In light of the coronavirus pandemic and school closures, this blog post is now more relevant than ever. The advice outlined in this article is perfect for any parent who is home schooling their young child for the first time.
A child’s early years are some of their most formative, with research showing that the brain develops more in the first five years of life than at any other time in our lives. So when it comes to education, it’s never too early to start sowing the seeds for a fulfilling lifetime of learning. But how do you encourage, without pressuring? Guide your child in the right direction, without stifling their independence?
At Figtree Learning, they believe parents can play a vital role in creating the right conditions for early years learning, but they understand striking the right balance can be tricky. No one wants to fall into the ‘helicopter parenting’ trap – where support becomes smothering and the desire to be involved becomes overbearing.
Every child is different, and the fine line between engaged parenting and excessive parenting will vary in every family. But our simple tips are a good place to start, and will help you foster a nurturing environment that will give your child the space to find their own way to thrive.
Bring learning to life
Try to make everyday activities early years learning opportunities. A trip away for a chance to try a new language. Putting lessons into context helps your children to understand the power of education – and see that they can have fun at the same time.
When using your tablet or smartphone to work with your child, there are lots of apps you can use to your educational advantage. The gamification these programs use almost makes the learning invisible, so they can be a great way to boost engagement.
Don’t forget, games existed before technology too – so try dusting off some traditional board games to bring the family together and get everyone thinking.
Read, read, and read some more
There’s no better way to improve literacy and creativity than by reading to, or with, your child. Building a story into your bedtime routine – even from the newborn days – will boost vocabulary and comprehension skills for years to come.
When your child is old enough to read by themselves, reading aloud together is still a great way to broaden their horizons. Choose similar books to the ones they enjoy alone, but at a slightly higher level, to gently stretch their understanding.
In a well-meaning quest to create balanced individuals, it’s tempting to enroll your child in all the classes and sports on offer. But while it’s great to encourage extracurricular activities, be guided by your child’s developing interests, rather than their passing whims. And make sure you allow some downtime too – learning to be ‘bored’ helps your child develop initiative and resilience.
Make your child the decision-maker (within reason!)
Any parent of young children will be familiar with the daily power struggles, as they continually test the boundaries and assert their independence. So try not to let learning become another battleground, that could cause resentment in the long term, by ensuring your child feels in control of their studies.
For example, rather than saying ‘It’s time to do your homework’, asking whether they’d like to do their homework before or after their snack gives them more agency – without getting into a negotiation around whether to do the homework at all.
Embrace different learning styles
It’s important to recognise that we all learn in different ways. For young children, a dominant learning style may only just be emerging, so this is a great time to explore different ways of sharing information and expose your child to as many techniques as possible.
There are seven learning styles in total, ranging from the way you assimilate information most effectively – for example, visually or verbally – to the environment you learn best in, for example, solitary or social. There’s no right or wrong way, so follow your child’s lead and help them to experiment until they find what makes them feel most comfortable.
Draw on the senses
As the fundamental learning styles draw on different senses, it can be really helpful to bring your child’s attention to these as part of daily life. In the very early years learning, children are predominantly sensory learners, so try making the alphabet from a range of tactile materials. As your child grows, expand their awareness by asking what they can hear or smell, as well as what they can see, when you’re travelling around or exploring new places.
And finally, be kind
To your child and to others. Empathy is one of the most important skills you can model and will enable your child to relate better to their studies and the world around them.
It’s not necessarily something you can teach, but there are ways you can encourage empathy. Praise your child’s kindness towards others, or ask them to consider how their behaviour or actions impact those around them.
Parents face continual pressure to make the right decisions for their children – and throughout their education, you will undoubtedly find yourself pulled in multiple directions, wondering which is the best way to turn. Remember to be kind to yourself too – trust your instincts, and trust your child. They won’t always lead the class or top the test tables, but that’s ok. Learning to cope with disappointment is an essential life skill, and with your support and presence, your child will come out stronger, and more secure in their relationship with you, with their peers, and with themselves.
At Figtree Learning, we’re always on hand to help families with a wide range of educational needs, from early years learning to beyond. From school starters to school leavers, we believe in taking a truly tailored approach, creating learning plans that meet the individual aspirations of each student. Our tutors are all experts in their fields, so whether we’re supporting with maths or marimba, physics or philosophy, we help to bring out the best in everyone.