March 25, 2020

Home schooling? Choose Character over Curriculum

Is this the moment we realise the true importance of Character Education?

Like the rest of the UK and the world, at Role Models we have watched the events unfold over the past few weeks in disbelief. Schools closed, jobs lost and any form of certainty or normality seemly stripped away. Yet through all the anxiety and distress, we cannot fail to recognise that this extraordinary time can teach us important lessons.

At Role Models we have always been advocates of the importance of Character Education and we are now struck by how apparent this importance is now becoming to the world. ‘Education’ as we know it has literally stopped; how important does lesson content and knowledge now seem given that exams are cancelled and the system has been disrupted?

The families we’ve been supporting are asking for help with building their family’s well-being, their resilience and ways of responding to the many anxieties this situation brings for both children and adults alike. Now is the time to protect our families and develop coping skills like we’ve never done before. ‘Resilience’, ‘growth mindset’ and ‘empathy’ are no longer just buzz words you’ve heard in the school playground; they are the bedrock of protecting our mental wellbeing and will help see us through these turbulent next few months. Whether it’s your own resilience as a parent trying to juggle home-schooling and working a job, or your child’s resilience in adjusting to new ways of being together at home for what could be an extended period of time, it’s a tricky time for everyone.

We have been running online sessions of our life skills content this week and have been so inspired by the children who have joined the calls. They are willing to share their worries, be open and honest about how they are feeling and yet also make great strides in terms of hope and humour. We’ve discussed our usual themes of leadership, resilience, problem solving and confidence, and during each session we’ve seen the children bring these skills back to everyday application.

‘I’m scared about my grandparents dying from corona’

‘I could use this opportunity of being stuck at home to be kinder to my brother’

‘I’m going to use one of my super strengths (acting) to entertain and make others in my family smile’

‘Sometimes I get cross and angry and actually I’m just bored or tired’

‘I’m going to talk to my mum about my worries to stop them getting bigger and bigger’

Young boy looking at screen

I’m sure we all feel like we’ve never heard the word ‘unprecedented’ so many times. How do we prepare ourselves and our children to cope with an unprecedented situation? When something is so extraordinary, it seems quite impossible to do. Yet everything you’ve been doing as a family has in some way been helping to prepare for this; building your child’s confidence, creating a loving and safe space for them, building their resilience and self-belief. There are many ways you can continue to help protect, support and care for your family during this time and we plan to offer webinars for parents to provide more extensive support on this. Meanwhile, we have four simple suggestions to offer on how to help support your family:

  1. Actively seek opportunities to laugh and be silly with your children. They will have picked up on the fact that things are not ‘normal’; moments of humour and connection are vital for keeping them reassured and grounded. They will be taking their cues from us.
  2. Change is difficult for us all. As much as we find it hard to adjust to working from home, our children will also need a period of adjustment to their new ‘normal’. This adjustment to change might be apparent in their behaviour, emotions and interactions. Try and stay curious about what might be hiding underneath a certain response – anxiety? Frustration? Worry?
  3. A positive mindset and hope are two important factors to model and develop in your children. Limit the amount of news you choose to consume as a family in order to stay informed yet hopeful. Model your own ability to be flexible and to find the positive, even within difficult times.
  4. Give yourself a break. There is only so much that is possible and we need to hold on to that parenting term ‘good enough’. Our children are unlikely to remember the lessons we delivered to them through home schooling but they will remember the feel of the household and any unnecessary stress, so focus on getting the balance right.

We feel privileged to be working in the Character Education space right now and we are here to support you and your children with developing essential life skills to help them not just through the current situation but with any form of adversity they might meet.

We are sending all our very best wishes to those in our Role Models community and beyond.

Role Models are offering a range of online Life Skills sessions for children between age 6-11 taking place over the next few weeks. More information on these can be found here.

This blog post was written by Louise Treherne, Head of Character Education at Role Models. Louise has a degree in Psychology, 12 years experience as a teacher and 5 years as a Senior Deputy Head at a London Prep school. She now works as a Professional Coach and Educational Consultant.