Many parents are now working from home and, for children, the next school term in Thailand has been postponed to July. Everyone is adjusting their activities and behaviors during this time. This is also a time when parents have to pay more attention than usual to their children’s educational activities, with home or online schooling taking the place of traditional school routines. How, then, can parents make their children’s schooling at home most effective, and how should parents talk to their children about their current homeschooling situation?
First of all, parents need to understand that both homeschooling and traditional schooling options exist and are available to their children. Whichever of these options you choose for your child’s education, it is possible for your child to be successful, to acquire necessary knowledge, to land good jobs, and to earn a good income. A positive aspect of studying at home is that it may even give your child more time to study, as they don’t waste time in traffic to and from school each day.
Parents should organize their child’s normal daily schedule—the time they wake up, shower, eat, study, etc.—as if they were going to school. Parents may need to share duties to ensure their children are well-cared for, provide a full 6-8 hour school schedule each day, check for online schoolwork and assignments sent by teachers, and create boundaries and standards. Lesson timetables provided by teachers can be even more helpful for parents. Parents will likely need to closely monitor young children— kindergarten or elementary school age—who may not be able to work completely on their own.
A child’s natural attention span while learning is generally about 20-30 minutes, depending on the individual. Having a teacher in front of them who conducts the lesson, asks questions, explains, and interacts with them helps the child to concentrate on the task at hand. When studying at home or online, however, children may have a tendency to be distracted. Because of this, parents must take the role of teacher and interact with the child as the teacher would. Start by explaining to your child what the teachers have assigned for the day. Are there any homework assignments that have been given? When do they need to be submitted by? Then check in with your child regularly to see whether they are keeping to the timetable. While families are now home together, parents have the opportunity to observe what their child is doing with respect to their schoolwork.
Don’t forget, however, to allow children time to rest or engage in other activities throughout the day, just as they would at school. This includes recess and break times, meals, etc. In some cases, it’s just a matter of changing locations where various activities are carried out. Your child may enjoy doing some activities alone, or they may need some time to play with or talk to friends or siblings. This is where social media can come in handy. Just adjust the format and timing as appropriate.
Your child’s health is also important. Children need exercise. There are opportunities for this at school through physical education class, recess time and outdoor play with their friends. Therefore, exercise should be included in the child’s schedule at home too. You can do activities such as aerobics, yoga, or kicking a football around in the garage or yard. It’s best not to let children sit around watching TV and movies as their only extracurricular activity as this can result in obesity and other health and weight related issues. Enjoying a variety of physical activities also helps a child’s muscle development.
When parents get involved in, and are able to observe, their child’s learning process up close and personal, they will better understand what their child likes, what makes them happy, and what engages them. They will also be better at organizing activities appropriate to their child’s needs and abilities. The more parents understand their child, the better the foundation for that child’s learning and well-being throughout life.
Studying at home helps to reduce costs and the amount of time required to study in a systematic manner. Parents must, however, plan a curriculum most appropriate for each child, ensuring it is both up-to-date and suitable. A great option is to call the child’s teachers to discuss whether or not a certain course is in line with the child’s current curriculum. This will help you uncover any missing subjects or gaps in the curriculum. Children who study at home may, in fact, become better critical thinkers and better decision-makers, as they will understand themselves better and gain real-world experience with problem-solving on their own, while their parents act as mentors and provide support.
Parents will have to allocate their time between working and teaching their children. They will also have to learn to manage their own emotions when the child lacks attentiveness, shows disinterest in their studies, or is unable to do their work as they should. Parents will need to help their children plan their studying schedule well, as studying at home can, in some cases, take more time than studying at school. Parents also need to help their child understand and accept why they are being homeschooled so that they are prepared and confident if someone makes negative or disparaging remarks about homeschooling.
Parents may be concerned that their homeschooled child will lack social skills, will have a difficult time adapting to the behaviors of others, or will be unable to live or interact with others, as a result of not meeting other people besides their own parents and family while studying at home. Parents must remember that children need to have social lives and friends, and have time to play and interact with others. Because of this, parents who decide to homeschool will need to provide opportunities for their child to spend time with others their own age and with other adults. They may allow their child to play with friends in the neighborhood or to join social or sports activities outside the home. Of course, there must be rules and guidelines outlined in advance indicating what a child may or may not do. Schedules must also be adhered to, with parents or caretakers picking the children up on time, etc. The child will soon become used to these expectations and conditions. In reality, a lack of socialization and social skills may not have anything to do with homeschooling. These are problems that can arise anywhere, including in schools. Sometimes children just have a difficult time socializing and will need help and encouragement in this area.
Those who choose to homeschool their child can register with the school district where they live. This can be done for any child from kindergarten through high school, although it is not required for preschool or kindergarten aged children. Any child from the age of 7 years (or grade 1) may be registered. The school district will ask the parents to submit the curriculum that they will be using and how they will teach, grade, and evaluate their child. Each school district will provide recommendations to the parents for appropriate educational management. Once the child has completed all school years and the school district has received the child’s yearly grades, the district will issue the child a certificate which can be used to gain entrance into any Thai university, just like students who have studied within the Thai education system. Parents will also receive an education allowance or government subsidies which can be used towards hiring a teacher or tutor, depending on how they are managing their child’s education.
Homeschooling your child is definitely possible, but that doesn’t mean it will be easy. It depends upon a variety of factors, including the needs of the child and parents, each family’s lifestyle and way of thinking, and, in some cases, financial status.
Whether a child is schooled at home or in a traditional school setting, parents need to be in communication with their child’s teachers to ensure the studies are correct according to course and curriculum requirements. Parents also need to take the time to review examination results and assess their child’s progress with the teacher at every step, in order to provide the best possible academic results and learning experience for their child.
M.D., Faculty of Medicine, Khon Kean University, 1995