Parents often ask how they can support their child’s learning at home. It’s an important question…
A child’s learning journey is fascinating. It’s a journey full of wonder and excitement as they explore everything from stories to the marvels of nature. Accompanying them on this journey, parents are often their first and most important teacher. They play a significant role in determining how well they do, in school and beyond.
As a child’s role model, parents have enormous influence over what kind of learner their child will be and how successful. Research tells us that when parents have high aspirations for their child, they ultimately do better at school. And if parents show their child that they believe in them; that they are able to succeed, the impact is significant. Not only will the child’s confidence grow, but it will enable her to set higher expectations for herself and do well at school and into adulthood.
Over the years there has been a significant emphasis on schools ensuring that the needs of every child is met. This shift in emphasis was a welcome one, but schools are not able to do it alone. To be truly successful, they and the child need the support and help of parents. Research has shown that when parents/family members are involved in their children’s learning, children do better at school and have a more positive attitude to learning and school itself.
What Does the Research Say?
- Research across the board has shown that parental involvement significantly helps children progress. And not only academically, but socially as well, (Jenyes, 2003).
- Children’s attitudes and beliefs about their abilities comes from their parents, (Walker, Sandler et al, 2005). Characteristics such as perseverance, tenacity, organisation and the ability to ask for help are often qualities that children model from their parents.
- Children who talk openly to their parents about what they did at school and other areas, do better educationally than those who don’t, (Emmerson et al, 2012 & OECD 2011).
- Children whose parents read aloud to them, role model reading and have books at home, have better educational outcomes than children who don’t. (see https://mindsofwonder.com/2017/01/11/reading-aloud-giving-children-the-best-start/).
- When parents work together with the school to support their chid’s learning, the child will often do better at school, have a positive attitude to schooling and remain at school longer, (Epstein & Sheldon, 2006).
How to Support Your Child’s Learning at Home
It’s clear from the research that a parent’s role in supporting their child’s learning journey is crucial if they are to fulfil their potential in all areas of learning. But how can parents provide that support?
Below is a guide on how you can support your child’s learning journey both at home and at school .
1. Be Positive about Learning
Many parents may have bad memories of school. Walking into their child’s school can still feel as daunting and intimidating as it did when they were the student. It’s important however, to give your child a different experience: to provide them with a positive experience so that they will have a positive attitude to school and learning. By doing this, you will help you child build confidence in themselves as learners, as well as learn to value education and learning.
It’s also important to show interest in your child’s learning. By showing a genuine interest, they will not only see that it is something to be valued, but it will also pique their enthusiasm and curiosity. They will see that learning can be fun and that the effort it may require at times, is worth it.
2. Be a Role Model for Reading
Research has shown that reading aloud to your child, (even after they have learnt to read), is the single most important thing you can do to increase your child’s success in school and beyond. Read aloud to your child every day if possible and talk about what you are reading together.
Also show that you value reading by letting them see you read for pleasure. As with most things, you are their role model. Research tells us that children from households that have books do better in school and beyond than those who come from homes that don’t.
(To learn more on how reading improves children’s success in learning, see https://mindsofwonder.com/2017/01/11/reading-aloud-giving-children-the-best-start/)
3. Go to the Library
Make the most of your local or/and school library. It’s an excellent resource not only to expand your child’s reading, but also a place where you can explore and discover a whole range of topics together. It will also set your child off on the right path of becoming an independent learner.
4. Talk with Your Child Often
Research has shown that making the time to talk and listen to your child has a positive impact on their success. Through talking and listening, children are able to acquire the language skills they will need to succeed.
Research also tells us that children who are in an environment where they don’t hear a lot of talk and who are not encouraged to speak themselves, often have problems with reading. Similarly with listening. If a child hasn’t been taught to listen carefully, they will run into problems at school where they will need to follow instructions.
Remember that by talking and actively listening to your child, you are demonstrating that you value and respect what they have to say. This in turn, will build their confidence and encourage them to speak both at home and at school. This will result in greater confidence and positively impact their learning.
5. Active Learning
Encourage your child to be an active learner. You can do this by asking and answering questions. This can be anywhere, from shopping in the supermarket to visiting the zoo.
Also encourage active learning when your child is playing with friends, playing sports, starring in a show or visiting a place of interest. During these, (or any other times), listen and take interest in your child’s ideas. Respond to them with enthusiasm and encourage them to expand on what they are saying. Also allow them to ask questions when you read to them and encourage them to give their opinions on things.
By allowing your child this freedom and flexibility to participate and to give their views and opinions, will encourage them to participate at school. Being an active participator in school will do wonders for their learning.
6. Get the Best out of Digital Media
Using digital media can be a very effective way of helping your child to learn. To get the best out of it however, it needs to be well managed by parents in terms of time spent and the content used. (To get further ideas/tips on how to achieve this, see https://mindsofwonder.com/2017/03/01/digital-parenting-tips-all-in-one-place/).
Get Involved with Your Child’s School
1. Find out What’s Available
Through talking to other parents and reading the information that is sent home, find out what the school offers outside of the classroom. What extra curricular activities are there? Can your child learn a musical instrument during the school day? Is there extra help in reading or another language, if your child needs it?
By knowing everything the school has to offer, your child is in a position to get the best out of it. The activities are likely to have a positive impact both socially and academically.
2. Get Involved with School Life and Community Groups
Depending on how confident you feel, this can be anything from being a member of the PTA to volunteering at a bake sale. Being involved in some capacity will reinforce to your child how much you value education and how interested you are in their education.
Research has also suggested that when schools and parents work together to support learning, children are more likely to do better at school, stay in school longer and have a positive attitude towards school, (Epstein & Sheldon, 2006).
Be Your Child’s Advocate
Speak up About any Concerns
You are your child’s greatest advocate. If there is an issue regarding learning or behaviour, arrange to meet the teacher. Find out how you and the school can work together to solve the issue.
(For a more detailed discussion and tips on this, see https://mindsofwonder.com/2017/05/24/ten-steps-to-a-successful-parentteacher-meeting/).
Be Informed about Your Rights as a Parent
Find out what your rights are. For example, what extra services are you entitled to if your child needs extra support for things such as speech therapy?
Establish a Relationship with Your Child’s Teacher
1. Arrange to Meet your Child’s Teacher
At primary school, your child’s teacher is the most important as they will spend the most time with your child. At the start of the school year, arrange to meet with her/him if the school doesn’t already have something set up to meet. Let the teacher know that you want to support your child as much as possible. Inform them that you want them to contact you should any issue with your child arise, whether it’s a learning difficulty or a difficulty with another child.
2. Who’s Who?
Look at the school’s website to learn about which teacher is responsible for which area. For example, who is responsible for the curriculum and who is responsible for the pastoral care of the children? This will help you go to the right teacher if you ever need to get more information regarding a particular issue.
3. Attend Parent Teacher Meetings
These are important meetings to find out how your child is doing both academically and socially. It’s also a good time to talk to the teacher about any issues you may have. If there isn’t enough time at the meeting, you can arrange to meet at another time.
Again, as with other areas above, attending these meetings lets your child know that you value education and that their education/learning is important to you.
Some Final Thoughts….
During our child’s learning journey, it’s clear that we are their best role model for success both in and out of school. To be effective in that role however, doesn’t mean we have to implement all of the above, all of the time. See it as a guide and as something that you can implement into your daily lives.
By doing some of these things, and then adding to them, you will pass that important message to your child that you value education, you value their education and you are there to support them on their learning journey. This will have a tremendous impact on their learning and their ultimate success.
The time is short. Enjoy the pure wonder of your child’s learning journey, and have lots of fun along the way!