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How Do Parents Support Children’s Learning?

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    How do parents support their children’s learning? How can they encourage them to follow through with difficult tasks and keep trying when things get difficult? These are the questions that I will be addressing in this blog post. 

    I want to share some of my thoughts on these topics based on my experience as a parent and teacher. 

    Working together with your child is one way to help them stay motivated. Find out what they enjoy, and give them opportunities to explore those interests in new ways. Letting children know how much you care about their success is important, too - praise for their efforts goes a long way towards encouraging motivation! 

    This article is about how parents can support their child’s learning. It also includes tips on how to make the most of your time at home with your children. In addition, the article gives suggestions for fun activities that you can do with your kids and ideas for teaching them important skills like reading and counting. 

    This blog post will teach you ways to help your child learn in an enjoyable and productive way!

    Working With Parents To Support Children’s Learning

    This Guidance Report reviews the best available research to offer schools and teachers four recommendations to support parental engagement in children’s learning.

    Parents play a crucial role in supporting their children’s learning, and levels of parental engagement are consistently associated with better academic outcomes. For example, evidence from our Teaching & Learning Toolkit suggests that effective parental engagement can lead to learning gains of +3 months over the course of a year. 

    Yet, it can be difficult to involve all parents in ways that support children’s learning, especially if parents’ own school experiences weren’t positive.

    This is why we’ve produced this Guidance Report, designed to support primary and secondary school leaders to work with parents.

    It offers four clear and actionable recommendations, which we hope will support an evidence-informed approach to working with parents.

    Implementation

    Evidence for Learning has produced another Guidance Report Putting Evidence to Work: A School’s Guide to Implementation, which can be used as a guide as you plan to implement changes in your school relating to engaging parents.

    Implementation can be described as a series of stages relating to thinking about, preparing for, delivering, and sustaining change. The section Acting on the evidence suggests a range of strategies that you might find helpful in planning, structuring and delivering a whole‑school approach to improving engagement with parents.

    Simple things you can do to help your child learn at home:

    • Let your child know you believe in him or her - Tell your child often that you believe in him or her. Let your child hear that starting at a very young age, you believe in his or her ability to do well.
    • Talk, sing, and read with your child - Talk, sing, and read together, as often as you can! 
    • Involve your extended family - Ask all the people who care about your child, – aunts, uncles, grandparents, cousins, godparents, babysitters, neighbours, and friends – to encourage your child to do well in school. Limit your child's TV watching - Try to control how much TV your child watches. This includes when your child is with you, with a babysitter, or at home alone. Children need to hear and talk to adults in order to build their language skills.
    • Have a positive attitude toward school and learning - Take an interest in how your child is doing at school, so he or she will believe that learning is important. Then, find ways to help your child succeed in school.
    • Make sure your child does homework - Look over your child's homework each night. Ask your child to explain what he or she is learning. Make sure that assignments are completed. If possible, find a quiet place for your child to study, and set aside time each evening for homework.

    Tips For Parents To Support Learning At Home

    Tip One – You are not the teacher

    Realise that you are not replacing school. You are your child’s parent, not their teacher. They are very different relationships. You can be flexible but firm. By establishing some rules and routines, you are reframing what can be achieved together at home when you set parameters and explain very clearly how things are going to play out.

    It might be a good idea to create a ‘trigger’ for your children, so they know when they are operating in ‘school time’. Traditionally, this trigger happens automatically with the routine around kids getting dropped off at school, but you’ll need to create it artificially if you’re at home. So, for example, perhaps they still get dressed in their school uniform and even help to pack a ‘school lunch’.

    One of the best things you can do as a parent is to provide a ‘specific learning space’, a calm environment that sets up a mindset for your child that this is where they will be doing some structured learning. By doing this, you are ‘clearing the space’ for learning.

    Routines and preparedness are very important as reassurance for your child.

    There are things you can do to make learning at home more productive and enjoyable for both you and your child, such as:

    • Create a chart with a timetable and goals for the week
    • Display a clock to keep track of how different long tasks will take
    • Ensure there are set break times
    • Make sure there is a variety of tasks – mix up those requiring intense concentration, with some that are open-ended and allow for creativity
    • Provide healthy snacks and water.

    It’s a good idea to punctuate academic learning with some physical activity – this can be something aerobic or something like a nature walk to investigate your local area.

    It’s important to recognise the difference between ‘traditional homeschooling’, where parents have opted for their children to stay at home to be educated, and what is really ‘distance education. Homeschoolers are responsible for providing their children with appropriate lessons and resources. However, this is not what you are required to do.

    Your child’s teacher will still be sending home age-appropriate activities and running through the same curriculum as they would in the classroom. It is not your job to source all of the learning materials, they will be provided, either online or in hard copy…

    Students will have ‘work’ delivered online via something like Google Classroom or SeeSaw, some will be doing virtual teaching using applications like Zoom or Microsoft Teams.

    These are all easy to install and set up. Unfortunately, there is the potential side-effect that we are widening the options for the ‘haves’ and ‘have-nots’. Children without access to the internet and technology at home will need to have further support.

    Tip Two– Developing Autonomous Learners

    Learning in schools happens independently a lot of the time. Inquiry learning is encouraged with students developing autonomy as learners, building a repertoire of skills that enable them to develop their own questions and seek answers through research.

    You can do this at home too.

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    It’s about providing a stimulus and an immersion into an idea then providing time for your child to unpack and explore that idea or concept with you as their guide.

    You might like to pose questions about something that you think your child might be interested in and point them in the right direction to do some research to find out some answers.

    You might also like to set up a time when your child can ‘present’ their findings. There are a range of ways that students might like to demonstrate their understanding, including the following:

    • Speech:  Prepare and deliver a speech to the family
    • Technological: Use a computer to create a digital presentation such as a slideshow, a website or a computer program
    • Report:  Write a formal report outlining each of the questions that you had and the answers that you researched
    • Article: Write an article for a local newspaper about their research
    • Narrative: Write a story about a character that they learnt about
    • Multimedia: Create an audio recording or short film explaining their research
    • Model: Use materials to create a three-dimensional model to show what they have learnt
    • Poster: Create an informative poster to display what they have learnt

    Other things you can do with your child that provide stimulation and enjoyment include:

    • Cooking that involves recipe reading, measurement of quantities and time
    • Set up a veggie patch – read when to plant certain veggies, set up a maintenance schedule for watering and weeding
    • Use recycled products to make different things like a robot, a doll’s house, a marble run, collages etc.
    • Set up a tea party for teddies
    • Set up a ‘shop’ with prices for goods – interact with your child as you ‘go shopping’ using money that has been created by your child
    • Create postcards or blogs to send to friends and grandparents

    Tip Three – Questioning, Wait Time And Pacing

    Ask interesting questions and help your child to do this too.

    What’s an interesting question?

    Students ask lots of questions, so do teachers. Questions can be simple, what are the days of the week? To complex, why is the sky blue during the day?

    Simple questions are used to gather information. Complex questions are used to probe and dig deeper.

    Here are some question starters that can be used to develop questions – they range from simple to complex.

    Simple

    Find the meaning of…

    Who/what was…?

    Can you tell why…?

    True or False?

    Can you provide an example of what you mean?

    Who do you think…?

    Can you tell or write in your own words…?

    Who was the key character…?

    Complex

    What do you think will be the end result?

    How does … connect with….? What do you see as other possible outcomes?

    What are some of the problems of…?

    Can you compare your … with that presented in…?

    How does this connect with your everyday life?

    Do you think … was a good or a bad thing?

    Is there a better solution to…?

    How effective was…?

    What questions still need to be addressed?

    Can you give an example of what you mean by…?

    Can you distinguish between…?

    What is the correct amount of wait time after posing a question?

    Answer: three to five seconds.

    This is a simple one, but wow, does it make a difference. Using the correct amount of wait time will greatly improve the responses you get from your child (and everyone else!).

    Most often, having asked a question, we might wait until we believe someone has thought about the question before expecting an answer. If you practice wait time, you will notice that your child will give better answers. Giving your child more time to think means that there is less pressure on an immediate response.

    Employing wait time

    First, let your child know that the question is important and you want them to think of a response.

    Second, tell them that you are applying wait time to give them all time to consider a response and that you won’t accept any responses for between 3-5 seconds.

    If your child can’t answer your question, rephrase it. This is very important. Don’t just ask the same question again or louder. Instead, rephrase the question, come at it from a different angle.

    Even when you get the desired response, it is best to elicit more responses from your child. But, again, this shows that you value thoughtfulness rather than speedy responses.

    Also, after your child provides an answer, give them a second wait time, allowing additional time to add to their initial thoughts.

    So often, we ask children questions and lose patience and answer them ourselves. But, unfortunately, answering your own questions creates a negative expectation in your child that you already have an answer in mind.

    This habit is easy to fall into and very difficult to undo. As soon as your child believe that you will answer your own questions, they will sit back in their seat and let you do all the work.

    Pace lessons

    Mix up the types of lessons your child is doing, and don’t expect that they will concentrate for hours. Below is a chart that explains children’s attention spans. Childhood development experts generally say that a reasonable attention span to expect of a child is two to three minutes per year of their age. That’s the period of time for which a typical child can maintain focus on a given task.

    Average attention spans work out like this:

    Age Attention Span

    2 years old four to six minutes

    4 years old eight to 12 minutes

    6 years old 12 to 18 minutes

    8 years old 16 to 24 minutes

    10 years old 20 to 30 minutes

    12 years old 24 to 36 minutes

    14 years old 28 to 42 minutes

    16 years old 32 to 48 minutes

    Some developmental researchers put the upper limit at five minutes per year of a child’s age, meaning a two-year-old could be able to focus on a task for up to 10 minutes at a time. But, of course, these are only generalisations.

    Other factors affecting attention span:

    • how many distractions are nearby
    • how hungry or tired the child is
    • how interested they are in the activity

    Tip Four – Read, Read, Read: you can’t do too much of this!

    Drop Everything and Read (D.E.A.R.)

    teacher-students

    This is a reading regime that is used in many schools. It encourages children to read and is a great way to refocus a child back into the learning space. To make this work, you must also be reading a book. Not working on a computer or texting.

    You may like to start with a short time and build up to at least 15 minutes. These 15 minutes are SILENT. Thus, this sort of program is sometimes known as Silent Reading. (The key is in the name.)

    Note: It is okay for your child to be reading anything but a device – a comic book, fiction, non-fiction, a book on footy stats, a recipe … anything at all that encourages engagement with written, printed material.

    Tip Five – Scaffold Learning

    Although the times we are in are stressful, there may be a silver lining when you get an opportunity to spend quality one on one time with your child.

    When you work one-on-one, you are able to identify what your child can do without any assistance and what can be achieved with guidance and encouragement.

    The idea is not to ‘do the work’, but rather it is to scaffold the learning, providing tips, prompts, learning tools and posing questions that will enable the learner to ‘get there’ – essentially on their own.

    There needs to be some base knowledge that your child has that is built on by providing enriching tasks. Some children will need only one to two repetitions for mastery, while some will need to be provided with a range of different prompts that will get them to the same understanding.

    The role of educators is to identify skills that children are close to mastering and providing opportunities for them to expand their mastery.

    Imagine a circle – maybe the size of a grapefruit. This represents everything your child knows and can do. Now imagine another circle – maybe a rockmelon. Now you have an image of a doughnut.

    The space between the inner and outer circle – this ring – is the place where you can scaffold learning in order for your child to get to the next outer layer and so on to expand their knowledge base.

    Parental Involvement is Key to Student Success

    Extensive research has shown that students achieve more in school when their parents are involved in their education. This article discusses the critical role moms and dads can play in a child's education. It also examines what the No Child Left Behind Act (NCLB) says about parental involvement and offers practical tips that parents can use to become involved.

    In countless studies and reports, the critical role of parental involvement in a child's education has been examined. The research overwhelmingly supports the following conclusions.

    Academic achievement increases when parents are involved in their children's education.

    The more intensively involved the parents are, the greater the positive impact on academic achievement.

    Parental Involvement Leads To Better Classroom Behavior. 

    Parental involvement enhances academic performance and has a positive influence on student attitude and behaviour. A parent's interest and encouragement in a child's education can affect the child's attitude toward school, classroom conduct, self-esteem, absenteeism, and motivation.

    Parents Should Stay Involved In Their Children's Education From Preschool Through High School

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    Parental involvement can make a positive difference at all age levels. Unfortunately, parental involvement tends to be the greatest with young children and tends to taper off as children get older. However, studies have shown that the involvement of parents of middle and high school students is equally important. 

    For example, in high school, a parent's encouragement can influence whether a child stays in school or drops out. Similarly, a child may consider going to college more seriously when parents show interest in the child's academic achievements and talk with the child about the benefits of a college education.

    Training Helps Parents Of Disadvantaged Children Get Involved

    Parents of a minority or low-income children are less likely to be involved in their children's education than parents of non-disadvantaged children. However, suppose they receive adequate training and encouragement. 

    In that case, parents of minority or low-income children can be just as effective as other parents in contributing to their children's academic success. In addition, as discussed below, one of the purposes of NCLB is to get parents of under-achieving children involved in their education.

    Reading Together At Home Greatly Improves Reading Skills

    Reading, in particular, improves greatly when parents and children read together at home. In addition, reading aloud with a child contributes significantly to the child's reading abilities.

    Schools Can Encourage Parental Involvement In Many Ways

    Significant parental involvement is most likely to develop when schools actively seek out ways to get parents involved and offer training programs to teach parents how to get involved in their children's education.

    Parental Involvement Lifts Teacher Morale

    Schools and teachers benefit from parental involvement because involved parents develop a greater appreciation for teachers’ challenges in the classroom. Teacher morale is improved. 

    Communication between home and school helps a teacher know a student better, which allows the teacher to teach the student more effectively. Communication also helps to dispel any mistrust or misperceptions that may exist between teachers and parents.

    Parental Involvement Benefits Children And Parents

    By becoming involved in their children's education, moms and dads get the satisfaction of contributing to their children's education and future. In addition, they have a better understanding of the school curriculum and activities and can be more comfortable with their child’s quality of education. 

    They spend more time with their children and become able to communicate better with them. In addition, some studies show that a parent's participation in a child's education may inspire the parent to further his or her own education.

    Time Constraints Are The Greatest Barrier To Parental Involvement

    Lack of time is the top reason parents give for not participating more in their children's education. However, lack of time is also cited by school personnel as a reason for not seeking parental support more actively. Thus, effective solutions to enhanced parent involvement require freeing up the time of parents and teachers or finding ways to work around their schedules.

    Support your child's learning at home
    • Demonstrate a positive attitude about education to your children. ...
    • Monitor your child's television, video game, and Internet use. ...
    • Encourage your child to read. ...
    • Talk with your child. ...
    • Encourage your child to use the library.
    • Adaptability. Adaptability might seem like a skill that is too advanced for a toddler, but it's actually important to nurture it early in life. ...
    • Critical Thinking. ...
    • Problem Solving. ...
    • Self-Control. ...
    • Working Memory.
    Simple things you can do to help your child learn at home:
    1. Let your child know you believe in him or her. ...
    2. Talk, sing, and read with your child. ...
    3. Involve your extended family. ...
    4. Limit your child's TV watching. ...
    5. Have a positive attitude toward school and learning. ...
    6. Make sure your child does homework.
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