Homeschooling and Adult Learning: Parallels and Lessons Learned

While schools and daycares are closed due to the COVID-19 pandemic, my husband and I are taking care of our 6-year-old and 3-year-old. We are doing our best to keep them safe, engaged, and provide some educational opportunities.  What I’m learning about homeschooling is helping me think critically about how we approach adult learning.

I grew up with a National Board Certified, Teacher of the Year; teaching and training adults is my profession; and yet I feel completely ill-equipped to teach children!

At PRA we develop learning materials for adults through online courses, webinars, learning communities, and other virtual and print media. I’ve delivered in-person trainings to hundreds of people, helped develop online courses that have trained thousands of people, but teaching my son how to understand phonics is completely foreign!

After a few weeks, here is what I have been reminded:

Tone matters.

One approach may elicit tears or frustration, and another will instill confidence.

At work: To affirm this need, we provide strengths and positive statements in the personalized feedback forms for trainees completing the SOAR Online Course practice case.

At home: Provide upbeat feedback about effort and growth. Putting pencil to paper is a great start that deserves to be praised.

Perfection is not required.

Learning new skills and information is incremental. We may have mastered the information, but that took time. Find and celebrate the progress and understanding as it comes.

At work: We offer trainees the opportunity to revise and resubmit their work with positive and constructive comments.

At home: For kindergarteners, building sentences and writing a short story is fantastic. Celebrate their creativity and don’t worry about the spelling. There will be a time for that!

Put in the time.

You can’t rush mastery and understanding. Be patient and answer questions.

At work: We hold regular SOARing Over Lunch calls, which provide an opportunity for new and seasoned caseworkers to ask questions and get clarification and advice. Forming questions and processing the answers leads to growth.

At home: Be patient. You may have to answer a thousand “why” questions, but with each “why” there is growth.

Know your limits.

We all have specialized skills and expertise. Being able to identify and bring out skills in others helps us all to succeed. Sometimes the best decision is stepping back and making room for someone else who can more effectively deliver the information, tell the story, or explain the concept.

At work: Before SOAR Leadership Academies the training team meets to assign modules using a Trainers Map. We volunteer for the topics that we are passionate about and we know well. We spread out the training load so no one is presenting or facilitating for too long. Varied styles and emphasis help keep the trainees’ attention.

At home: My husband is incredibly patient and very encouraging. He helps our son through his assignments every school day. I help distract the little sister so they can focus!

Here’s to surviving and thriving each day as learners and teachers.