Here's how you can help your kids see schooling as a small part of a much bigger picture
If we only focus on school as curriculum mastery and we do not stand back and point out the life journey to our kids, they will likely never realise this for themselves.
If we only focus on school as curriculum mastery and we do not stand back and point out the life journey to our kids, they will likely never realise this for themselves. (iStock)
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Recently, a parent complained to me about the fact that the school her kid was attending was taking itself way too seriously and putting enormous pressure on students.

As a parent, it appeared to her that there was absolutely no coordination among same-grade teachers in terms of assessment and assignment schedules, which resulted in extreme stress for students.

She wanted some advice about how to help her children see their school for what it is – just part of a bigger picture and not THE picture. 

One way of doing this is to teach them to stand back for a moment and critically look at what is required of them and the rationale behind it.

This is called "metacognition". 

You may have heard of metacognition before – research has shown that it is an extremely strong indicator for academic success and refers to the ability to reflect on one’s learning, the process it involves and where it fits into the bigger picture.  


Also see: Future skills: 7 essential skills your kids should learn at school to succeed in the future

What do you think are important life skills kids need to be taught in school? Tell us, and we could publish your letter. Anonymous contributions are welcome.


The limitations of "curriculum" as a term

Most students are at school for a period of 12 years, during which they're expected to master a syllabus that will enable them to study further, or start their adult and working life in a meaningful way.

It is no accident that most of our language regarding school focuses on set works that must be adhered to by teachers and mastered by students. There is nothing wrong with that, but in order to prepare students for their adult lives (and also put school demands in perspective), we need to teach them to have long-term rather than short-term goals.

An immediate benefit of this is that it helps them set their own priorities rather than necessarily accepting those of the teacher/school without question. This ties in quite closely with what is intended when people talk about the 6 Cs in education: collaboration, communication, creativity, critical thinking, character, and citizenship.

Helping students master these skills during their school years ultimately enables them to step back and start asking questions about how things tie together. 

If we only focus on school as curriculum mastery and we do not stand back and point out the life journey to our kids, they will likely never realise this for themselves.

They will not see tests as stepping stones, exams as steps and school years as milestones. They will fail to realise that in passing their grades they are gaining so much more than just "the curriculum" – they are also gaining skills for the rest of their lives.

Some of these, such as resilience and discipline, will be tacit, others such as Maths skills or critical thinking may be more explicit, but all will contribute meaningfully to their progress.


Also see: "Just teach your kids how to do stuff!" – 10 Practical skills every parent should impart on their child


Curriculum as learning paths

If we were to think of the life journey metaphor as a useful metacognitive tool for helping our kids think about their learning – what can we do as parents?

One way is for parents to become more involved with their children’s learning journey by helping them think about their school work as learning paths.

This will enable us to map all their school activities to various stages of a year-long school journey, preparing them for what lies ahead. 

Let’s teach our kids to see their schooling as part of their own unique life journey, and refrain from an overemphasis on isolated events such as assessments and assignments, and in doing so, assist them in finding their place in the bigger picture. 

Dr Lieb Liebenberg is CEO at ITSI. 

Chat back:

What do you think are important life skills kids need to be taught in school? Tell us, and we could publish your letter. Anonymous contributions are welcome.

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