7 tips to help kids feeling anxious about going back to school


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Mandie Shean, Edith Cowan University

As COVID-19 lockdown measures are lifted, some children may experience social anxiety about the prospect of returning to school.

People with social anxiety may fear embarrassment or the expectation to perform in social situations, or worry exceedingly about people judging you poorly.

In certain situations, people with anxiety may find their heart beats quicker as adrenalin is released into their blood stream, more oxygen flows to the blood and brain, and even digestion may slow down.




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These are helpful responses if you need to run away or fight danger. But social situations are generally not life threatening, and these physical symptoms can interfere with socialising.

People with social anxiety may fear looking silly, being judged, laughed at or being the focus of attention. For anyone, such experiences might be unwelcome but for those with social anxiety they pose an unacceptable threat.

Social anxiety in Australian children

One Australian report found that about 6.9% of children and adolescents surveyed have a diagnosed anxiety disorder, 4.3% experience separation anxiety and 2.3% a social phobia.

Social phobia (social anxiety) is more common in adolescents, whereas separation anxiety (intense anxiety over leaving caregivers, such as parents) is more prevalent in children.

These figures only account for those who have a diagnosis of anxiety. They do not include undiagnosed young people who experience high stress in social situations.

Not all children will be happy to be back in school.
Tom Wang/Shutterstock

Any recent prolonged absence from school may have increased social anxiety, as avoiding what you fear can make your fear become greater.

This is because you do not get to learn that the thing you fear is actually safe. Your beliefs about the threat go unchallenged.

Anxiety can also increase through what pyschologists call reduced tolerance. The more children withdraw from the situations that cause them fear, the less tolerance they have for those situations.

Anxiety can affect education

The educational cost for students with anxiety is considerable.

The research shows students with poor mental health can be between seven to 11 months behind in Year 3, and 1.5 – 2.8 years behind by Year 9.




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That’s because these students experience more absences from school, poorer connection to school, lower levels of belonging and less engagement with schoolwork.

7 strategies to help overcome social anxiety

So what can children do to overcome anxiety as they return to school? Here are some useful tips.

  1. deal with some of the physical symptoms. It is hard to think if your body is stressed. Use calming strategies like mindfulness or breathing exercises. Slowing your breathing can reduce symptoms of anxiety, depression, anger and confusion. Useful apps to help you control your breathing include Smiling Mind (iOS and Android) or Breathing Bubbles (Android only).

  2. anxiety increases while using avoidance techniques such as avoiding eye contact, not raising your hand to answer a question, or not attending school. So the most effective way to deal with social anxiety might be to face it. Allow your child to have small experiences of social success – give their opinion to one person, start a conversation with someone they know – so they can learn to feel safe in these social situations.

  3. fear and anxiety are normal and benefit us by helping us to respond efficiently to danger. Rather than read your body as under threat, think about the changes as helpful. Your body is preparing you for action.

  4. while avoiding your fears is not the answer, being fully exposed to them is not the answer either. Providing overwhelming social experiences may lead to overwhelming fear and failure, and may make anxiety sufferers less likely to try again – or at all. Start small and build their courage.

  5. supportive listening and counselling are less effective than facing your fears because these approaches can accommodate the fears. While you want to support your child by providing them with comfort and encouragement – ensure you also encourage them to face the fears that cause the anxiety.

  6. you cannot promise negative things won’t happen. It is possible you will be embarrassed or be judged. Rather than try to avoid these events, try reframing them. Remember that that we all experience negative social feedback, and this does not make you silly or of less value. It makes you normal. Or, rather than see it as embarrassing, maybe it can be funny.

  7. remember it is the “perception” that something is a threat – not the reality. Reasoning with your child to help them see your perspective may not change theirs. This reality only changes with positive real experiences.

Breathing Bubbles in action.

What we think is truth is often revealed as untrue when we face our fears. There is joy in social situations. Keep turning up to them.




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The Conversation


Mandie Shean, Lecturer, School of Education, Edith Cowan University

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

Don’t want to send the kids back to school? Why not try unschooling at home?



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Rebecca English, Queensland University of Technology and Karleen Gribble, Western Sydney University

As schools resume for most Australian students, a new group of parents have emerged.

These parents have decided to give home education a longer term try, finding their children have improved academically and benefited from the calmer home learning environment.

This change may mean some families move to a more child-led way of learning. This approach can be described as unschooling – an informal way of learning that advocates student-chosen activities rather than teacher-directed lessons.




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Unschoolers learn through living and are in charge of their own education. Students have the freedom to learn through a variety of means including play, household tasks and personal interests, as well as work experience, travel, books, elective classes, mentors and social interactions.

A parent sent this to her child’s teacher during the lockdown to show how he had learnt fractions while cooking.
SOURCE? CREDIT?, Author provided

Sometimes the name unschooling leads people to believe children aren’t being educated or taught anything at all. But unschooling allows children to explore and learn in their own way. It’s a different form of education to that of schools, but it can work extremely well.

During the coronavirus shutdown, schools were providing schoolwork for children to do at home. Some suggested they just focus on the basics, which left plenty of time spare.

Some families found online learning wasn’t working for their children and negotiated with teachers about alternate ways of meeting learning outcomes.

Many parents improvised their children’s education. And so they were unschooling, even if they didn’t know it by name.

Who invented unschooling?

Unschooling is an educational philosophy developed in the 1960s by theorists including John Holt and Ivan Illich.

Their ideas, particularly around children exercising the liberty to choose the direction of their learning, are becoming increasingly popular in educational research.

Illich and Holt said traditional schooling could confuse the creation of a product – such as a test result – with learning. They argued learning is a process, not an end point.

While such ideas may seem radical, Holt was building on a well recognised foundation of educational philosophy: that children learn best when the learning is meaningful and accessible to them.

A typical day unschooling

In unschooling, parents work with their children to meet their educational goals.

This means they support their children’s interests and associated learning. They recognise the learning inherent in life activities and may enrich it via conversation or direction to other sources.

At the heart of unschooling is a belief that, in a rich and stimulating environment, children cannot not learn.

There’s actually no typical unschooling day, as what happens depends on the family and child. In unschooling families, any interest may form the basis of learning.

For example, an interest in dinosaurs may trigger a series of activities, such as:

  • children read books and write stories about dinosaurs (Literacy)

  • they measure the size of lizards and compare them to dinosaurs (Numeracy)

  • they explore how dinosaurs died out (Science)

  • they consider how dinosaurs may have influenced our culture, such as with dragons (Humanities and Social Sciences)

  • they watch Jurassic Park to see how dinosaurs are represented in film (the Arts).

Children may talk with their peers about their love of dinosaurs and use this as an opportunity for socialisation. They may need a lot of assistance from a parent to do this or may explore on their own.




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Everyday activities such as cooking, cleaning, gardening and shopping can also be learning opportunities. Benign neglect, leading to boredom, provides an opportunity for children to discover new interests and activities (and for parents to get some of their own work done).

Cooking involves lessons in weights and measure.
Alena Ozerova/Shutterstock

How do students get assessed?

Unlike in school, unschooling assessment happens on a daily basis, through observing the children’s experiences. Parents may compile photographs or scrap books of their children’s learning experiences and keep them as records.

But many unschooolers will do formal assessment for careers that need certification. They may also do tests in line with university aspirants who do not come straight from school. Or they may go straight to TAFE or study via Open University, both of which don’t need formal test results for entry.

Unschooled students often do very well at university. For example, in the US, unschoolers are sought after by prestigious institutions including Brown, Cornell and Columbia.

One study of 75 unschooled adults found 83% had gone on to some form of formal education after school, and most were “gainfully employed and financially independent”.

Research suggests unschoolers’ success may come down to an intrinsic motivation to learn that’s been fostered through their unschooling experiences.

Evidence of unschooling in the lockdown

During the coronavirus crisis, if your children alternated their schoolwork with other study based on their needs and interests, they were unschooling.

If you went for a walk and identified plants or animals, and discussed them, that was unschooling. Cooking and decorating a sibling’s birthday cake was unschooling.

Discovering your children’s interest in Ancient Egypt and then watching documentaries about the subject was unschooling.




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If your child decided to read the whole Harry Potter series in a week, that was unschooling.

It’s entirely possible to unschool and still meet the government curriculum requirements.

In fact, the Singaporean education minister, Ong Ye Kung, effectively recommended unschooling when he said students should take advantage of their time away from school to “learn outside the syllabus, read widely, be curious, find your passions”.

Children following this advice may have benefited, rather than been disadvantaged, from their break from formal learning. For some, continuing home-based learning may be advantageous.

Each state and territory has a legislative framework which allows parents to home educate their children. Support is available from experienced home educators online and through home education support groups.The Conversation

Rebecca English, Lecturer in Education, Queensland University of Technology and Karleen Gribble, Adjunct Associate Professor, School of Nursing and Midwifery, Western Sydney University

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

Students less focused, empathetic and active than before – technology may be to blame



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Pasi Sahlberg, UNSW and Adrian Piccoli, UNSW

Teachers say most students have lost the ability to focus, are less empathetic and spend less time on physical activity.

These are some of the results from our Growing Up Digital Australia study, in which we surveyed almost 2,000 teachers and school leaders across Australia.

We asked them how students from primary school to year 12 have changed in the last five years, and what might explain these changes.

Nearly four out of five teachers said they saw a decrease in students’ ability to focus on learning tasks, 80% saw a decline in students’ empathy and 60% observed students spending less time on physical activity.




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These downward trends could be caused by many factors. But a good starting point is to look at the undeniably biggest change in children’s lives in the last decade – screen technology.

Growing up digital

Educational technologies have opened new opportunities for teaching and learning.

Teachers use technology to make complicated content more understandable, students learn how to communicate their knowledge across digital platforms like podcasts, and schools use technology to report students’ performance.

But a 24/7 connection to the internet comes with possible downsides too. Researchers and health experts around the world have expressed concerns about the possible consequences of heavy screen use on children.

The steady increase in depression, anxiety disorders and other mental health issues among young people has been well reported. And researchers have debated whether screens may be a possible reason for young people’s declining mental health.




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It is hard to prove a direct causal link between worsening health outcomes and extended time spent on digital devices. But we can learn much about these complex relationships by exploring views and experiences of teachers, parents and young people themselves.

So, what do we know?

According to a recent poll by the Royal Children’s Hospital, 95% of high-school students, two-thirds of primary school children and one-third of preschoolers own a screen-based digital device.

In an earlier study we found 92% of Australian parents think smartphones and social media have reduced time children have for physical activity and outdoor play.

Most children in Australia own a digital device.
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Four out of five parents said social media was a distraction in their child’s life, that impacted negatively on their well-being and family relations.

Another survey showed young people spend one-third of their time awake staring at screens.

In the Growing Up Digital in Australia study, 84% of teachers said digital technologies were a growing distraction in the learning environment.

One teacher told us:

The numbers of students with cognitive, social and behavioural difficulties has increased noticeably. Students appear to have more difficulty concentrating, making connections, learning with enthusiasm and increasing boredom in school.

Similar results were found in a study in Alberta, Canada in 2015.

Our data tells us more than 90% of teachers think the number of children with these kinds of challenges has increased over the last five years. Anxiety among students was also a common concern.

What parents can do

As most Australian children are studying from home this term, and perhaps next, parents will most likely make similar observations of their children – both positive and negative – as the teachers in our study.

Parents might see how fluently children use technologies to learn new concepts. They may also notice how hard or easy it is for their children to concentrate and stay away from the distracting parts of their digital devices.

If a child can’t get through all the tasks their teacher assigns them, it’s important for parents to know this doesn’t mean they are a poor learner or failing student.

Parents can try to understand how children feel about learning – what makes it interesting, what makes it boring and what makes it challenging. A student could be finding it difficult to get a task done due to distractions. The best help in that case is to support the child to stay away from the causes of distraction, which may be their smartphones.

Teachers should also, as much as possible, design learning activities with elements that don’t require any technology. For example, projects that include building, drawing or communicating with others at home can be easily done without devices.




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Parents and teachers can work together to find smart ways to teach children safe and responsible use of media and digital technologies. Learning to regulate our own screen behaviours as adults and modelling this behaviour to our children can be a much more effective strategy than simply banning devices.

Studying from home can also be a good opportunity to help children learn to cook, play music or engage in other home-based activities we may wish we had time for but tend to void in our busy daily schedules.

Spending more time with children – with technology and without it – is now more important than ever.

Perhaps the best way to improve the quality of Australian education is to change how we do things. We should understand children are not who they used to be and better learning requires changing the ways both adults and children live with digital devices.The Conversation

Pasi Sahlberg, Professor of Education Policy, UNSW and Adrian Piccoli, Professor of Practice, School of Education, UNSW

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

‘I have never felt so frightened’: Australia’s coronavirus schools messaging must address teacher concerns


Claire Hooker, University of Sydney

Parents have heard confusing messages from federal and state governments around sending children to school. As students in Victoria started term two on Wednesday, the state government told parents to keep children at home if they can.

In some cases there have been reports of children being told they have to study at home even though parents want to send them to school as they find it hard to work otherwise.

But in a Facebook video this week Prime Minister Scott Morrison said the government wanted schools to open up for all students in three to four weeks.

And in a later press conference he maintained expert advice has consistently been that schools are a safe space for children.

[…] teachers are more at risk in the staff room than they are in the classroom when it comes to how the health advice plays out and the impact of this virus on children as opposed to teachers.

That means that we need to have proper arrangements in place for teachers and other staff in schools […] to protect their work environment, but […] that doesn’t lead to the same rules applying for students because they have a different level of risk.

While Morrison may be communicating the correct information, his message keeps being rejected by many Australian parents and teachers. This is because of mishandled communication that conveyed confusing and contradictory information, leaving teachers feeling unconsulted, scared and outraged.

Schools are safe, or are they?

There is good evidence for keeping schools open, including a recent rapid review of several studies on the topic, that indicated closing schools contributes very little to reducing the spread of the disease.




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And yet school closures have been among the most contentious and emotive issues in Australia’s COVID-19 strategies. This has resulted from significant failures in risk communication from the government, including many inconsistencies in messages about transmission risks.

For example, when the Prime Minister made a statement banning indoor gatherings greater than 100 people (including staff), he did not even mention schools except to say later that they would remain open.

This is despite the fact schools involve gatherings of greater than 100 people. And the design of many make implementing recommended social distancing measures impossible.




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Morrison’s statements also expressed concern about kids infecting grandparents, but not about kids infecting older teachers, some of whom are also grandparents. This caused outrage among many teachers.

President of the NSW Teacher’s Federation Angelo Gavrielatos who reportedly sought a response to such contradictions tweeted:

The response from the Commonwealth Deputy Chief Medical Officer was “Sorry. I can’t reconcile the contradictions”.

These inconsistencies left parents and teachers – especially those who face significant health issues themselves or in their immediate family – feeling both terrified and unvalued. Twitter account Stories From Teachers, contain heartfelt expressions of teachers’ fear. One said

I have never felt so frightened, disregarded and psychologically mangled in my whole entire life.

Any government plans to return students to school will require careful communication to be acceptable to many teachers and parents.

How governments should respond

People show decreased cognitive processing in high concern situations. This means we should expect many teachers will experience heightened perceptions of risk in their workplace. The best response is to tolerate any early over-reactions.

Effective communication requires emotional intelligence as well as compassion and empathy (practising non-judgment and avoiding sympathy).

Handbooks on risk communication, such as the WHO Guideline, emphasise communication is a two-way street. This means government and school leaders need to focus as much on what teachers and parents can or need to hear, as on what information they want to convey.

The basis for effective pandemic communication is trust. Trust is fundamental to achieving a coherent public response in an uncertain and unfolding situation. Without it, messages may be ignored or outright rejected.




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To rebuild trust, communication will need to begin with listening to the concerns of parents and teachers. All discussions about schools, such as the release of any new modelling, need to explicitly acknowledge the implications for these groups.

Showing respect for teachers and parents requires authorities to trust them by sharing information early, and being transparent and open about deliberation and decision making. Being explicit and honest about uncertainty is particularly important.

If the government doesn’t know the answer to questions such as “how many school-based transmissions have occurred in other countries?”, that needs to be stated clearly.

It’s getting better but we need action

In the prime minister’s video message, he thanked teachers, saying what they do each day “matters amazingly”. Showing value for teachers was a good start.

But his words will prove insincere if teachers don’t see them backed up with actions in the actual environments where they work.

Actions can communicate more strongly than words. Teachers will only feel their concerns have been heard if they see actions that mitigate and monitor risk.

Actions that can be considered include:

  • extensive additional testing for teachers and students

  • partial return to school to reduce crowding

  • giving staff extra sick leave without requiring medical certificates so they can remain at home if symptomatic

  • making it easier for teachers to work from home if they have demonstrated health needs.

Perceptions of risk decrease as people gain an increased sense of control. So school leadership can support staff to take actions that give them a greater sense of safety. These include staggering bell times or spending five minutes of lesson time with students cleaning desks and chairs.

Actions that show value for staff might include additional professional development days where teachers decide on their individual best use of the time.

Communicating value for teachers will be the key to successful communication around schools in the weeks to come.The Conversation

Claire Hooker, Senior Lecturer and Coordinator, Health and Medical Humanities, University of Sydney

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

So you’re going to school online – here are 6 ways to make the most of it



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Claire Brown, Victoria University and Rannah Scamporlino, Victoria University

Effective learning is a two-way process between the teacher and students, meaning both need to engage.

If a student simply sits and listens to new information without engaging or applying it, it’s called passive learning. Active learning is where students engage with new learning making connections to concepts they have learned previously.

According to one of the world’s leading university educators, Harvard University’s Professor Eric Mazur, “interactive learning triples students’ gains in knowledge”.

Here are six things students can do while studying online to ensure they are learning actively and and making gains.

1. Organise a learning space and dress for learning

Balancing a laptop on your knees on your bed, or with the television on in the background, is not the best way to study. Students learn best when their learning space minimises distractions.

A good learning space has a table and chair, good lighting, good air flow, is away from distractions like television and noise, has good connectivity for digital devices, and is organised with the usual things students have at school such as pens, paper, calculator and others study materials.

Learning online is like being at school in that you need to be physically and mentally prepared to learn. One study suggests what you wear can affect your attention to a task. So it might help not to be in your pyjamas even if your study space is in your bedroom.

2. Organise your learning time

Students with good time management skills tend to do better academically.

There is no easy answer to how long students should be studying at home each day. Students should plan a study timetable dividing their day into learning, revision and rest blocks.

“Zoom fatigue” has been identified as an emerging problem with online studying and meetings caused by the different ways our brains process information delivered online. One suggestion is an online session should be no longer than 45 minutes with a 15-minute break.




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Back-to-back sessions should be avoided and the time between sessions should be used to step away from the computer to rest your brain, body and eyes. It is important to stand up and move around every 30 minutes.

Students should work with teachers to revise their schedule each day and stick to what works for them.

3. Manage distractions

Because students will be studying in an different space, they may get distracted by what other people are doing. If you can, share your study timetable with others in the house, and ask for their help to keep focused.

When you’re in a learning block of time, turn off social media and close browser tabs you don’t need. If you’re using the Google Chrome browser, it has an extension called Stay Focusd. Students can use this to set the period of time to block potential distractions like notifications from Instagram, Snapchat and other applications.

If you are sharing a digital device with other family members, try to agree on a roster that fits with everyone’s timetables. Work out who needs the device at specific times and put that time on a master timetable that is shared by everyone.

4. Take notes

Our memories are not stable and we frequently overestimate how much we can remember. We forget at least 40% of new information within the first 24 hours of first reading or hearing it. That’s why it’s important to take notes.

Use different-colour markers to make connections between concepts.
Shutterstock

Research is unclear about whether it is better to take notes digitally or by hand. Some researchers think it is a matter of preference.

The most important thing is to follow a good note-taking process. This involves:

  • writing an essential question that captures the key learning points of the topic

  • revising your notes. Use different colours and highlighters to make connections between chunks of information; add new ideas and write study questions in the margin. Compare notes with a study buddy to improve and learn from each other

  • writing a summary that links all the information together and answers the essential question you wrote down initially

  • revising your notes within 24 hours, seven days, and then each month until you are tested on that knowledge.




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5. Adopt a growth mindset

In the 1990s, American psychologist Carol Dweck developed the theory of the growth mindset.

It grew out of studies in which primary school children were engaged in a task, and then praised either for their existing capacities, such as intelligence, or the effort they invested in the task.

The students who were praised for their effort were more likely to persist with finding a solution to the task. They were also more likely to seek feedback about how to improve. Those praised for their intelligence were less likely to persist with the more difficult tasks and to seek feedback on how their peers did on the task.




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The growth mindset assumes capacities can be developed or “grown” through learning and effort. So if you don’t understand something straight away, working at it will help you get there.

If you are engaging in negative self-talk, change the words. For example, instead of saying, “This is too hard”, try saying, “What haven’t I tried yet to figure this out?”

6. Ask questions and collaborate

Ask teachers questions about anything that is unclear as soon as possible. Give teachers frequent feedback. Teachers appreciate suggestions that help improve student learning.

Set up online study groups. Learning is a social activity. We learn best by learning with others, and when learning is fun. Studying with friends helps clarify new concepts and language, and stay connected.The Conversation

Claire Brown, National Director, AVID Australia, Victoria University and Rannah Scamporlino, Education Coordinator, AVID Australia, Victoria University

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

What is homeschooling? And should I be doing that with my kid during the coronavirus lockdown?



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Rebecca English, Queensland University of Technology and Karleen Gribble, Western Sydney University

“How to home school” has been trending on Google for the past few weeks as more and more children stay home from school because of COVID-19.

So, what is homeschooling and is this what parents whose children are learning from home are now doing?

What is home education?

Home education is one of the world’s fastest growing educational movements.

In its broadest sense, home education can be understood as any form of education that occurs outside of a physical school. It includes the 20,000 or so students registered for home education in Australia, as well as distance education students – who are enrolled in a school but learn remotely.

There are a wide variety of home education approaches and they lie on a spectrum. Highly structured approaches that mirror school, with a detailed curriculum and lots of book work, lie at one end. Most people can imagine what that looks like because it’s not that different from traditional schooling.

At the other end is unschooling, where children choose the direction of their learning. In this approach, there may be no formal written work.




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With unschooling, the choice is as much of a lifestyle as an education. Parents act as facilitators of their child’s learning, sourcing and providing access to resources and then getting out of the way. Research suggests unschoolers are more likely to be satisfied with their education and have an intrinsic motivation to learn.

Most home educating families’ approaches fall somewhere in between and use a mix of parent-directed and child-directed learning.

What are the legal requirements of home educators?

Each state and territory in Australia has its own laws and requirements around home education. In essence, parents need to apply to register their children. Some states such as the Northern Territory require you to follow any Australian approved curriculum (such as the Australian Curriculum, Montessori or Steiner).

Others, including Queensland, Tasmania, Victoria and the ACT, stipulate you just need to cover key learning areas such as English, Maths, Science, Arts, Technology, Health, Humanities or Languages.

In New South Wales, parents need to follow the NSW Syllabus, which is based on, but not the same as, the Australian Curriculum.

Regardless of where they are located, parents indicate their intention to home educate by completing a form from their state’s education department. They then need to develop a plan of their approach, and to show their plan will meet the child’s individual learning needs.

Age levels and year levels are less important in home education – children’s work is targeted to where they are up to not their age.

Parents can buy a pre-packaged curriculum and resources or they can develop their own. They can use tutors and group classes, as well as activities like scouts and sporting teams, and everyday hands-on activities as a part of their learning. If they need to, parents can adapt to better meet their child’s needs.

At the end of the registration period, most states and territories require parents to report on their child’s progress.

Are we all homeschoolers now?

To some extent, when it comes to educating your child at home, this situation is unique – in other respects it’s not.

Many homeschooling families have brought their child home to learn because of a crisis, such as related to bullying, health, or a disability.

But families in this new wave of accidental home educators don’t have to register their children with their state or territory education department. The child’s enrolment is maintained with their school.




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And, in most cases, the schools are sending work home. Reports on the ground suggest this is working well for many families.

But some parents are reporting difficulties implementing what they’re being asked to do at home. This is particularly so when they’re balancing their child’s education with their own work requirements, or where the schoolwork is worksheet heavy.

If this is your situation, you are not alone and schools are trying their best to make this work. Hopefully, with more time, things will run more smoothly.

What new homeschoolers can learn from the old

Many long established home education families work from home as well, so they empathise with parents’ new found juggle of work and schooling. There’s some things schools and parents can learn from how home educators manage things.

Think about other ways of learning apart from book work. Some children thrive on book work, but others need more hands on tasks. If your child is struggling, talk their teacher and see if he or she is open to you covering the content in a different way.

For example, an alternative to doing fractions through worksheets might be cooking a meal. Cooking allows you to introduce other concepts such as addition and mass (mathematics), following a procedural text (literacy), discussing your experience of learning to cook (humanities and social science), nutrition (health), and even the science of molecular gastronomy. And everyone gets fed.




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That’s something else to keep in mind – kids can sometimes help their parents with the things they need to do. Whether that’s cooking or helping you set up the technology for an online work meeting. Home educating families are used to seeing the learning happening in everyday activities, and doing so can help parents feel less stressed about what their child is missing out on.

If you’re struggling with working out how to do this, there’s support in home education social media groups, where experienced home educators are providing support to parents (and teachers).

Keep in mind, much of this situation is new to home educators too. They’re not used to being at home so much either – much of their learning is normally in the community.

But organisations and groups are doing what they can to link families to the outside world. People are providing online storytime, and zoos, wildlife parks, museums and galleries are freely available online.The Conversation

Rebecca English, Lecturer in Education, Queensland University of Technology and Karleen Gribble, Adjunct Associate Professor, School of Nursing and Midwifery, Western Sydney University

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

Kids shouldn’t have to repeat a year of school because of coronavirus. There are much better options



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Julie Sonnemann, Grattan Institute

Australian schools and teachers are preparing to shift classes online – some independent schools already have. Remote learning is likely to be the norm in the second term and possibly longer.

Even if done well, there are still likely to be learning losses.

Rigorous US studies of online charter schools show students learn less than similar peers in traditional face-to-face schools.

This makes sense, because learning is a social activity. The evidence shows positive effects are stronger where technology is a supplement for teaching, rather than a significant replacement – the situation we face now.

Our disadvantaged students will be hardest hit. Children from poorer households do worse at online learning for a host of reasons; they have less internet access, fewer technological devices, poorer home learning environments and less help from their parents when they get stuck.

Students who are struggling academically are at risk too. Asking students to independently work through large parts of the curriculum online can create extra stresses as it requires them to regulate their own learning pace. Many struggle with this, especially students who are already behind.




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Schools are moving online, but not all children start out digitally equal


To be clear, this is not an argument against online learning. Digital learning offers much potential for schools and students. Several online programs, including digital games, simulations, and computer-aided tutoring show positive results when used to support to learning.

But the success of online initiatives relies on preparation and good implementation. A rapid-fire response to shift teaching online to large populations during a pandemic is unlikely to produce above-average results.

So what should the government do post-COVID-19 when school re-opens to help students bounce back?

Catch-up programs

Many students are likely to be behind, and some will be very far behind. If schools are closed for all of term two, and possibly term three, many students will have a lot to catch up on to move up a grade in 2021. What lies ahead is a difficult and unprecedented situation for our educators.

Governments and schools have several options. Getting struggling students to repeat a year shouldn’t be one of them, unless school closures go much longer than expected. Evidence shows repeating a year is one of the few educational interventions that harms a student academically. Those who repeat a year can become unmotivated, have less self-esteem, miss school and complete homework less often.

A better option is for educators to conduct intensive tuition for small groups, before or after the normal school day. These sessions could be targeted at the most disadvantaged and struggling students in groups of two to five students.

Evidence generally shows the smaller the tuition group, the bigger the effects. One-on-one tutoring has the largest effects in most cases, but given it is more expensive, small group tuition could be tried as a first step.




Read more:
Trying to homeschool because of coronavirus? Here are 5 tips to help your child learn


Another option is intensive face-to-face academic programs delivered over a few weeks. These could be similar to what Americans call “summer school” programs, but with a stronger academic focus and targeted at struggling students.

In Australia, these could be run in the week prior to schools re-opening, or over the term three or term four holidays. US evidence shows students who attend summer school programs can gain two months of extra learning progress compared to similar students who do not.

The impacts of summer programs are larger when academically focused and delivered intensively with small group tuition by experienced teachers.

Of course, teachers can also do more during regular face-to-face school lessons to help kids catch up, and the current crises may create extra focus on what teaching practices and programs work best. But given the likely size of the challenge, additional catch-up measures will still be needed.

The costs would flow back into economy

The costs of these sorts of catch-up programs are significant, but affordable. For example, we calculate providing small-group tuition for half of the students across Australia would cost about A$900 million. This is based on groups of three students receiving 30 minutes of tuition, five times a week, for two full terms, at a cost of $460 per student.

Conducting a three-week intensive summer school for say 800,000 disadvantaged students across Australia would cost about $800 million, assuming a cost of $1,000 per student based on US and UK experiences.

These are not big sums in the scheme of the economic stimulus and rescue package spending for COVID-19. If new catch-up programs cost, let’s say, between $2-4 billion, that is only 3-6% of the federal government’s stimulus measures announced to date.




Read more:
COVID-19: what closing schools and childcare centres would mean for parents and casual staff


And the money for summer schools and small group tuition would flow to extra salaries for teachers, providing financial stimulus at a time when the economy really needs it.

No doubt schools and teachers will do their best to continue student learning while schools are closed. And through this process we will also learn a lot about how to do online learning for large populations, and improve along the way.

But despite best efforts, we should prepare for learning losses and plan for catch-up programs.The Conversation

Julie Sonnemann, Fellow, Grattan Institute

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

Trying to homeschool because of coronavirus? Here are 5 tips to help your child learn



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David Roy, University of Newcastle

A number of schools in Australia have shut after students and staff tested positive for COVID-19. And some private schools have moved to online classes pre-emptively.

Many parents are keeping their children home as a precaution for various reasons. Attendance in schools has fallen, by as much as 50% in some.

The current medical advice is for schools to remain open and for children to go to school, unless they are unwell. But if your child is staying home from school, you may be wondering how you can support their learning.

Here are some things you can do to help your child learn from home.

1. Set up a learning space

Create an area in the house for your child to be able to focus on learning. There are no clear guidelines on what a learning area should look like. In fact schools have found creating learning areas or spaces to be a challenge. This is because every child has individual ways of learning, so what works for one may not work for another.

Home learning has an advantage in that it can cater to the individual child. As long as the student can focus and be safe, there are no limits to where the learning can take place. Feel free to allow children different places to learn, whether lying on the ground or sitting at a table – whatever works best for them.

But try to limit distractions. Turning the TV off and switching off app notifications will help.




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2. Think about the technology you’ll need

It’s worth checking what programs you will need to access the work the school send. You may need Adobe Acrobat Reader (which is free) or any specific video players such as Abode Flashplayer.

If they are not free, it’s worth checking if the school has a shared license or access package you can use. Companies are offering some online programs and services free during the COVID-19 period. Adobe, for instance, is offering school IT administrators free access to its Creative Cloud facilities until May 2020.

You may also need to download teleconferencing facilities such as Zoom or Skype that teachers may use to deliver lessons. These are free, but make sure you are downloading from the official developers, as some other sites may expose your computer to malware.

3. Create a structure

Make sure your children do not just see this as an extended holiday but as normal school, from home. It’s important to create a structure.

Mainstream schools have a timetabled structure throughout the week, so rather than disrupting your child’s routine, you might wish to follow your child’s school routine.




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There is no specific time students should spend studying however, given different students of different ages will complete tasks and grasp concepts at different rates.

The advice is to aim for the time frames provided by the schools, and then be flexible depending on how your child is progressing.

There are no hard and fast rules as to how long your child studies for, or where.
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Communication is key. Keep checking in with your children as to how they are progressing, offering help as they feel they need it.

This is how teachers work continually throughout the day with the 20 to 30 children in their classroom.

We all need to process new learning so allow children time to relax between learning periods. But there are no hard and fast rules over how many breaks they should have or how long these should be. Research shows giving children freedom to choose how they learn, and how long for, can increase their motivation.

4. Get to know what your child should know

If your child’s school has moved to online learning, as a supervising adult you will be more a teacher’s aide or facilitator rather than a replacement teacher. It’s likely schools will provide learning materials, although some may not if the school is still open and your child is staying home for other reasons. It’s worth checking with the school, either way.

For each year level schools apply their state mandated curriculum based on the Australian Curriculum to create a year long program of work. Any work sent home by the school will be based on the appropriate age and stage of the curriculum to ensure students maintain their progression.

This is key, in particular, for year 11 and 12 students who must maintain focus on their studies for the end of year exams.




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It can be useful to know why schools choose certain types of work for students to do. So you may wish to browse through the state and territory curriculum documents (NSW, VIC, WA, SA, ACT, NT, TAS and QLD)

Key to understanding these sometimes confusing and complex documents is looking for outcomes and indicators – such as this for year 5 English. You can find all of this information in the relevant year level and subject category.

Outcomes are, in simplest form, the goal a child is to achieve at a certain level. Indicators are the suggested ways your child will show their achievements.

All aspects of the Australian Curriculum can be downloaded as required. States and territory regulators offer guides to understand each curriculum, such as Victoria.

5. Be around to help, but don’t get in the way

States and territories are putting supporting information online for how the parents can be a teacher’s guide and facilitator.

If your child is finding a particular task difficult, be available to make suggestions and answer questions, but try to let them do things themselves as much as possible.

If you don’t know the answer, work with your child to discover a solution. Let your child, where possible, self regulate – that is to take control of their own learning and not rely on you.




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How to help your kids with homework (without doing it for them)


You may need to take your child back a step to reinforce a concept before they move onto a new one. An example might be in long division, where reinforcing decimal points, or even subtraction, needs to be revised first.

If all else fails…

There are many online support activities for children learning from home. Where possible try to only use those from official education authorities. The NSW home schooling regulator (NESA) has published some links for home schooling families, that anyone can use.

If you are lost in what to do, then encourage your child to read. Model reading, get your children books and discuss them. Developing a love for reading in your children will help them in all learning areas, no matter how long they don’t physically go into school.




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The Conversation


David Roy, Lecturer in Education, University of Newcastle

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

Islamic State schooled children as soldiers – how can their ‘education’ be undone?



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There is a fundamental difference between Islamic State’s use of child soldiers and the practice elsewhere.
Al Arabiya/YouTube

James S. Morris, The University of Queensland and Tristan Dunning, The University of Queensland

Over the last few years, the Islamic State (IS) terror group has shocked the world with its gruesome public spectacles. Especially abhorrent to our moral sensibilities is its overt use of children as frontline fighters, suicide bombers and propaganda tools.

From macabre hide-and-seek exercises, in which children hunt and kill enemy prisoners in specially constructed mazes, to the mass execution and decapitation of adult soldiers, young people living under IS have been indoctrinated and encouraged to engage in violence.

Meanwhile, IS’s quasi-government instituted an education system explicitly aimed at indoctrinating and weaponising the children living under it.

Mathematics was practised by determining how many more fighters IS has than an opposing force. Chemistry was taught by discussion of methods of gas inhalation. And physical education focused on the correct body positions for firing various weapons.

Their education has been compounded by the retaliatory and sometimes excessive violence of the vast array of forces committed to destroying IS. Through this, children have been exposed to horrific violence on a daily basis – thus generating trauma and, undoubtedly, genuine long-term grievances.

How IS’s use of child soldiers differs

There is a fundamental difference between IS’s use of child soldiers and the practice elsewhere.

IS hasn’t just recruited child soldiers. It systematically militarised the education systems of captured Iraqi and Syrian territory to turn the region’s children into ideological timebombs.

These children, saturated in IS’s particular brand of violent and uncompromising “religious” instruction from about the age of five, were trained in the use of small arms before their teenage years. They constitute a new challenge for the international community.

IS’s state-building efforts appear to have been thwarted for now. But saving the children exposed and potentially indoctrinated in its ideology is key to avoiding further terror attacks in the West, tackling the root causes of regional upheaval, and working toward a future where children play instead of fight, and schools teach instead of drill.

What children have been taught

Military activity, superiority based on IS’s interpretation of Islam, and the need to defeat unbelievers are embedded in its school textbooks.

Various videos, produced both through journalistic investigation and by IS itself, show the more practical side of education under the group’s rule. Children are taught how to fire small arms and use hand grenades.

Although IS extensively forced children into its ranks, many joined voluntarily – with or without their families’ blessing. But, in the long term, it doesn’t matter whether a child is forcibly recruited or not. And this is the matter of gravest concern.

IS’s primary concern is building and maintaining the children’s loyalty. The phrase “cubs of the caliphate” is a microcosm of how it views them. Cubs are unruly, ill-disciplined and dependent on strong (sometimes violent) guidance from their elders.

However, with time, resources and patience they can turn into a generation of fighters and idealists who will foster IS’s ideology even if its current military setbacks prove terminal.

Programs need to take a new approach

Disarmament, demobilisation and rehabilitation programs designed to reintegrate child soldiers into post-conflict society have significantly progressed in recent years. This represents the continued evolution of military-civil partnerships in the quest for a conflict-free world.

But IS’s systematic and meticulous radicalisation of an entire region’s children presents new challenges.

It’s understandable to interpret IS’s rapid retreat as its death knell, and thereby view traditional rehabilitation techniques as an appropriate remedy for yet another region recovering from violence at the hands of a radical armed insurgency. However, this conflict has been highly unusual in its pace, tactics and impacts – both now and potentially in the future.

So, we must revisit the fundamental assumptions of what it means to inspire peace within a society. This starts with the children subjected to the ideological extremism of IS and other armed groups.

If there is to be sustainable peace in the areas liberated from IS control, rehabilitation programs must be viewed as a community-wide process. Even if children did not directly participate in IS activities, the group has moulded their worldview and underpinning life philosophies.

Such philosophies may be especially productive in a region where resentment of perceived foreign – Western – interference and exploitation is long-lasting and multifaceted.

What can be done

The regular processes of identifying child combatants, disarming and reintegrating them into their communities through rehabilitation (such as by ensuring they are physically and mentally capable of rejoining their communities) and reconciliation (developing peace, trust and justice among children and their communities) are all necessary. But they are vastly insufficient in this instance.

Rarely has there been such systematic youth radicalisation and militarisation. So, the international response must be equally far-reaching and methodical.

Rapid reimplementation and revisiting of pre-IS school curricula is of the highest priority. National and local governments should ensure children are shielded from further recruitment by instituting a curriculum drawn from principles of tolerance and inclusion.

It’s essential to develop locally run initiatives to measure the level of radicalisation among a community’s children and to construct child-friendly spaces for young people to socialise, reconnect with their wider community and “unlearn” what they adopted under IS.

The ConversationSuch practices will help to heal the wounds of IS occupation and ensure the potential for cyclical violence is removed. Done right, it will hinder IS’s ability to rise anew.

James S. Morris, PhD Student in International Security and Child Rights, The University of Queensland and Tristan Dunning, Lecturer in Modern Middle East History, School of Historical and Philosophical Inquiry, The University of Queensland

This article was originally published on The Conversation. Read the original article.

When the media cover mass shootings, would depicting the carnage make a difference?



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Some argue that news coverage of shootings is too sanitized.
puriri/Shutterstock.com

Nicole Smith Dahmen, University of Oregon

Since 20 children were gunned down at Sandy Hook Elementary School in December 2012, we’ve seen public calls for the release of crime scene photos – the idea being that the visceral horror evoked by images of young, brutalized bodies could spur some sort of action to combat the country’s gun violence epidemic.

The day after the Parkland, Florida, high school shooting, a Slate article echoed the demand for crime scene photos to be released, arguing that if Americans could actually see the bloodshed, we might finally say, “Enough is enough.”

As a scholar who specializes in photojournalism ethics, I’ve thought extensively about how journalism can responsibly cover gun violence, balancing the moral imperatives of seeking truth while minimizing harm. I’ve also studied how images can galvanize viewers.

Fundamental questions remain: What is the line between informing audiences and exploiting victims and their families? Should the media find a balance between shocking and shielding audiences? And when it comes to mass shootings – and gun violence more broadly – if outlets did include more bloody images, would it even make a difference?

The limitations of a photo

On the same day of the Parkland shooting, my research on news images of mass shootings was published. Given the intense yet fleeting nature of media coverage, I wanted to examine how news outlets cover these crimes, specifically through the lens of visual reporting.

The study analyzed nearly 5,000 newspaper photos from three school shootings: Virginia Tech, Sandy Hook and Umpqua Community College. Of those images, only 5 percent could be characterized as graphic in nature.

Most depicted the shock and grief of survivors, family and friends. These elements certainly make up an important part of the story. Nonetheless, they create a narrative where, as the Slate article put it, “mass shootings are bloodless.”

Does that matter?

Research has shown that when audiences feel emotionally connected with news events, they’re more likely to change their views or take action. Photographs of violence and bloodshed can certainly serve as a conduit for this emotional connection. Their realism resonates, and they’re able to create a visceral effect that can arouse a range of emotions: sorrow, disgust, shock, anger.

But the power of images is limited. After particularly shocking images appear, what we tend to see are short bursts of activism. For example, in 2015, following the publication of the harrowing image of a drowned Syrian boy lying facedown in the sand, donations to the Red Cross briefly spiked. But within a week, they returned to their typical levels.

The ethics of violent imagery

If a graphic image can inspire some action – even it’s minimal and fleeting – do media outlets have an obligation to run more photos of mass shooting victims?

Perhaps. But other concerns need to be weighed.

For one, there are the victims’ families. Widely disseminated images of their massacred loved ones could no doubt add to their already unthinkable grief.

Moreover, we exist in a media landscape that overwhelms us with images. Individual photographs become harder to remember, to the point that even graphic ones of bloodshed could fade into ubiquity.

Another concern is the presentation of these images. As media consumers, so much of what we see comes from manipulated, sensationalized and trivialized social media feeds. As a colleague and I wrote last year, social media “begs us to become voyeurs” as opposed to informed news consumers. In a digital environment, these images could also be easily appropriated for any number purposes – from pornography to hoaxes – and spread across social media, to the point that their authenticity will be lost.

There’s another unintended consequence: Grisly images could inspire another mass shooting. Research indicates that news coverage of mass shootings – and in particular the attention given to body counts and the perpetrators themselves – can have a contagious effect on would-be mass killers.

Journalism has a responsibility to inform audiences, and sometimes a graphic image does that in a way that words can’t.

However this doesn’t mean that any and all gruesome images should be published. There are professional guidelines for deciding whether to publish these types of images – mainly, to consider the journalistic purpose of publishing them and the “overriding and justifiable need to see” them.

The extent to which graphic images should be present in our news media is an ongoing debate. And it’s one that must continue.

A new image emerges

Following mass shootings, there’s a predictable pattern of news media coverage. There are the breaking news reports filled with speculation. Then details of the perpetrator emerge. Reporters and pundits question whether or not it was an act of terrorism. Elected officials respond with “thoughts and prayers,” and debates about mental health and gun control rage. Finally, there’s coverage of the vigils and funerals.

But this time, there’s something new: images of resistance.

Students at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School are stepping up and demanding action from the country’s elected leaders.

In an impassioned speech, senior Emma Gonzalez chastised lawmakers, stating, “We are up here standing together because if all our government and president can do is send thoughts and prayers, then it’s time for victims to be the change that we need to see.”

This, in the end, may prove to be more effective than any images of bloodshed or grief. Fanning across the news outlets and social media networks, these images of resistance seem to be spurring action, with school walkouts and nationwide protests against gun violence in the works.

Illustrations of protest, courage and resilience – from high school students, no less – might have the power to sink in.

The ConversationPerhaps it will be these images – not those of bloodied victims – that will stir people from complacency and move them to action.

Nicole Smith Dahmen, Associate Professor, School of Journalism and Communication, University of Oregon

This article was originally published on The Conversation. Read the original article.