Child Wellbeing|Home Schooling|Insights|Summer Learning

Parents often ask us – how can I help my child to do well at school? Encouraging a positive attitude to learning is a great first step! There are also many other little ways that help children to develop a love of learning and give them that academic boost (- without doing their homework with them!).

To help parents and carers, we have asked two education experts to share their pearls of wisdom: The Golden Circle’s Director, Hannah Titley, and Kindling Education’s Founder, Katie Jackson.

What are the best ways parents can support their children’s education?

Katie Jackson’s top tips:

  • Create an environment at home which values books and storytime. Children should be surrounded by books, but they also need to see their role models enjoying reading and understanding its purpose every day. A regular reading routine is not only beneficial for their emotional wellbeing, but it becomes a natural part of their day which is predictable – making it easier on the days when tiredness or reluctance creeps in.
  • Engage in regular, meaningful conversations which encourage sharing ideas, giving opinions and explaining why. Conversations and discussions are a great way to build strong communication skills and are a critical factor for building key skills which can improve life long learning. It supports independent thinking, as well as listening skills and collaboration.

Hannah Titley’s top tips:

  • Promote intellectual curiosity through outdoor exploration (think making dens, camping, countryside walks, nature trails), home cooking and experiments in the kitchen. Subscription boxes like MEL Science are good for parents with limited time.
  • Turn everyday activities into an opportunity to learn – for example, setting the table can be a time to practise counting or times tables.
  • Show a real interest in their time at school and ask questions about what they have learned to check their understanding.
  • Encourage reading and writing for pleasure – bedtime reading and writing a journal are good ways to make these regular daily exercises
  • Support their enrolment in a wide range of extracurricular activities (sport, musical, academic) so that children can discover their passions and interests
  • Summer camps, holiday activity clubs and extra educational support can also help children to find the fun in learning and explore new ideas outside the classroom

How can parents encourage self-discipline and responsibility without putting too much pressure on their kids?

Katie Jackson’s top tips:

Clear, consistent guidelines and expectations are essential, as well as allowing ownership and choice of responsibility. Children of any age should understand why there are rules in place or we have these certain responsibilities.
I encourage people to avoid using reward systems as much as possible as we want to build a child’s intrinsic motivation to take responsibility around the house. Another way to help will be checking in regularly with their children – we hear a lot about “a child’s voice” – it’s important to gain their perspective and understanding from a situation, particularly if something isn’t working, so we can also ask them what is working, what isn’t, how can we make it work?

Hannah Titley’s top tips:

Angela Duckworth has written an excellent book on this called Grit: The Power of Passion and Perseverance. See her Ted Talk for anyone who doesn’t have enough time to read this cover to cover. Her research explores how to develop intrinsic motivation – so that children are satisfied by their improvement of a skill, rather than depending upon external motivation (rewarding them with sweets or pocket money).

Parents should encourage children to commit to an activity for a minimum of 12 months, rather than allowing them to quit after a first session. They should praise self-discipline (the process) – when a child attends a class regularly and shows improvements – rather than the outcome, ie. achievement.

How can parents and teachers support those kids who are not doing well in school?

Katie Jackson’s top tips:

By encouraging children to follow their interests, we know that when a child is more interested in a topic, they find it easier to learn, so by following their natural curiosity we are fostering their learning. Our role at this moment is to provide opportunities for children to engage in different activities that are based on their interests in a playful way. Activities that are open-ended play allow unpressurised learning to take place and children have more time to explore, experiment and investigate – deepening their learning experience.

Hannah Titley’s top tips:

Speak to their school teachers first to identify where the child needs support. There are lots of online resources that parents can use to support their children, e.g. Mathletics, ATOM learning or Seneca learning for older children. CGP offers a range of workbooks and flashcards that can also be helpful for home learning. Seeking the help of experienced tutors might be useful if parents don’t have the time to support academic learning themselves.

What are some good strategies to support children’s mental health while they’re at school?

Katie Jackson’s top tips:

This process is all about supporting the children first, teaching children to notice, name and understand feelings and thoughts, as well as knowing feelings are good or day and that they are all temporary, like the weather. Children should be taught what is happening to their bodies and brains and how they can manage this. Teaching children about how the brain works and the mind sounds scary, but it is possible. There are so many amazing resources and child-appropriate ways of doing this. It really is no different to learning how to after their physical health. For example, I’m thirsty so I need to have a drink. We need them to know – I am feeling anxious, so I can do my deep breathing to calm down. When children learn this they know what is happening, what to expect, and how to manage this. We find non-verbal ways of expressing emotions help all children – especially the younger they are as we know articulating how you feel when you are young is difficult. Alongside this, we use calming strategies which involve lots of different varied breathing techniques or movement breaks e.g. yoga. These types of activities teach children what to do when they feel a certain way and what their bodies need. This gives children ownership of the situation and helps them feel more in control and know what to do in future.

Hannah Titley’s top tips:

Encourage them to speak about how they are feeling and introduce mindfulness to your child’s daily routine. Apps and podcasts, such as Calm and Headspace have developed extensive resources for children including positivity, kindness and being calm. Keeping a mindfulness journal is also a good way to improve understanding around emotions. For example, making a note of what happened during the day and how that made you feel. Exercise is also really important to manage stress, for example taking a mindful walk, or an online yoga course to practise meditation and breathing exercises in a fun and interactive way.

How can parents and teachers teach and encourage inclusivity and diversity inside and outside of the classroom?

Katie Jackson’s top tips:

Inclusion isn’t just about supporting children with SEND, but it’s about creating a learning environment that all children can successfully access. There are a number of things that teaching staff can do to ensure that needs are met inside the classroom such as setting clear behaviour expectations and guidelines from the beginning, explaining why these are in place and reinforcing these messages regularly and consistently. As caregivers, we need to ensure we are showing children what it really means to be inclusive and welcome diversity. Modelling this behaviour starts with teachers, staff and parents. This might include challenging views and opinions, having open discussions or addressing certain behaviours.

Hannah Titley’s top tips:

Model kindness and children will embrace this behaviour. Having conversations about current affairs such as the Black Lives Matter movement with older children also increases their awareness of inequality and activism. It’s likely that they are already very aware of these issues and are discussing them at school!

What’s the key to effective collaboration between teachers and parents?

Katie Jackson’s top tips:

Taking time to get to know your teacher or parents of the children you teach is a really valuable way to build a strong rapport that will benefit your child. Of course, this takes time to create and each year most children will have a new teacher and the process begins all over again. One way to achieve this is through open communication. Regular communication, however it looks (using diaries, emails, phone calls or meetings), builds the foundations for effective collaboration.

Hannah Titley’s top tips:

Parents and teachers both want the best for their children. Parents should be mindful that teachers have very busy workloads. They will find time to reply to an email or call – but it may not be an instant response! Collaboration is most effective when parents and teachers agree on specific goals for a child and ways to achieve those goals and provide the appropriate support in the classroom and at home.

If you would like more information about this topic, click here to read Katie Jackson’s full interview about the role of parents and practitioners in children’s education. You can also find more available resources and information at Kindling Education, her Instagram page or her section as a Bloss expert.

The Golden Circle is a network of qualified teachers. We facilitate professional home schooling and after school tuition for individual families, schools, and Local Authorities. We pride ourselves on the high-quality and engaging nature of tutorials, tailored to each individual student, and building strong student-teacher rapports. We are a socially responsible tutoring agency which donates to charities supporting students from disadvantaged backgrounds each year. To learn more about us, head to our website, our Instagram page or our section as a Bloss expert.