PARENTING AFTER FIVE
Lots of learning needs to be done at home
The start of school doesn’t mean the end of your role as your child’s teacher.
Lots of learning needs to be done at home. Rachel Goodchild explains.
In some ways it would be great if, once a child reached five, that was it in terms of us as parents helping our children learn. We could shift into more of an Aunty or Uncle role, taking them out for the odd fun trip, giving them their dinner and putting them to bed, but not having to worry about their education.
Of course the reality is incredibly different. Even though it can feel like they are at school for most of the day, if you count up the school holidays and weekends, schoolaged children spend seventy percent of their waking hours out of school. We still need to contribute.
There is a vast amount of research on what parent participation and involvement does to the development of the child. The research indicates that parental involvement is more important than socioeconomic status (so can counteract poverty), and leads to higher student achievement, less absenteeism,
increased motivation, and better behaviour.
The simplest and most effective way to be involved as a parent is to just read the books sent home with your child alongside them, and ask them about their day. This, coupled with restricting or monitoring electronic device time, and keeping to some good routines, is a very good way to support the learning that is going on at school.
Sometimes children can express different behaviours at school than at home. Children are adept learners of boundaries and rules and will fall into line with any that are clear and focused.
Here are some very simple ways to help your child do better during their school years:
1 Don’t ever see school as the single solution
Schools and teachers do an incredible job. But they are not the sole shaper of your child’s ability to learn, think and socialise. We as parents carry much of the responsibility for these things. See schools as part of your child's learning, but also keep in mind it's only one part. A child that needs to be challenged can be challenged out of school. A child who can’t find friends in his class may find them at a surf club, or on a soccer field. A child who struggles academically might find the most joy from fiddling round with a motorcycle engine as soon as she gets home.
2 Notice what your child is passionate about and support it
It’s not possible or smart for teachers to do three years' teaching on dinosaurs or horses alone simply because that’s all your child wants to learn about! However, you can help keep their interests alive, which helps them manage the other parts of school (it’s a little like working during the week, and then using the weekend time to go fishing or read).
3 Set aside time to read together
Hearing a learning reader can be painful and slow, but it’s important to read with them. Alternative methods are to read a book fluently to them first, then they read, or they read, then you model fluency, or you do page about. Libraries are free resources - use them to collect other books.
4 Observe how your child learns
We all learn differently. Just because you learn best by doing or watching doesn’t mean your child does. Teach them your way, but be open to them coming up with a better way (for them) to learn and work with it. If the school teaches them in ways that don’t sit right with your child, try to find other ways that fit their natural methods better. If it’s nothing like how you learn, try to find other people who learn in a similar way and ask them for tips.
5 Reduce time on electronic devices
Yes, that’s TV, computers, Xbox, Playstation, ipads, tablets and phones. This allows them to spend more time on open-ended activities where there is a range of materials, ways to learn and activities to enjoy. Great gifts for school-aged children are the old-fashioned ones: balls, pens, paper, crafts, hula-hoops, buckets and spades and playing cards.
6 Keep scheduled out of school activities to a minimum
Children need downtime to create, think and absorb new information. Let them choose a maximum of one or two out of school activities per term, and then let them have time to have non-scheduled activities after that. This allows them to develop their own interests and passions.
7 Keep to routines
Children need to be well-rested and well-fed to succeed at school. Start the day with a routine for getting to school. (If you’ve got a slow mover, an easy solution is to trial either an earlier get up time, or conversely a slightly later one - they may need some extra sleep). No TV or reading or playing until dressed, breakfast done and chores completed.
After school, have a similar afternoon tea every day, and predinner routines. Term-time weeknight bedtimes that remain reasonably early – they can play or read in their rooms from 7-8pm (depending on age) with lights out a little later – are really important. Routines help them get into better sleep and eating patterns.
8 Make the learning relevant
Back up what is going on at school with learning that relates it back to real life. For example, if they are doing measurement in maths, get into the kitchen with your child to do baking. If they are studying space, spend some time outside at night gazing up at the stars and talking about it together. If they are looking at learning about farm life, talk about your own experiences or lack of them. Make it applicable to real life; make it relevant to your family.
9 Give them chores
If your child does not have out of school activities every afternoon, they can step up and take some responsibility. After
a little resistance at the beginning (nearly every child will kick up a fuss initially, but stand your ground), most children enjoy contributing to family life with chores. Chores may include making their bed, packing their own lunch and bag, setting the table, doing the dishes, and later walking the dog, doing the baking or cooking a meal once a week. All of these are important life skills your child needs in life, just as much as reading and writing.
10 Use your Community
One of the best parts of being a working parent is that you often have to find others to look after your children after school. See other people as door openers to other ways of thinking and learning. Whether you are a working parent or not, allow other adults to model and teach new ideas and experiences. Children benefit from many voices as they develop and learn. Learning to trust that other adults can impart skills and knowledge to our children is incredibly important (and can also be scary for parents).
11 Expect to be respected.
It’s very important we respect our children as people. Conversely it’s also really important to be respected as an adult, chief carer and parent. Sometimes negative behaviour can creep into homes from schools, mainly due to a new friend or two. Quickly reduce negative behaviours such as talking back, eye rolling and swearing with zero tolerance. The teacher is respected in a class because they believe they deserve it. It’s good practise to walk with that same type of confidence as a parent.
12 Model learning
Possibly the most powerful thing you can do is model learning as part of your life. Have your own hobbies and share your passions with your children. Talk about the challenge of learning a new skill, and remind yourself of that when they are attempting something you find easy but they find hard. Gain an understanding of what it’s like to learn, and show them it’s not school that makes us learn – it’s interest, practise and persistence.