Education Cheat Sheet: New Roles for Parents and Children in New Forms of Learning

Whether it’s online or distance learning or homeschooling, the way you and your child tackle these new challenges will make a big difference. Here are some resources to help you both succeed.


Illustration: Getty Images


It’s May 2020, and over a Zoom video call Ivanni, an Hawai’i Preparatory Academy Capstone Biotechnology student is explaining how she pivoted her sea turtle action research. What was supposed to be a study on the effect of rising sea level temperatures on the creatures she loves, a project that required her to go to beaches to collect blood samples, shifted to a resource guide including grants, standard operating procedures and training manuals, for scientists to continue the research. Ivanni’s mentor, a National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration scientist pops up on the screen and says, with a huge smile, that her team is now using Ivanni’s procedures in their own work.


It’s May 2020, and my 8-year-old daughter has had it with staring at screens, so we go outside and build an outdoor obstacle course. We collect her toys and roam the area for natural supplies. We talk about design thinking, geometry and study the flora we collect. As she builds the course, her inventions fall apart; frustrations ebb and flow as she flails her arms and raises her voice, but she continues, and continues, and continues. Once the course is built, we marvel at her work. Her confidence and trust grows as she has utilized her passions and skills to create something.


In education we use buzzwords like grit, autonomy, differentiation and rigor. We try to create curriculum, lesson plans and structures that challenge and bring out the best in our students. But what we forget time and time again is, if learning and feedback are not relevant and purposeful for students then we’ve lost them from the start. Whether it is online learning, distance learning, or homeschooling, if students do not own their education and have the ability to lead it then it is a passive experience.


Shifting Roles In Distance Learning, Online Learning, and Homeschooling

A great teacher and mentor of mine, Mark Hines of Mid-Pacific Institute, recently wrote to a few educators, “Distance Learning refers to any learning that happens outside of traditional school schedule and structure. That means it includes online and virtual learning, but also could include correspondence courses and self-defined curriculum.” This was the environment I  suddenly found myself in at HPA last spring, meaning I had to redesign our Capstone Seniors’ final semester. That included redesigning the roles of our teachers, students, and parents. Capstone teachers were now consultants, co-learners, connectors and coaches for students who pivoted their Capstone products to address the new realities of Hawai’i.


Hines writes online learning, “is a subset of distance learning. In its most common form, learners attend to traditional curriculum and expertise (teacher, professor, learning coach) but all of this is delivered virtually/online.” Here, it is even more vital that your child is buying into the online experience, technology and project management skills necessary to be successful.


Hilo homeschool parents Kate Lau and Auston Stewart said that homeschooling is as broad as all other forms of education. Some families try to replicate the rhythms and structures of school using online learning platforms, while others unschool, a process where learning is combined with their children’s interests 24/7. Stewart says as his child’s co-educator, “I don’t see myself as a transfer of knowledge but as a guide who is trying to put you in the way of truth. Finding what is important to you by posing questions and challenges.”


As our children continue school in the midst of a global pandemic, ensuring that they are in the driver’s seat is vital. I strongly encourage you to actively join them on this journey.


Parent Homework

Create a Toolbelt

Throughout the school year, sit down with your child for an ideation activity called Head, Heart and Purpose (An iteration of an Echoing Green curriculum):


  1. Each of you should draw a large venn diagram. On the outside of it, label the left circle “Heart,” the right circle “Head,” and the middle “Purpose.”
  2. In the “Heart” circle, answer and write down all the things you are passionate about: what issues make your heart beat faster, what values you hold dear, what fills your sails, what has been passed down to you through your family and friends and what is your connection to Hawai’i.
  3. In the “Head” circle, list what you know now, what you want to learn more about, your skills, groups or individuals you know well or have unique access to, what you can teach others, what experiences you have that provide unique  insights or information.
  4. In the “Purpose” oval in the middle, combine “Heart” and “Head” to write down all of the products, services, initiatives, and things you can iteratively do here in Hawai’i.
  5. Take a look at both diagrams and see where you overlap and where you can work together.


Use this as the toolbelt for both of your learning this year. Work with your children to connect their classes to what they wrote, and make sure that they understand that the skills of culture and social and emotional learning are just as vital as technology and academics. Help them to see that all of the evolving skills and knowledge they acquire can relate to their purpose as a learner and human being, adding more to their tool belt and allowing them to get their ideas, passions, and purpose out into the world, iterating based on data and new information.


Remember Our Sense of Place

We live and breathe in Hawai’i thus it’s paramount that our children understand its culture and history. A mentor, colleague, and educational hero of mine, Pualani Lincoln utilizes the following resources for her students and her own children:


  • This Kamehameha Schools bilingual website is an engaging way to learn about living Hawaiian culture.
  • About 60 joyful webinars by the group of educators and experts dedicated to connecting people through culture touch on everything from pāʻū riding and cooking with limu to the importance of the census.
  • Engaging and interesting keiki video stories and lessons by local storytellers and documentary makers of ʻŌiwi TV.



A great platform that you can use as a hui with your entire family and friend-base is UNRULR. It allows you all to document your learning journey in real time. Student Corner is a great way for your child to showcase and share his or her work, making connections and interacting with the world around them.


Educational Resources

Homeschool parents Lau and Stewart recommend these for any family:












Aaron Schorn is an entrepreneur, educator and father of two vibrant keiki and resides in Waimea, Hawai’i. He is the K-12 Capstone Coordinator at Hawai’i Preparatory Academy (HPA) and the program director of Nalukai Foundation.