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Investing parents: a step-by-step guide

Remember all the stories we have heard, our grandparents and their parents sitting under the lamplights to study. There was nothing but one lesson from the tales: how our elders, with limited resources, could be entirely self-sufficient in their studies. This self-reliance was extraordinary amidst scarce resources and teachers, little parental guidance, and zero technology.

Meet Ananya, a first-grader from Sangam Vihar, New Delhi. Ananya usually had a packed schedule. She started school at 7:30 am, returned at 1:00 pm, quickly had lunch and a little nap, and ran to tuition at 3:00 pm, where she completed her school homework. As a seven-year-old, she returned home at 5:00 pm and now wanted to catch up on hopscotch, snakes-ladders, and cartoons with her best friends Khusboo and Ruhani for the rest of the evening. Ananya's parents- mother: a homemaker who is usually busy with chores, and father, who remains occupied with his day job - thought Ananya was studying enough with the help of these avenues and required no more support. When COVID struck, schools and tuition shut down, and like all of us, Ananya also was confined to her home. After the first two months and numerous attempts to make Ananya study at home, her parents realized Ananya could not learn independently and slowly forgot the basic math concepts.

This discovery made them realize the absence of the same self-reliance I discussed above. Even with multiple resources such as school and tuition at Ananya's disposal, she needed help to study independently at home. She never had the habit of working alone and was always dependent on others from grade nursery when her parents first sent her to tuition.

We notice this trend and the problem stemming from it in many students. Earlier hidden, the lack of independent study and parent investment is even more evident due to COVID.

The transition from school to home as a place of studying was utterly tricky and is still underway. However, the silver lining is that the parents understood their responsibility and have initiated this transition; a report from UNICEF states that parent investment during the early years is six times more effective than an outside intervention. The students who lag in the classroom are the ones who need invested parents and a conducive learning environment at home.

Who is an invested parent? An invested parent is one who ensures the following:

1. A dedicated time for the child to learn at home.

2. Plenty of learning resources according to the child's learning level.

3. Sets a feedback loop with the child. Checks their daily work, positively reinforces the routine, and allows them to go through their mistakes without scolding them.

4. Keeps in touch with teachers to understand the child's progress and discuss strengths and weaknesses.

5. Models this disciplined behavior daily to set an example for the child to develop.

To make this possible, a parent must know the why and how of self-paced at-home learning. To get into the teacher's role:

The parent should be confident and believe that they can teach.

They must have some resources to teach.

First, our Relationship Managers (RMs) support the parents at every step. They deliver our program's principles-Daily practice, Heavy practice, and incremental advancement - to our parents. The RM's set up three rules- Fix a time and place for the child to study, check the child's daily work, and allow room for the child to correct their mistakes with positive reinforcements - to make the home a learning place, and get the child accustomed to it. With the RM's on-call and personal support, the parents feel more comfortable taking on the teacher's role.

As for the second, more than confidence-building is needed, which is often the first touch-point of intervention. More than just planting a tree, it requires the care and resources to grow daily. Similarly, parents need level-based subject resources for their children every day. The study resources give the parent a medium to exercise the newly built confidence and give the child a daily task to complete, eventually leading to learning at home with measurable results. When we enroll a child into our program, we take a baseline test that helps us determine the current level the child is on in a particular subject. The child then receives the worksheet based on their level, ensuring personalized self-paced learning.

Although these steps look full-proof, there are multiple challenges along the way. No one has ever heard any social scientist scream - "Voila! behavior change happened in a day." Parent inertia is a significant roadblock; converting a tuition-dependent parent into a punctual principal takes a lot of work. Parents find it easier to outsource than to take ownership. Mothers are usually subjected to household work and must realize how their household skills are transferable to basic numeracy and literacy, which they can teach the child. There is a constant comparison between tuition and our self-paced learning method, as we consider education a consumed experience than a created one. Parents do not consider our program a substitute for tuition but rather an addition to it; this ultimately burdens the child.

What next? As schools near reopening, the damage of the lockdown will be visible through the learning gaps. Remediation should happen at home: it is possible with the abovementioned steps. Teachers at school can spend extra time teaching things like the happiness curriculum, entrepreneurship, or mental health, which is irreplicable at home. COVID has allowed us to rehaul the education system, where learning and mastery can happen at school and home. Parents can become active players and not remain passive spectators, thus making learning a self-driven and enjoyable experience for their children.

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