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Blub Talks with Agile Parenting Coach Susannah Chambers, ICP ACC

Jan 23, 2022 In this Blub Talks, we present a spirited discussion with Susannah Chambers, certified Agile coach, family coach, and HarvardX-certified coach in Family Engagement in Education. She told us more about UK’s Family Learning Initiative, family coaching, and parenting during the pandemic.


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The Difference between Family Learning, Homeschooling, and Distance Learning

The discussion began with Susannah comparing and contrasting ‘Family Learning’ to homeschooling and distance learning. She emphasized that her “mission is to bring family learning to every family worldwide that wants to access it.” She went on to say that though there are areas of overlap, “family learning is defined as any activity where there are learning outcomes for adults and children. So, this may be parents or carers with their children learning at the same times, or as I refer to it as ‘synchronously,’ or it might be, for example, parents learning about the techniques that their teachers in an earlier setting are using to teach their children letter formation or speech sounds or things around personal emotional or behavioral patterns – and that might be done without the child there. So that’s what I would refer to as ‘asynchronously.’”

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“And you know, just to explain, again, family learning quite easily can be distance learning, it can be learning, as has been demonstrated during the pandemic, where, with that provision, luckily it has been . . . converted to online.” 

Susannah continues, “But there is a common misconception that family learning is the same as homeschooling, which it’s not. However, homeschooling is absolutely supported by great family learning, and of course, the research evidence shows that the home learning environment, which again I use that very pointedly, is distinct from homeschooling, if the home learning environment, as in the environment in which young children from birth are experiencing how they are interacting with the world. That again is absolutely nurtured and developed through family learning approaches.”

Susannah then continued by telling how she got started with the Family Learning Initiative and recalled how she started focusing on Family Learning in her own home with her eldest son. She said, “. . . it’s particularly worth mentioning that my oldest child who is now 16 wore hearing aids for five years. It was picked up at the age of four, and very very fortunately his speech was not delayed. He was reading fine and the audiologists in the hospital put that down to the very strong foundations of communication that we’d established in the home learning environment through a family learning approach with eye contact and interactions. So yeah, that’s how I got into the wonderful world of family learning.”

How to Utilize Family Learning during a Global Pandemic

Robert then built on the subject by asking how family learning has been a part of the lockdowns during the pandemic.

Susannah said, “I honestly can say two things: number one is that all three of my children, contrary to the messaging through the media around falling behind, that they have excelled during the pandemic.”

Her second point was to advise parents about starting a dialogue with children’s schools about how distance learning will be set up in your home. She said, “you’ve set some work and they will probably do that work, but there may be days when they don’t do the work that you set because they might be interested in pursuing other learning opportunities.” She went on to say “I strongly believe that firm, but polite and positive dialogue with the schools is actually really important and very motivating for children.”

Back to family learning and what it meant for her family, she said, “The family learning approach helped them excel during the school closures, and again the very practical things around routines and understanding about where for example in the house their space was going to be, and again that family learning recognition that for one child it might be sitting at a desk, and . . . (that I would give) them the freedom to do what they were learning out in the garden if that’s where they felt the most comfortable – you know, sitting on a tricycle, sitting on a bean bag . . . you know the key thing is with family learning is about understanding what’s being taught, how it’s being taught, having the confidence to negotiate that, and giving the child license and agency in that power dynamic for how the learning happens.”

Tips for Increased Language Learning At-home

She then listed four key factors why her children really excelled in this situation. She said, “The key thing with family learning is understanding: A. What’s being taught, B. How it’s being taught, C. Having the confidence to negotiate that, and D. Giving the child license and agency in that power dynamic to have learning happen.”

She further advises parents to “Just blast open your expectations of what is important for learning, . . . try to persevere. We all know if children love a book they’re going to want to hear it about 200 times. So, I would just say the research really does show that (persevering) pays off in terms of children’s language and literacy development. So, even if you really don’t think you can read, “We’re Going on a Bear Hunt” for the 400th time in the last month, please, please hang in there! It won’t be long (until you get) all kinds of outcomes.” 

Also important, and because of her unique and ongoing experience of being a musician and singer, she’s able to use music for educational activities. She said that “I would say . . . just be very very open-minded and you know, wing it. Your child will experience the endorphins that come from the fun of the experience that you share, they’re going to absolutely thrive with their communication scene. Your smile, even if it’s an embarrassed smile, just the laughter with other parents you know as you’re sharing singing and of course hearing the parent’s voice, which we know it’s the most primal thing right in the womb.” She concluded the thought by saying that “Rhymes, but especially singing, is an absolute magical ingredient.”

According to Susannah, another tip to get family learning going in the home learning environment is to “say to your child if you’re playing something like ‘I spy’ and then when you’ve got the object, actually say, “Oh that’s interesting, isn’t it? Right, shall we have a look at this?” She continues the thought, “You know if the child’s old enough you might even ask them to “go and fetch mummy the book” and again you’re modeling the language. Also, play around with the language, and then when they’ve brought the item to you really have almost like a shared deep dive exploring inspecting the object.”

Importance of Building Communication Skills

The discussion wound up on a really interesting note when Susannah shared that “It’s shared learning, it’s intergenerational learning, but traditionally a big part of that model has been around bridging that homeschool communication or home nursery communication, or kindergarten education.” The connectedness of the different kinds of communication, and how they start to influence one another, as well as the kids speaking them, was just fascinating.

One additional topic she spoke about for our Speech Blubs audience focused on speech and its outcomes. She said, “Speech is one of the main components of a child’s development. Without speech, it is so much harder for children to express their needs, feelings, and opinions. The ability to speak also impacts their confidence, and ability to connect with others and success in life.” We here at Speech Blubs have certainly seen enough evidence of that in our community of child users, that we agree wholeheartedly. She then said, “We believe that every parent wants that for their child, to boost their child’s ability to speak.” 

Here, here, Susannah! We agree!

The author’s views are entirely his or her own and may not necessarily reflect the views of Blub Blub Inc. All content provided on this website is for informational purposes only and is not intended to be a substitute for independent professional medical judgement, advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read on this website.

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