Although a parent’s role in their children’s learning evolves as kids grow, one thing remains constant: you are your children’s learning models. Your attitudes about education can inspire them and show them how to take charge of their own educational journey. You can help your child’s learning every day, by supporting and encouraging them and being excited by their learning at home as well as at school. Here are some ideas to keep them developing their literacy and numeracy skills at home.
The world that today’s kids live in is quite different from what it was when most of us were young, and it’s continuing on with rapid change. No one really knows exactly what life will be like when today’s kids become adults, but we do know that they will need a range of competencies so that they can adapt and function optimally in the world of the future. Some of these main competencies are:
- Collaboration with others
- Critical thinking
Children use these competencies in various situations at school, at home, during extracurricular activities, at church, during cultural events, and eventually in the workplace. Parents and children can work on these competencies jointly by doing things together that reinforce them. Here are some examples, many of which you may already be enjoying with your children:
- Planning and cooking a meal together, which covers the competencies of critical thinking, self-management, and collaboration with others.
- Playing an online game together, covering the competencies of collaboration with others and critical thinking.
- Participating in a 5K walk for a charity organization, which covers the competencies of collaboration with others, contribution, and self-management.
- Attending a Fourth of July parade, covering the competencies of collaboration with others, and contribution.
Being a Role Model for Learning
Since learning happens outside of the classroom as much as inside it, parents have a big role to play in their children’s education. After all, parents are their children’s first teachers! As kids attend formal schooling, parents’ roles shift to that of learning coaches, guiding their kids from the sidelines on abilities such as organizational skills and time management, as well as supporting their kids’ desires to learn new things beyond the realm of schoolwork.
One way to do this, recommends Dr. Dalton Miller-Jones, is to pay close attention to what children love. “One of the most important things a parent can do is notice her child. Is he a talker or is he shy? Find out what interests him and help him explore it. Let your child show you the way he likes to learn.” Helping kids explore interests sets them on the path to unlocking their full potential.
Enhancing Learning at Home
Break Out the Books
Reading is one of the greatest activities for expanding learning, but did you know that there are several benefits to rereading books to kids? It’s true! The more we engage with a story, the more we take away from it. Those who have listened to an audiobook more than once or who have seen a movie twice know that during that additional exposure you picked up on things you missed the first time around, and the same is true for reading.
Kids who listen to the same story multiple times notice new information, therefore diving deep into the meaning of the book and making connections between themselves, the book, and the world around them. Another benefit kids receive from rereading is fluency, as they move from halting, hesitant word-by-word reading to vowel-linking, syllable-pattern fluent cadence. One more bonus of allowing kids to choose their own books is that it fosters a thirst for reading.
From solving mathematical problems to recalling the word for cheese in Italian (It’s “formaggio,” remember?), memorization serves as an executive function and can be built upon by working some memory boosters into daily life. And while rote memorization alone often does not produce lasting gains in competency, practicing this skill is essential to brain development, and one of the best ways of doing this is by having your child teach you.
Being able to explain something well enough to teach it involves making sense of information and mentally filing it. If your child is learning a new skill, ask him or her to teach it to you. This really helps your child commit the information into working memory, as well as the added boost of practice. Just remember to exercise patience when your child is brutally honest regarding your inability to navigate tech at lightning speed like he can.
Ed Cooke, founder of Memrise, the language-learning app, knows something about memory. He was crowned Grand Master of Memory in his early twenties, which means that he’s able to memorize the order of 10 — 10! — decks of cards and 1,000 random digits in under an hour, among other accomplishments that leave our collective egos feeling a bit crushed. He outlines these techniques in detail in his book, titled “Remember, Remember: Learn the Stuff You Never Thought You Could.”
In a recent interview, Ed laid out 5 pragmatic tips to help us average humans keep up.
1. Divide and conquer
Ed says, “The brain loves bite-size, and everything can be learned when divided into little chunks, no matter how difficult it may first seem. So when you begin learning something, first chop it into digestible morsels.”
2. Make connections
“Memories are connections, and every new memory must link to something already known. So when learning something new, always ask: What does this remind me of? What can I connect it to? How can I make that connection vivid?”
“We are visual creatures, and most of our brains are devoted to sensing. So turn what you’re learning into an image. The brighter, more colorful, and more fun the image, the more memorable – almost by definition.”
4. Test yourself
“Recalling knowledge is the best way to strengthen it. So constantly test yourself as you learn, which helps beef up your memories and makes them faster and more reliable.”
5. Create stories
“Of all the ways of connecting knowledge in our minds, stories are the most powerful. So if you have a collection of ideas to learn, try linking them into an entertaining narrative. And don’t forget to practice saying the narrative out loud. That’s the best way to strengthen it.”
Skills for Independent Life
Finally, there are some skills your child should have down before leaving the nest. Without acquiring some basic life skills, from money management to an array of cooking experience, even the most well-educated adult is at a disadvantage in social spheres and in the workforce. Kerry runs the Self-Sufficient Kids blog and wrote a great article on 15 skills kids need before they leave home. Among them, Kerry cites how to be a self-starter, talk to strangers (which seems to be becoming an art form in our age of screens), cope with failure, and (a personal favorite) map/navigate public transportation solo.
While the primary focus as parents tends to be on school, supporting your children’s growth is so much more than seeing to it that they earn good grades. Making sure that they develop both academic and life skills provides them with a well-rounded, whole experience of life that they can carry with them into their adult lives and, at which point, you can congratulate yourself on a job well done. Well, 98% of the time. They will probably always think they know better.