Whole-Child Learning

Whole-Child Learning

Lets take a look at whole-child learning for the 21st Century.

For previous generations, the focus of school was academics. Adults spoke of success in terms of academic success, and these measurements shaped opportunities and in some cases outcomes for children. As the world becomes increasingly global and careers are redefined by a new set of skills, an educational philosophy that emphasizes the different types of intelligences rather than pure academics is most able to set students up for success in today’s world.

Academic skills are an essential part of a quality education, but are no more important than collaboration, creativity and perseverance. A classroom environment that fosters these skills is one that will prepare students for the future. In life, we work with others, exercise creative problem-solving skills and demonstrate an ability to work through challenges without giving up. These abilities are important regardless of the field in which you work. Many careers now are based on relationship building, negotiating challenging situations and showing ingenuity and entrepreneurship. These are pieces of a whole-child approach, one that values emotional intelligence and creativity as well as academic skills.

While the benefits of a progressive classroom will serve students for a lifetime, particularly in our modern world, the goal of school is not only to prepare for the future but also to engage in the moment. A classroom that invites children to ask and answer real questions, follow their interests and work together in the process is one that brings out a joy in learning for students of all ages. They see themselves as active builders of knowledge rather than passive recipients, and they develop a practice of inquiry and discovery. School is not a chore, but a purpose, and each student contributes to the learning environment. The roles of students and teachers shift in a progressive classroom because there is a more open exchange and independent ideas and interests are valued. Teachers shape learning while modeling that everyone is on a journey in learning, career and life.

As parents and educators, we do not know exactly what the world will look like when our students leave formal school and are working and living independently. We do know that it will be a world that changes quickly due to technology and an open exchange of ideas, a world that is driven by innovation and leadership. Innovation requires creativity and risk-taking, and leadership relies on interpersonal skills and learning from mistakes. The qualities that shape capable students will also cultivate self-sufficient people in a 21stcentury world.

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Teaching Math at Clarion

Teaching Math at Clarion

At Clarion, our teachers ensure that the different subjects are taught in a way that elicits interest of the student.

What is the Clarion approach to math?

Our students are learning math from the inside out, building foundations and concepts rather than memorizing facts. Teachers at Clarion spend the early years helping children develop a number sense and a love of math. They guide the students through the process of asking questions and exploring the possibilities rather than quickly identifying the correct answer. Without quizzes to demonstrate speed and accuracy in computation, parents may be concerned that students are falling behind. In fact, building this deep understanding provides children with the skills they need to be mathematical problem-solvers.

How do teachers know if a child understands the material?

Teachers engage in discussions with the entire class during math lessons. The lessons are structured to scaffold student learning and allow for exploration of materials and concepts. The emphasis is not on getting the correct answer, but on the process and reasoning students use to show their mathematical thinking. Teachers assess students by looking at their strategies and application of skills. For example, when exploring multiplication, students learn first about things that come in groups and practice different ways to represent this concept. They tackle problems of multiplication using words and drawings long before they start memorizing facts. This way, teachers can see if they understand what multiplication means, and students develop the confidence that allows them to tackle sophisticated problems based on what they already know.

What does this mean for our students as they move forward in math?

By developing confident math students with a solid conceptual understanding, Clarion is setting students up for success in math and other areas of logical reasoning. If a child sees a problem and does not know the answer or even the fastest way to approach it, but has tools to use to break it down and make sense of it, she will rise to the challenge. When children believe they can grow and learn, that being good at math is not a fixed skill, they take the time to explore and make meaning. With each experience in this problem-solving process, children become more confident in their ability and nimble in how they access and apply their skills to new situations. When they see a challenging problem they become curious, and instead of saying, “I can’t,” they say, “I’ll try.”

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Taking Risks

Taking Risks

In a progressive school, students learn to take risks and to be creative.

“You never know what you can do until you try it.”

This famous quote has been inspiring people to take risks for generations, and yet in many schools, children are taught through rote memorization and a practice-makes-perfect philosophy.

When we teach our children that they can take risks in an academic setting, we build their confidence and promote problem-solving skills that lead to innovation and deeper learning. As parents, it might be uncomfortable to see children learn in an environment where the outcome is unknown, but when students are active learners who take risks, anything is possible.

In a progressive school, students learn to take risks and to be creative.

Instead of teaching children how to take tests and produce facts, instruction focuses on helping children construct knowledge and understand concepts which can then be applied to new questions or problems. To better understand progressive classrooms, think about Legos or artwork.

A child who knows how to build with Legos comes across a large bin of mixed Legos and no instruction manual. The child uses building skills to create something new rather than follow step-by-step directions with a predetermined outcome.

Given crayons and white paper, a child can take a risk and create a drawing that is one-of-a-kind rather than working within the lines of a coloring book. This is the kind of skill-based risk-taking that teachers in progressive classrooms are encouraging every day, across disciplines.

When children take an active role in their learning, they are more fully engaged and experience deeper learning.

Children pose the questions and find the solutions, with scaffolding from the teacher and classmates. They are not afraid to make mistakes. Through frequent assessments and conversations, teachers give students feedback and opportunities to understand their mistakes and learn from them. Students are aware of their own growth, and because they drive their own learning process, they develop confidence in their abilities.

Parents can support their children’s learning by engaging in conversations at home.

Talk to them about what they are doing at school, and listen to the way they describe their work. Ask them open-ended questions and start family projects that are hands-on and have no fixed outcome.

Show them examples of when you take risks in your own work or when you make mistakes and learn from them. We are all engaged in an ongoing learning process, and when children see this, they approach life and school as opportunities to grow rather than being fearful of mistakes.

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How can working parents ease the back-to-school stress?

How can working parents ease the back-to-school stress?

1. Plan Ahead

Approach the back-to-school season one week at a time, and have a weekly calendar that everyone in the family can see. This will help ease anxiety and allow you to get into a rhythm. It also helps give family members a sense of what is coming up in that week. Within your weekly plan, develop some systems that help you to prepare.Grocery shopping once a week and cutting up fruit and vegetables in advance can help tremendously with the morning and evening rush of packing lunches and making dinner.

Creating responsibility checklists with your children will also lighten the nagging and help them to become more independent, freeing up more time for you to work and to parent!

2. Use Technology

One of the most common frustrations of working parents is that they feel out of touch with their child’s school because they cannot attend certain meetings or volunteer as much as parents who have more flexibility.

Technology is helping to close this gap, with advances like live-streamed Parent-Teacher Association meetings and Sign-Up Genius and programs like SeeSaw providing instant access to things that used to require you to be physically at school.

Tune in when work allows and read all the e-mails from your child’s teacher and the school. These things will keep you in the loop, and when October rolls around and things calm down a bit, you will find it second-nature to stay on top of communication.

3. Compartmentalize

One of the biggest challenges for working parents who can be plugged in all the time is remembering to turn work off during family time. In the early weeks of school, it is particularly important that we unplug and be fully present with our children at the dinner table and bedtime.

E-mails and phone calls can become constant distractions if we let them. Creating rules and following those rules is the best way to separate work from home and manage your priorities.

4. Give Yourself a Break

Even with the best attempts at planning ahead to effectively balance home, school and work, the beginning of the school year is full of surprises that can throw parents off track.

Travel schedules for working parents, along with quickly increasing school and after-school schedules for children, can mean that things slip through the cracks or get done at the last minute sometimes.Take a deep breath and give yourself a break when something goes wrong; every new day brings opportunities to improve, and our children learn a lot from how we handle mistakes and setbacks.

Whether you work part-time, full-time, from home or outside the home, being a parent and managing a career requires a careful balance. September often feels out of balance and is a time of transition for everyone.

Stay calm, focus on what is important each day, and you will make it through September and hopefully have some quality family time in the process!

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Setting “Back to School” Goals

Setting “Back to School” Goals

Reduce the level of September anxiety and take a look at these simple goals that will help settling back in school.

School has finally started! Parents and children are getting ready for a new school year. September can be a time of anxiety for both parents and children. By spending a bit of time with our children thinking about goals and opportunities, we can ease settling in and get everyone excited for the year of growth and learning that lies ahead. Here are four types of goals you can set with your children, and make similar goals for yourself!

  • Learning goal:What is one area of study or one skill you want to improve this year? How can you accomplish this, and how can your parents and teachers help?
  • Habit goal:What is one habit that will make you a better student, and how can you work on this? What can your parents and teachers do to support this goal?
  • Friendship goal:What is one way that you can be a better friend? Can you be more helpful, better at listening, or open to other people’s ideas?
  • Home goal:What are some responsibilities that you can take on at home to help the days run more smoothly? Can you help make meals, pick up after yourself or play games with younger siblings?

In addition to setting these goals, parents are encouraged to have conversations about the opportunities that each goal presents. Being more kind and open with friends will mean that your child makes new friends easily. Taking on more responsibility at home will mean the family enjoys more quality time together. Working hard as a student, even in areas that are challenging, will bring progress, confidence and moments of joy in learning.

Most importantly, having these conversations early in the year opens the door for an open dialogue throughout the school year about what is going well and how your family can work together to face challenges. To help with accountability and to check in on your goals, set aside time for a regular family meeting.

Experience Clarion

Learn how our Master Educators create Transformational Learning.

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