It’s the teachers’ job to do the teaching right? Nope, not entirely!
Some of my earliest memories include sitting with my ouma at the kitchen table learning how to tell time, using a makeshift clock that she had fashioned using some paper and lots of coloured crayons, memories of my mom coming home after work to find the two of us, still in pyjamas, playing or reading. We tend to underestimate those early memories and activities, but that is where my love of learning and reading came from – quality time.
Lots of parents don’t have the luxury of staying home with their children, and they often don’t have the support of family members. So, what happens? Children are sent to a crèche from a very early age, where the teachers ‘take over’ teaching our children everything there is to know about life. Here’s the thing – that’s just not enough.
During my teaching career, I had so many parents telling me that teaching their child was my job, and my job alone. “Isn’t that what you’re paid to do?” was a constant refrain at parents’ evenings. A teacher’s job is to try their best to help your child reach their full potential. A lot of that is based on your child and their attitude to learning. Where do they learn this attitude? At home from their parents, and from their peers. So what can you do to help?
1. Be interested in your child’s life
I know that most of you lead very busy lives, and that finding time to spend quality time with your children can be extremely difficult, but it is essential. Ask your child about their day at school, and really listen to their answers. Ask questions like:
- “What did you learn at school today?”
- “What was the best (or worst) thing about your day?”
- If they wrote a test or exam, “Which questions do you feel great about? Which question, or questions, did you struggle with the most?”
Take the time to actually look at their homework. They do have homework – even if they tell you they don’t. Ask your child to tell you more about their favourite subject, and offer help wherever you can.
2. Create a love of learning
Children often perceive school and learning as boring, and as something they are forced to do. However, once a thirst for knowledge has been created, it will be very difficult to quench!
- Lead by example. You are your child’s first and most important role model. Share your interests and passions with them. If they can see that you are yearning to learn more about something, they will be more willing to explore their own interests and passions.
- Expose your child to different experiences. How else will they find their interests and passions? Take them to the zoo, museums, music concerts or the theatre. Get them a library card and let them explore the many books and topics libraries have to offer.
- Read, read, read! My favourite author, J.K. Rowling, said, “If you don’t like to read, you haven’t found the right book.” Reading brings so much joy and magic to a child’s life, not to mention it also expands vocabulary, relieves stress and improves concentration and memory. All it takes is one book, and your child will be hooked for life. We actually wrote another article on the importance of reading. You can check it out here.
- Use WorksheetCloud. We created WorksheetCloud as a tool for studying and revision that is actually FUN. Let them try it out. I guarantee you that they will find studying and revision a lot more interesting and entertaining if they use it. Sign up here!
- Be supportive and encouraging. You might not always like what your child finds interesting, but shooting something down just because you aren’t interested in it could set your child back immensely. As long as it is not harmful or inappropriate, encourage your child to continue learning more and more about their interests.
Encourage your child to always do their best, and let them know that their best will always be good enough. If your expectations are too high, their love of learning will diminish, making their marks even worse.
3. Teach your child to work independently
“Mommy/Daddy! I’m stuck!” is a phrase that most parents hear constantly while their children are doing homework. With our lives being as busy as they are, it is sometimes much easier to just give them the answer and return to whatever we were busy with before. This, however, teaches your child that someone will eventually give them the right answer and that they don’t need to challenge themselves to find the answer. At the end of the day, this could set them up for misery.
So many children are petrified of seeing a little red cross in their school books or tests, so they are afraid to try, lest they give the dreaded ‘wrong answer’. Teach your child that a wrong answer is an opportunity to get it right next time, and that the people who love them will not care if they give an incorrect answer now and then. Encourage them to try. Try and solve that pesky Maths problem. Try to read and answer that difficult Afrikaans comprehension. Try, try, and then try again.
As difficult as it may be, don’t just give them the right answer when they ask for it. Sit with them and encourage them to find the answer themselves. Help them by nudging them in the right direction, but don’t make it too easy!
When your child leaves school, and goes on to university, college or their first job, they will thank you for encouraging them to challenge themselves. Working independently is a crucial skill that your child needs to be successful.
If you haven’t done any of this yet, don’t panic! It’s never too late to take an interest in your child’s education. Start as soon as you get home today!
I’m very interested to hear how you go the extra mile in helping your child learn at home. Post your comments, suggestions and questions below. I personally read and answer every comment.