It’s not often an academic year is up-ended but that’s exactly what’s happened with the COVID-19 crisis. As high school students grapple with studying from home, parents are faced with added pressures of supporting their learning.
While it’s likely you’re dealing with your own workplace upheavals, there are things you can do to keep your teenager engaged in learning. Chances are you’re all going to benefit from these suggestions.
If you were involved in helping your child pick subjects, you’ll have a good idea what is going to be most beneficial to their learning. These suggestions may be complementary to their current ATAR coursework or supplemental for extra credit.
At the very least, they’ll help round out your child’s education as they prepare for university. It’s a great chance for whole-family learning, too. Why not dig in with your child and use evenings or mealtimes to discuss and critique them together?
Timeless reading for home learning
To start, explore Google’s Arts and Culture website for a fantastic collection from all over the world. You’ll be surprised at how much information is at your fingertips, and all of it is free. Good Reads is a wonderful recommendation website where you can research books to suit whatever ATAR subjects your high school student is studying. Here are excellent choices to start:
- Year of Wonders is the first novel of Pulitzer-Prize winner Geraldine Brooks. The Australian author tells the story of an isolated village during the 1666 plague – a page-turner that’s never been more relevant in an era of self-isolation and quarantine.
- The Diary of Anne Frank is the true story of a small group of Jewish people living in hiding from the Nazis in Amsterdam during World War II. It’s considered a modern classic and one of the most enduring accounts of life under Nazi rule. If your child liked Jojo Rabbit but hasn’t read The Diary of Anne Frank, now is a great time to suggest it.
- In Cold Blood by Truman Capote is the first non-fiction novel ever written. It details the 1959 murder of a family in Kansas, USA, and the ensuing investigation, capture, trial and execution of the murderers. Capote challenges your thinking about crime and punishment.
- Blue Latitudes: Boldly Going Where Captain Cook Has Gone Before by Tony Horwitz is equal parts history lesson, Cook biography, and social commentary on colonialism. Horwitz alternates chapters between historical fact and his hilarious attempts to retrace Cook’s journey as a sailor aboard a replica of his ship. It’s a fun, insightful read.
- Frankenstein by Mary Shelley was an instant bestseller when it was published in 1818, an impressive accomplishment for the 18-year-old, first-time novelist. While it’s a first-rate horror novel, it also tackles some of the big philosophical questions about humanity and what it means to be human.
- Dracula by Bram Stoker is a perfect book if you have a vampire fan in your house. Even though it was published in 1897, it endures today as the inspiration for nearly every other vampire story told.
- Fermat’s Enigma: The Epic Quest to Solve the World’s Greatest Mathematical Problem by Simon Singh is a detective story for mathematicians, an enthralling account of how Fermat’s Last Theorem was solved.
What to watch if reading doesn’t appeal
Not everyone loves to dig into a book, but there are plenty of learning opportunities on film, too. Check out Kanopy for free streaming of documentaries with no fees and no commercials. Kanopy partners with public libraries and universities to provide thoughtful, enriching entertainment in a wide range of categories. You will need a library card to access the collection. You can focus specifically on anything from STEM documentaries to Australian studies and also find a number of credit-free viewing options.
Check out these documentaries to help get your child hooked on learning through film:
- Rats in the Ranks is a fascinating look at the gripping, real-life drama of local politics during a Sydney mayoral race.
- The Prime Minister is Missing reports on the mysterious disappearance of sitting Australian PM Howard Holt in 1967.
- Miss Representation examines how the mainstream media contributes to the under-representation of women in positions of power and influence.
- Normal is Over chronicles the best ways to respond to climate change.
- That Sugar Film explores the truth about sugar, the effects of a high-sugar diet on a healthy body, and the underhanded tactics of the sugar industry.
- Sherpa: The role of Sherpas on Mt Everest tells the incredible story of the tragic 2014 climbing season from the Sherpa’s point of view.
Listening and learning
Podcasts are a great way to get hooked on a topic or get in-depth information about an event, person or time in history. Here are binge-worthy listens on a variety of topics.
- The Dropout is the story of Elizabeth Holmes, the world’s youngest, self-made, female billionaire – until she was indicted for fraud and her company, Theranos, collapsed.
- Science Talk is a weekly podcast covering the latest in science and technology. They’ve dropped special episodes in March focused on COVID-19.
- Ear Hustle is a podcast about the daily realities of life inside San Quentin prison told by the inmates themselves.
- A Podcast of One’s Own with Julia Gillard has the former PM presenting thoughtful and fun discussions on what needs to be done to get more women into leadership positions.
- The Eleventh is a thriller about the dismissal of Australian PM Gough Whitlam.
- A History of the World in 100 Objects tells the history of humanity, as narrated by the Director of the British Museum.
There’s no doubt the coming weeks and months are going to be challenging for your teenager and for you, too. As we ride out the study-from-home mandate, temper the lessons from your high school student’s teachers with interesting learning opportunities they’ll also enjoy. While it might not apply directly to their current coursework, all these resources will prepare them for being a well-rounded uni student.
If you feel like your child might be under too much academic pressure, check out these warning signs your high school student is struggling. Our Raising Teenagers series is designed to support parents as their teenagers transition from high school to university.