How to Support your Child’s Learning

By sheilam |

It’s the start of a new school year and many children and teenagers may have started a new school and almost all will be in a new class. with a different teacher. I am often asked by parents how they can support their child’s learning – so here are a few pointers.

See Education and Learning as Important

Children and young people are very good at picking up not just on what their parents say but also on their underlying attitudes. Your children need to know that you see their education as something that is important and of value, and that learning is given priority in the home. It’s sometimes hard after along day at work to then sacrifice half an hour watching TV so that you can help with the homework but apart form the practical support they receive from your input, your children are getting the message that YOU value education and you see their learning as something that is important. If time is set aside for them to get homework done, and be supported they get the idea that learning is a priority in the family. When children or young people watch you will they see that you like to learn, that you are interested in finding things our and learning new things? That too will help them see that learning is something that is of value.

Be Positive about their School

If we are honest no school is ever perfect all of the time. There are bound to be things that happen that you don’t agree with or situations that you think have not been handled well. Clearly there are times you may need to talk to the school about a particular issue. BUT if your child hears you complaining about their school or their teacher it will be  hard for them to feel positive about school and that will have a negative impact on their learning. It’s okay to express your feelings but don’t do it in front of your child. If there are conflicts with the school then make an appointment to talk to the staff, or phone or email but don’t do it in front of the child. If the child is reporting problems to you about school it is important to listen but also make sure that you get both sides of the story – which will mean a discussion with the school. If over a period of time you feel that you really have no confidence in your child’s school, even after trying to resolve difficulties, then think about moving schools – a child will learn best when YOU as a parent have confidence in the school.

Get Involved

It is almost impossible to support your child or teenagers learning if you don’t know what they are doing, the topics they are working on, or the course they are taking, and how and when they will be assessed. Most schools have this information available on their website – and all schools should now have a website. If it isn’t or if you can’t find the information you are looking for, then contact the school. Schools want parents to be involved because it makes a huge difference to how well a child learns. The other source of information is of course the child or teenager.  Have a dialogue every day about school – ask them what they have been doing – I know often they will shrug and say they don’t know or they can’t remember but it is important to ask anyway AND it is important that THEY know that YOU know what they are doing in school and when homework is due in and when tests will take place. It’s another way they see that you value education and that their learning is important. The same goes for attending events at school, information evenings, parents nights or other events – it can be difficult in busy times but we usually make time for the things we see as important so its another way your child sees that you think school and learning is important.

Support with Homework

It becomes much easier to support with homework when you know what they are studying and what their homework is, including when it should be handed in and how. Everyone has their own views about homework and the amount of homework students should be given but current guidelines are

Primary School

  • Year 1 & 2 : 60 minutes per week
  • Year 3 & 4 : 90 minutes per week
  • Year 5 & 6 : 30 minutes per day

Secondary School

  • Year 7 & 8 : 30 to 90 minutes per day
  • Year 9 : 60 to 120 minutes per day
  • Year 10 : 90 to 250 minutes per day

That is quite an chunk of the time each day (school day) – especially when most children and young people also take part in out of school activities, football, dance, craft clubs, or music lessons to mention just a few. Clearly these activities are important as well  AND children and young people need time to socialize with friends and to have some ‘downtime’.

As a parent if you value education- which is a broad term encompassing all different types of learning, make sure that children aren’t TOO busy. Within the home make sure there is a place where it is possible to do homework – their bedroom usually isn’t a good place until they are able to study independently and even then you need to check on what they actually doing. It can be the dining room or kitchen table but there needs to be some time when distractions stop so homework can start. Some homework could be done with the TV on BUT if homework is something that is seen as important in the house then turn it off to reduce distractions – it usually gets done much more quickly then anyway.

Another challenge for parents is being available to help but not taking over. Check that they understand what they have to do and let them get going but be available to answer questions. It’s a good idea to check it when its done and if they need to improve it a bit that’s the time to give a bit of input. We all like to achieve and it is really demoralizing for children an d teenagers if they have spent time doing homework not to get a good mark – it doesn’t mean doing it for them but giving suggestions is certainly okay.

Be Honest – Learn together

Schools and learning practices have changes a lot since many parents were themselves in school. If children, or more likely teenagers, ask things that you don’t know – be honest. You can’t know everything – if you pretend they will see straight through you and what message will you have given them then – that you shouldn’t admit what you don’t know? That simply isn’t helpful. Admit you don’t know but then find out – in fact researching it together can be good fun and again gives that message that learning is important.

Concentrate on the Basics

There is more about reading below but essentially children need to have a sound knowledge of the basics and be skilled in doing basic process so they can become confident learners. Things like being able to count well, knowing number bonds to 10 then 20, being comfortable with times tables – start with 2’s, 5’s and 10’s, – will help them feel confident as they go through school. So if it becomes apparent that they don’t know these and you can see they are meant to then give them help by doing extra practice at home. Other subjects are also important but making sure they grasp the basics of Maths and Reading will prevent them becoming discouraged.

Encourage Reading

Reading is central to many aspects of learning. Start reading to babies and toddlers then read with children as they learn to read BUT don’t stop, encourage older children to read by sharing stories or even reading the same book independently – i would recommend that every parent reads their teenagers GCSE texts. As a family have times when the TV is off and books or kindles are being read. IF at any point you notice your child is struggling with reading GET HELP. It usually doesn’t get better spontaneously and if they struggle with reading they will often struggle with many other aspects of school. Ask the school how they teach initial reading – if it is not a recognized synthetic phonics programme, like Sounds-Write find out why and and perhaps direct them to the confusion that can occur when mixed method teaching is used. If you wan to learn more yourself try following the links below.

For more info on the confusion teaching using different approaches can cause click here

For a good video explaining how confusing approaches other than a synthetic approach can be click here

And you can find out more about  Sounds-write  here

As a parent YOU will have a huge influence on how well your child does in school and on the attitude they have to learning and education so give them your best shot. Good Luck.




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