How to glean insights into our children’s journey at E.S.T.E.A.M

In my last blog post I talked about tracking my daughter’s progress largely through “soft skills” (although we should probably be referring to them as “essential skills”.) I’d like to pick up where I left off and speak more about how to glean insights into our children’s journey at ESTEAM. 

Of course we can always ask our children to bring home their work for us to review or schedule a meeting with the school administrator. However, my daughter is 5 and I don’t think that level of oversight is really necessary for us at this point. I’m more interested in what she is learning about so we can continue talking about those subjects at home, and add depth to our relationship as father and daughter. 

The problem arises when we as parents ask open ended questions like “How was your day?”, “What did you learn about today?” or “What did you do at school today?” These are usually met with un-insightful answers like “nothing’ or “I don’t know.” Instead I’ve taken a queue from the language of ESTEAM and began asking my daughter to tell me her highs and lows for the day. A typical high might be “seeing my friends” and low “not getting to play a game.” Still not much information, but it’s something and I believe it’s laying better groundwork for more thoughtful answers in the future. 

I also think these types of questions suffer from a problem of timing. As a parent we want a clean wrap up and report at the end of each day. That just seems logical to us. For our children, they have just lived that experience, are probably tired and/or hungry, or just not in the mood to reflect on their day. 

Our children do provide us with little clues or puzzle pieces that we can use to put together a larger picture of what they are experiencing and learning about at school. Here are some of the pieces I was given this session:

  • Showed interest in our stop motion app only after having used one at school
  • Told her 2 year old brother that she was “holding him accountable” for his actions
  • An interest in doing math during her free time
  • Helped another tribemate write her name
  • Mentioned a tribemate “showing leadership”  
  • Offhandedly mentioned that she was a “squad leader”
  • Singing a song about neutrons, protons, and electrons
  • Taking Halloween candy to school to sell to her tribemates
  • Raising the “quiet coyote” symbol when kids outside of school were being too loud
  • Singing “When you engineer a boat, will it sink or will it float?”
  • Making, writing and illustrating a book
  • Asking me if various objects were a gas, liquid, or solid 

Most of these are a direct reflection of concepts she is learning or experiencing at school. Some, like being a squad leader or showing an interest in entrepreneurship, are things I would have loved to celebrate and take part in, but those are my desires. To her they were just a normal part of a normal day. What we care about is not always what our children care about, and it is important to remember that this is their journey. 

None of these clues came after a direct question from me, and if it were not for writing this blog I do not think I would have necessarily noticed each of these incidents and thought to compile them. They would have slipped by as small moments. When we meet our kids on their terms and trust them to share their experience with us I am confident we will get all the information we need. 

About the Author: Daniel, father of 2, new Tribe members as of the 2020-2021 School Year.

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