Parenting - - In This Issue -

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.

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