Amidst the countless disruptions caused by the Covid-19 pandemic, there have inevitably also been a few silver linings. One such positive outcome is that parents have had more opportunities to get involved in their child’s learning and education.
Why is this important? Research shows that parental engagement has a positive effect on a child’s academic achievement, regardless of age or socio-economic status.
Children whose parents are more involved in their education tend to earn better grades and have higher test scores, develop better social skills, have more positive attitudes about school, and are also more likely to attend postsecondary education.
So, given the importance of creating a supportive home learning environment, what are some practical things parents can do to continue to engage with their children’s education and motivate them to learn?
Here are a few ideas.
1. Talk about school
The first step towards becoming more involved in your child’s learning is to develop an ongoing dialogue with them. Of course, communicating with kids about school isn’t always easy, and questions like “How was school?” may frequently be met with vague responses, which can be a bit discouraging for parents.
The best way to get around this is to focus on starting a conversation rather than just asking a lot of questions. For instance, instead of asking “How was your day” you could ask “What did you enjoy most at school today?”
Another way to encourage your child to open up about school is to share some details about your own day. For example, you could say something like “We created a new menu for the restaurant today. What sort of things did you work on at school?”
Listening is also an important part of this, so when your child does open up about school, show them you’re interested by putting away your devices and maintaining eye contact.
2. Schedule time for homework
Children need structure and routine, so another way in which you can support your child’s learning is to set aside a fixed time of day for completing any homework they’ve been assigned. Research shows that creating routines or so-called ‘habit loops’ frees up brain power which can then be used for other things, such as, in this case, learning something new.
Planning in a dedicated “learning hour” a few times a week can be a great opportunity to go over any subjects your child may be struggling with. If you have your own home office or work area, you could even add a desk or designated area for your child so they have a place to go when they need to concentrate on their schoolwork.
3. Make reading a priority
Putting out a variety of age-appropriate books and setting aside time to read to your child is another excellent way to encourage and support their learning. Research shows that when parents get involved in the development of reading skills and make reading materials readily available, it can critically enhance children’s academic performance.
Even if you don’t have a lot of spare time to read to or with your child, making sure they have access to different types of books will go a long way. For toddlers, choose books that contain lots of pictures and tell simple stories through rhymes. If you have older children, try to introduce them to a wide variety of books, from comic books and magazines to fiction and nonfiction to informational how-to books. This will allow them to develop their areas of interest as well as a better understanding of different methods of communication and storytelling.
4. Encourage active learning
One of the best ways to support your child’s learning at home is to encourage active learning. What does this mean? Active learning is any learning that occurs throughout the day as your child experiences new things or solves day-to-day problems.
Focusing on this type of learning shows kids that learning can be fun and allows them to explore their own interests.
Everything from a trip to the supermarket to a walk in the park can be an opportunity to learn something, so encourage your child to ask questions and express new ideas.
Of course, you won’t always have all the answers, but you will have the opportunity to look for answers together and teach your child how to do basic research in order to find factual, unbiased information. Learning more about how to help children achieve their potential is also a great way to acquire the tools you need to communicate and collaborate with children in an educational setting.
5. Encourage goal setting
Setting goals is a great way to keep motivation levels high and build self-esteem. Research shows that goal setting can also have a positive impact on children’s academic achievement and motivation to learn. Start by helping your child identify some areas they would like to improve in, whether it’s reading, writing or learning a specific skill such as playing guitar.
Once you have a better understanding of their areas of interest, you can come up with one or two specific goals they can begin working towards. Kids and adults alike often underestimate how difficult it can be to achieve a goal, so start by setting some smaller goals that can be completed within a shorter time frame. Once they understand the persistence this requires, you can choose some bigger goals and break them up into smaller and more realistic steps.
Finally, keep in mind that it’s better to praise children for their effort rather than intelligence. Research shows that praising a child’s ability tends to teach them a ‘fixed mindset,’ where they believe their abilities are fixed. Praising effort, on the other hand, teaches them that they can develop new skills with hard work, and this is known as a ‘growth mindset.’
Do you get involved in your child’s learning at home? Tell us what you do in the comments below.