children who can concentrate are better at self-regulation and pro-social behavior (for example, they treat others kindly and work constructively), thus minimizing conflict that disrupts the learning environment (Lillard, 2005, Montessori: The Science Behind the Genius). If we involve children in creating play environments and learning projects that come from their interest and/or developmental needs, they will concentrate better and therefore be in better control of their emotions.
Children show a preference for novel experiences and activities. Keeping things new and fresh attracts and keeps kids’ attention. When we incorporate play things and activities that are based on our observations of children, and we regularly rotate the offerings (known as a “prepared environment” in Montessori and Reggio Emilia schools), children are suprised and delighted and better focused in their play and learning as a result. Remember that nature offers the ultimate experience for novelty! Taking a daily walk, hike or “sit spot” to the same place each day will inevitably bring surprises as children notice wildlife and seasonal changes.
Learning by doing and in meaningful context is often deeper and richer than learning done in preparation for a test. Children sometimes learn without understanding how their learning applies to anything else besides school tests. At home and in nature, there are endless opportunities for contextual learning. A perfect example is cooking, where children can learn real-life science and math skills, while also experiencing a fun, hands-on learning project that teaches real-world skills. Outside, noticing and wondering leads naturally to curiosty and knowledge-seeking, the ideal learning sequence that leads to developing a love of learning.
When adults give children more responsibility and take on the roles of observer, co-learner and collaborator, children become more self-motivated and independent.
The World Economic Forum’s “The Future of Jobs” Report (2016) cites the top 3 skills needed to thrive in 2020 are complex problem solving, critical thinking, and creativity. It’s reassuring to know that the flexibility of the home environment presents a unique opportunity for children and parents to design curiosity-driven projects that address these important “worthy” (not soft!) skills.
What does all this mean? Many parents feel unprepared to support their child’s academic learning at home, but when we realize the value of emotional intelligence, movement, nature, play and hands-on learning, we can feel comfortable knowing that the home environment offers many opportunities to nurture the wide range of developmental and learning needs of children of all ages.
Additionally, when we help identify a child’s interests and curiosity then step back a bit and give children more choice and control over what and how they’re learning, children will grow in independence, become more content, self-motivated, better able to concentrate, and better able to regulate their emotions and behavior...all of which contribute to a more peaceful, constructive home environment that allows parents to get work done, too.
It takes time, patience and practice to prepare environments to make this happen, but the care and effort put in up front will pay off. It’s more than we can cover in 4 weeks, but with the Home Together Facebook group and ongoing communication, we are confident that each family can make a few changes to make things easier at home. We’re with you for the journey, so please stay in touch.