During the pandemic, education became a talking point. School closings meant parents had to add “teacher” to an already long list of hats to wear. Zoom sessions provided little solution as educators struggled to keep the attention of their students. Online learning demanded a lot and was unable to provide individual care for the kids who needed it.
Failing grades and declining test scores were among the factors for reopening the economy and getting children back in classrooms. With American school systems playing catch-up, are there some things that can be taught at home? We asked parents, students, and educators alike, what they thought.
TEACHING READING AT HOME
Faydra Hewitt is a wife, mother and full-time professional. She has a young son who is barely school age, but, for Hewitt, learning begins at home. One of the skills she believes can be taught at home is reading.
“[You can teach] by reading to your child daily and making sure you use conversational terms, so asking your child open-ended questions that fill their vocabulary,” she says.
A major tool in her arsenal are flash cards — pairing words with pictures. She uses them to teach reading and word association.
During the pandemic, she learned creative ways to teach other things — including math.
“I used blueberries and I count them out as I put them on his plate. [You] can also teach addition and subtraction,” she explains.
Along with her husband, Hewitt turns lots of things into learning opportunities. Even walking up the stairs can be a lesson in counting.
In addition to the basics, Hewitt encourages teaching history, culture and heritage through storytelling.
“Whatever your heritage, you can give your own cultural history lesson. You can have your own little circle time,” she says.
TEACH WHAT IS NOT TAUGHT IN SCHOOL: FINANCIAL LITERACY
Are at-home curriculum goals the same for parents as they are for educators?
Vilori Adams, a long-time elementary school teacher explains her thoughts on vital lessons to be taught at-home.
“Financial literacy – that’s not being widely taught in school,” she says.
According to Next Gen Personal Finance’s bill tracker, only 25 states in the U.S. introduced legislation to add finance education to the curriculum. This was in 2021 and only applies to high school. Despite this, Adams says there are ways you can explain the complicated subject of personal finance to younger children.
“We did a lemonade stand and we taught advertising – what makes your lemonade different,” Adams explains.
This exercise allowed the students to develop life skills by counting money, developing a business strategy and marketing your product. She says teaching them how to save a percentage of their allowance towards a goal helps increase their understanding of financial literacy.
Though singing is a great way to get kids to learn at home, Adams cautions that comprehension is key.
“They can say their ABCs but … don’t know the corresponding letters,” she says. “If you have a child in elementary school and want to get on the teacher’s good side. [Teaching] their basic letters, sounds and shapes would be a great help for teachers.”
EVERYTHING SHOULD BE TAUGHT BY PROFESSIONAL TEACHERS
Some educators have all but given up on at-home learning.
When posed with the question if she thought there were five things that could be taught at home, Desremona Morgan replied, “Academically, no.”
Morgan served as an educator since 2004 in the Shelby County School system and has gone from teaching K-12, to now being an instructional coach. Throughout her years, she has witnessed substantial changes in the education system. She believes that parents are ill-equipped to teach the necessary lessons the way they should be taught.
“The students that we serve are in the bottom five to 10 percent of the state. It’s not even just about teaching multiplication tables. It’s about understanding the concept of multiplication,” she explains.
It doesn’t stop at mathematics, Morgan surmises subjects like history and science have become more complicated to teach at home.
“Science used to be the phases of the moon, the simple things — it’s not like that anymore. They have to talk about the ecosystem and human interactions in the ecosystem … They have to interpret data and read charts and graphs like a scientist, ” she says.
She also points out that, though Memphis has a lot of history — like being a hub during the slave trade — many students are unaware of those historical facts. For this, she blames the South for prioritizing money over education.
For Morgan, providing a quality education for students has become a challenge now more than ever.
HOME ECONOMICS SHOULD BE TAUGHT AT HOME
The story isn’t the same for Dey’Lan Moore, a boy in his 6th grade, and his mother, Dezannae Moore.
For Dezannae, she credits much of her son’s knowledge to beginning education in the home.
Although Dey’Lan was a bit shy during the interview, he stated cooking and playing sports were his favorite skills that he learned at home. As a young man of few words, his mother stepped in to elaborate.
“I’m his whole tutor ’cause SCS (Shelby County Schools) makes you work overtime. I need a check!” Dezennae says.
She leads a busy life as a clinic coordinator but makes time to teach her son outside of the classroom.
“Baking — my son likes sweets. I try to teach him how to season. Everything gotta have seasoning for Dey’Lan,” she adds.
Developing home economic skills are vital in the Moore household, but what about other subjects?
“We use our home computer for educational stuff like math at home. I walk him through projects and everything,” Dezennae says.
The Moores also spend much of their time bonding over activities — painting, arts and crafts and building. Dey’Lan also enjoys putting things together.
“I’ll go to IKEA to get something together and he’ll build that,” Dezennae says.
Besides for an at-home curriculum, you can catch the Moore family volunteering at events and giving back to the community. Dezennae prides herself on giving lessons that will help her son into a well-rounded, responsible man.
There is no one way to teach any child, nor is there one subject for kids to learn at home.
As a parent, skills like math and reading can be integral to the development of young brains. These are concepts that are never too early to start. Some teachers will even appreciate the effort you put in. But there are lessons that you can’t always get inside of the classroom — financial literacy, cooking and working with your hands. These are just a few takeaways.
Education is a constant development so whatever you choose to teach at home, find a way to make it fun.