The importance of early learning at home

Providing learning support at home can help children better cope with the changing national curriculum that the UK government is planning to introduce from 2014.

Whether the changes go through quickly or not, we can expect the schooling system to be in a certain state of flux for several years as teachers adapt to the new material.

That’s why early childhood learning can be beneficial. By introducing basic ideas from the new curriculum at home and creating a home environment where learning is encouraged, children can have a head start on the school curriculum. And starting to learn in a positive way at home can prove vital for future progress within the school system.

Research shows that parental involvement is a key factor in how kids perform and behave in school. Creating a positive attitude to learning in the home is shown to improve kids attendance records and their attitude to school, and has a positive impact on their academic achievements later in life.

Although family life in the UK is changing, with busier parents, smaller families and more sole-parent households, it’s important to remember that parents, close family and carers are still shown to have the most impact on the child’s development in their early years. In fact, studies show that parental involvement in education affects a child’s social and intellectual development more than the family’s education or income levels.

Early learning creates a “learning culture” in the family that can help parents to better support children’s academic progress through the school system.

Here is what learning at home can look like at different stages of a child’s school career.

Babies 0-2: Early childhood is the time to foster a positive foundation for later learning. Sensitive, responsive and caring parenting with lots of talking, play, cuddles and smiles will help create a secure attachment. Children gain most at this age by just having someone talk and sing to them, hold them and dance with them.

Pre-schoolers 2-5: Now is a great time to introduce early years education at home. Try to focus on fostering good socialization, with lots of positive interactions and activities to help children develop curiosity and a good attitude to learning, while developing concentration and empathy. This is the perfect time to start using early literacy teaching resources such as alphabet books and flashcards, because children’s language and speech skills are developing fast at this age. Play lots of games with words and music as well as physical games to help them acquire good physical, language and social skills.

Early childhood 6 to 8: By now, you can start supporting the school curriculum by fostering a love of reading. Read to them, play spelling games, and give them access to plenty of books (and let them see the adults in their household reading too). You can also teach basic computer literacy, and use primary maths resources to prepare children for the more complex maths concepts to come.

Pre-teens age 9-11: Children at this age will be learning more under the new curriculum about geography, history, science and computing. They will have better logic skills by now and will be able to learn to think abstractly. You can help by encouraging them to learn cooperative skills through board games and role-playing games to help them experience other points of view and learn to resolve conflict. Encourage strategic thinking with games of chess and checkers, play science games and teach magic tricks, and encourage children to create and organise collections. This is the time to encourage them to pursue new hobbies and interests and take music, sport and language lessons if they want. Help them at home to expand their vocabulary and learn their times tables and simple algebra problems.

Teenagers 12-17: By now, the learning environment and attitude you’ve fostered at home should be starting to pay off. You can encourage good self-directed learning and study habits by creating a quiet place for them to study alone, while continuing to support the school curriculum. At this age, young people are ready to learn to manage complexity, and can tackle quite sophisticated questions about the world and people in it. This is a good time to encourage lively debate and hypotheticals as part of the family’s daily routine. You can also help teenagers identify their vocational interests by looking closer at their hobbies and interests.

Karen Talbot is a former teacher turned stay-at-home mum who loves to share teaching and parenting advice for improving kids education.


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