Learning at Home

These materials were adapted from Parents as Partners in their Children’s Learning produced by The Scottish Government, Crown Copyright 2006.

 

Children learn from the moment they are born as they begin to absorb information and make sense of their world. As well as providing the basics for growth and development, food, comfort and security, parents also provide stimulation through everyday activities, games, rhymes and language that help a child to learn. Many of these activities are part of everyday life - preparing and eating meals together, doing the washing, shopping, watching TV, visiting friends and family - but for young children they are opportunities for discovery and learning.

'Eighty-five per cent of the language we use as adults is in place by the time we are 5 years old and 50 per cent is in place by the time we are three years old.'

This emphasises the importance of parents and the home environment in supporting children's learning and development. Mostly this happens naturally as part of family life. Parents want to do the best for their children and do what they can to achieve this. However, once children start school it is not always easy to know how best to help your child. As children grow older it is easy to forget the strong influence that the home and the community still have on their learning and education. After all, children only spend 15 per cent of their time in school. Schools can do a lot to make the links between what is being taught in school and learning opportunities that exist at home and in the community. This section looks at how parents can be helped to continue their children's learning at home.

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When Things Go Well

What it looks like when things go well

  • Parents get lots of encouragement from the school to take part in their children's learning - and there is evidence that they do take part.
  • Schools and teachers keep parents informed of what their children will be learning in school so that they can discuss this with their children at home.
  • Parents and staff tackle areas of difficulty and concern together.
  • Schools provide specific fun activities for children and parents to do at home.
  • Parents support their children's learning by helping with homework and making links with other areas of school work.
  • Parents spend one-to-one time with their children and also enjoy shared family activities/visits.
  • Parents and children know that everyone's contribution is valued.
  • Children receive additional support from the individual attention they get from their parents.
  • The ways of communicating with parents reflect the diversity of parents and their needs.
  • There are open channels of communication so that parents feel comfortable talking to teachers and making them aware of how children's learning is being supported at home.
  • Teachers discuss with parents and children the activities they undertake at home so that these can be incorporated into their learning in school.

Files

PDF file: Checklist - parents and teachers working together to promote parental involvement (28 KB)

Word file: Checklist - parents and teachers working together to promote parental involvement (39 KB)

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Examples of Involvement

Example - Supporting children's learning at home

A teacher has developed a range of leaflets to keep parents informed on what children are learning in the class and how they can support this at home. There is a welcome leaflet and a general leaflet which describes the curriculum, illustrated with pictures of children in the class. These are available to all parents in a display by the entrance to the class.

In addition there are leaflets covering specific topics used by the teacher throughout the year. Each leaflet has four sections:

  • At school we are learning about ... (eg The jobs people do, Night time)
  • At school we will ... (indicates what it is that children will learn)
  • We will learn by ... (describes the activities that will be undertaken)
  • At home we can ... (suggests activities that parents and children can do together at home to support their learning)

The leaflets are simple, clear and attractively illustrated and each one highlights three or four simple activities that all parents can undertake with their child at home.

Example - Support for schools from other teams

Following the introduction of easy-to-use cameras, a course was piloted to encourage parents to learn to use the cameras and support their child's learning at the same time.

Parents were invited to come along and have some fun with the cameras. They took the cameras home and recorded their child's learning at home. On return to the school an IT tutor and a literacy tutor, using the school's computer suite, worked with the parents to use the software to create storybooks with text and special effects.

Most parents had no previous computer experience, but over the six-week course learned how to produce storybooks including some of the pictures they had taken. Parents and children were thrilled with the results and with their new-found skills, which were put to use in the class, where the parents are helping the staff and children to use the camera more effectively.

Example - Communicating with parents about their child's progress

An elementary school sent out questionnaires to get a clearer idea of parents' and children's views of homework and what information they wanted from school.

A workshop for parents, teachers and students to explore purposes, expectations and communications in relation to homework was held. This was followed up with a small working group to develop a homework policy and communications system for home-school links. Parents and children are involved in a weekly review of their learning using a new home-school diary. The school also bought a number of books on learning and learning styles for the parents' library and the staff library.

The benefits were:

  • Parents had a greater understanding of what goes on in school, could communicate regularly with the school and had a clearer idea of the school's expectations of homework.
  • Parents had a starter for discussion with their children about what they had been learning in school.
  • Children had a weekly opportunity to review their learning, assess their achievements and highlight their learning needs.
  • Staff had a clearer idea of the sorts of activities that parents wanted for home learning and had an easy and routine means of communicating with parents.
  • Schools organised family learning events, giving the opportunity to make initial contacts with parents.

Example - Including all parents in a playing with math project

An elementary school in an area with many ethnic communities developed a project to help parents support their children's learning in math.

School staff received training on the math program which was going to be used and parents were given a personal invitation to attend an informal meeting about the program. The Principal, the class teacher and the tutor who had developed the resource spoke to parents at the meeting. Interpreters were provided.

Parents agreed to come to the school for an hour each week (for six weeks), to play math games in school with their child. Interpreters were available to help communication between parents and school staff. Having helped their child to choose a game, parents took it home and agreed to play with their child for 10-15 minutes each day.

The benefits for parents were that they:

  • Felt more comfortable in the school environment
  • Became aware of the importance that school staff place on the parental role in children's education
  • Gained input from staff that enabled them to support their child's learning
  • Identified opportunities for learning that were not previously apparent
  • Learned that helping to educate their child was fun
  • Saw that school staff valued their first language.

The benefits for staff were that they:

  • Became aware that links could be built with parents - it simply required the right kind of activity
  • Saw that involving parents requires effort and good planning
  • Valued parents' involvement and saw them in a new light.

The benefits for children were that they:

  • Enjoyed quality time with their parents
  • Saw that staff valued their first language
  • Experienced games that they may not have had at home
  • Gained confidence in basic mathematical concepts
  • Understood their parents are valued when they saw them working in partnership with staff.

This project helped the school identify other ways in which parents can be involved and it has already embarked upon a program of book and toy lending. Since an initial session led by the bilingual support teacher, a parent in the school has led the project.

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Activities and Resources

Activities and sample parent prompts

Activity 1 sets out to identify and build on how parents already support their children's learning at home and to make clear links between children's learning in school and at home.

Activity 2 sets out to develop home learning worksheets called 'parent prompts' - linked to various areas of the curriculum for parents to use at home with their children and to provide information to parents on what is being taught in school and suggest activities to support this at home.

The parent prompt outlines the topic areas being covered in school, the skills that are being developed, what the child is doing at school and how the parent can support this with activities at home.

Files

PDF file: Activity 1 - reviewing and developing a home learning policy (36 KB)

Word file: Activity 1 - reviewing the developing a home learning policy (35 KB)

PDF file: Activity 2 - developing parent prompts (48 KB)

Word file: Activity 2 - developing parent prompts (35 KB)

PDF file: Sample parent prompt (34 KB)