8 ways to empower and motivate our Lockdown learners

What if I fall?” Oh, but my darling, “What if you fly?” — Erin Hanson

While helping children with schoolwork at home, it is natural to feel frustrated when we’ve explained a concept over and over again to be greeted with a blank expression or wrong answers.

During these tough times, it is inevitable that adults and children will feel demoralized and demotivated.

Furthermore, with all the doom and gloom in the press about children being behind it is easy to panic and worry that your child will never master certain skills, that the Department of Education has placed so much importance on.

However, the most important skill we need to instill into our children right now is how to become a lifelong learner and feel passionate about developing skills that we will need for life.

It is extremely important to protect our children’s self-esteem and thirst for learning and development, especially right now in the middle of the pandemic which has turned our lives upside down.

So how can we stop our exasperation from sabotaging our sanity and our child’s self-esteem? Here are a few ideas.

  1. Stop, breathe, stay still, and quiet.
    Sometimes less is more. If you give a learner some time and space, they can work something out by themselves. If we keep talking we may just add to the confusion or escalate the situation. If I keep quiet, my son talks himself through a problem and often manages to solve it.

2. Put the problem into perspective.

Now with technology at our fingertips, we can use assistance in our adult life. Perhaps the skill or knowledge does not need to cause as much stress as it is currently doing. Before you panic, ask yourself when was the last time you needed to do the task in question?

3. Give it time. Perhaps the “Eureka” moment is still to come.

You might know the story of Archimedes being in a bath and finally solving a problem that had been puzzling him for ages. In his euphoria, he jumped out of the bath, naked, shouting out, “Eureka, eureka!” which means “I’ve got it, I’ve got it!”

I remember struggling with the concept of Ratio as a child. I kept being handed back the same question booklet to repeat and still remained clueless. Much later, it all made complete sense to me and I wondered how I ever struggled with it!

You could even show your children Dick and Dom’s explanation of Archimedes and his “Eureka” moment.

4. Recognise our children’s strengths and use them as scaffolding for their learning.

Our child may learn best through doing, seeing or hearing, or a combination of all three. Often a child instinctively knows how they will learn best. At age 4 my son suggested placing a number line on the stairs instead of on the floor and immediately it helped him to make sense of it.

5. Be clear that there is no shame in getting things wrong.

As the late Sir Ken Robinson affirmed, “If you’re not prepared to be wrong, you’ll never come up with anything original.”

6. Reinforce the power of “Yet”.
If everyone already knew all the answers we would have nothing left to learn.
ELSA Support has a lovely poster for children to download and complete with the skills or knowledge they are still yet to achieve and how they might do this.

7. Be careful how you respond to a child when they are struggling with a task.

As Brooke Hampton suggests, “Speak to your children as if they are the wisest, kindest, most beautiful and magical humans on earth, for what they believe is what they will become.”

I often remark how well my youngest son liaises with his brothers and helps if either of them are upset. He very proudly tells us that he is “the man of the people” and strives to live up to his epithet.

8. Reflect on the process of learning rather than the end result.
It is important for children to gain confidence as learners, so if you admire the way that they persevered and bounced back from failed attempts it will boost their confidence to try new skills next time.

Good luck and always bear in mind Sir Ken Robinson’s statement:

“Human resources are like natural resources; they’re often buried deep. You have to go looking for them, they’re not just lying around on the surface. You have to create the circumstances where they show themselves.”