“I thought this was impossible, and we are DOING it:” Making Everyday Life Better for Families by Supporting Young Children’s Self-Directed Learning

A Talk by Karen Lock Kolp, M.Ed.
Leader and Founder, http://weturnedoutokay.com

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About this talk

As a child development expert and parent coach, I see a massive absence of support for younger children’s self-directed learning, otherwise known as independent play. Too often, teachers and parents put developmentally inappropriate academic pressure on very young kids so they don’t “fall behind.” This is detrimental in ordinary times; in the pandemic it’s unconscionable. My presentation helps parents adopt self-directed learning in a practical way, through bringing more independent play opportunities into family life. I know this is an effective approach because I teach these tools every day in my work with clients. For example, Nora is a single mother working a demanding job, 60+ hours per week. Since March 2020 Nora has worked from home, alone with her very active four-year-old in their small apartment. Prior to shifting into self-directed learning, neither parent nor child were happy. Nora could not effectively do her job because of the disruptive, explosive nature of her son’s behavior. Now, through our work together fostering her son’s open-ended play, Nora reports that they are both thriving. “I thought this was impossible, and we are DOING it!,” she shares. To struggling parents who feel weighed down by the pandemic and the requirements of traditional schooling, this looks like magic. But in reality all I do is help parents understand how crucial play is in resolving conflicts and alleviating stress for young children. I then facilitate, helping these parents implement self-directed learning in their families. I provide words to talk and work with teachers and caregivers. I share tools and strategies to help parents build open-ended play opportunities into family life. As a result parents and kids feel in control of their own lives and destinies while thriving in the moment. The disruption of Coronavirus is horrible in many ways. But it also presents a true opportunity for the rise of self-directed learning. I’m excited to share the simple changes families can make that lead to better behavior, engagement, and connection. I’m hopeful I can present these ideas at the Emergency Home Learning (and More) Summit. Thank you for your consideration!

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