Some initial thoughts on how parents can support their children’s learning

By Dr Nina Hood

Parents across the country have been thrust into new roles in relation to their children’s education. For many, the prospect of having to take a more active role in supporting and supervising learning from home – often while trying also to work from home – is daunting.

As a parent, there are lots of ways that you can support the learning, wellbeing and development of your child. This isn’t about parents taking the place or role of the classroom teacher. Instead, there are specific ways that parents can support their child to engage with tasks and lessons being set by their school as well as contribute to their child’s education and learning in a much broader sense.

Support your child to develop their self-regulation, self-management and ability to work independently

Distance learning requires greater levels of self-regulation and independent learning than typically occur in the classroom. Parents can play an important role in building these essential skills in their children. This might include helping children to:

  • Manage their time: work with your child to develop an age-appropriate weekday routine or schedule, which includes time for completing schoolwork, as well as time for play, physical activity, socialisation and relaxation.
  • Set goals: talk with your child about things that they particularly want to accomplish or improve over the coming weeks and develop an initial plan for working towards these. Importantly, these goals don’t need only to be connected to their school work.
  • Reflect on their learning: have a conversation about how their learning is going. This can encompass how they’re finding working at home, strategies they’re using to help them in their learning and what seems to be working well and not so well.

Important learning occurs in everyday activities

There are opportunities for children to learn things at home that they might not normally have had the chance to learn.

Think about activities you enjoy, or things that you need to do, and use these as an opportunity to develop new skills and knowledge in your children. You might want to encourage your children to participate in cooking or baking, gardening, DIY projects, knitting, or other activities around the house. The aim of these activities shouldn’t be school learning, but it may be reassuring to know that there’s lots of literacy, numeracy and science built into baking (reading a recipe, measuring out ingredients, understanding why a cake rises) or DIY (following instructions, physics, measurement and geometry).

Talking about what you’re doing as you’re doing it is a great way to build vocabulary, and to expand and extend knowledge and understanding.

Parents have rich knowledge to share with their children

Talking with your child is one of the most important things you can do to support their learning. Take this time at home as an opportunity to share some of your knowledge, expertise and experiences with your child. This might involve telling them stories about your life, or sharing particular interests or hobbies that you have. You might discover a topic that you’d like to learn more about, and explore it together through researching and reading on the internet. This is valuable because what and how much a person knows directly impacts their ability to learn new things.

The more a child knows (about just about anything!), the easier they will find it to learn all manner of new things at school and in life. You might not think that telling your children stories about summer holidays you went on as a child or how much you love premiership football will help their learning, but all that conversation helps to build neural connections in the brain that serve as the foundation for ongoing learning. Therefore, the more you can do to build up your child’s knowledge base, the better you are preparing them for future learning. Furthermore, engaging in rich conversations with your child provides an opportunity for connection and relationship-building.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Dr Nina Hood

Nina is responsible for the strategic direction and day-to-day operations of The Education Hub. She is a trained secondary school teacher, and taught at Epsom Girls Grammar and Mt Roskill Grammar in Auckland. She undertook an MSc (with distinction) in learning and technology, and a DPhil in Education at the University of Oxford. Since returning to New Zealand in mid-2015, Nina has been employed as a lecturer at the Faculty of Education at the University of Auckland, where she specialises in new technologies in education.