As a parent, you are your children’s first, and most important, teacher
By Jen Reynolds
When parents and families are involved in their children’s learning at home, studies show that the children achieve greater academic success and have more positive feelings about going to school. Kate Hebdon agrees. As a high school academic director, she says that the absolute best way to support a child’s learning at home is to move the theory behind the teacher’s lessons into authentic learning experiences that support interdisciplinary connections. “Throw out the worksheets and play to learn,” she advises.
Here are some educator-approved ideas to get you started:
Bake to learn
“If a child is learning fractions, then baking and measurement is a sure fire way to move the theory into practice, advises Hebdon. “Double or triple the recipe and have your kid figure out the measurements,” adds Fiona Marshall, a high school history and world issues educator. Even ordering a pizza to take along on a picnic can reinforce concepts when you ask your kids how many slices they can each have if you order a 12-slice pizza. At the end of the math lesson, they can lick the spoon and you’ve applied basic math like fractions and multiplication and even division and—best of all—taught them the life long skill of cooking for themselves.
Count on the home team
“If you have sports fans in your house, encourage children to follow their favorite team’s statistics,” suggests Shelley Dennis, a middle school teacher. Younger children can start by gathering data like wins and losses while older kids can dig deeper to record the number of strikes a pitcher throws and how many innings they are in the game. Once the kids have determined what data to collect, ask them questions that will require analysis. For instance, what’s the average number of strikes per inning that the pitcher throws? If they are visual learners, you may want to encourage them to make a sketch of a ball diamond and plot out where their favorite batters hit their home runs.
Learn, then earn
“For pre-teens, set up a bank account with them and have them manage their account online,” Marshall advises. “Ask them to set up a savings plan and do calculations of how much more they would have to add to their account to buy a treasured item. Have them calculate taxes and any other hidden costs. Older kids should buy a safe stock and a green stock with any money they have and manage this investment. It does good for the earth and also can help them support their post secondary education. Have them figure out what investments they’d need to make to pay for future schooling. This requires advanced math and will help them appreciate the savings required for post secondary education.”
Ask your child’s teacher for a reading list in advance of the summer and winter breaks. “Knowing what’s coming up can support a deeper understanding for all readers,” says Hebdon. She advises parents to find an audio version of these books to play on long road trips: “this will provide the opportunity to bring the family together to discuss the novel and build discussions around theme, tone and motif.” Hebdon adds that, “a student with learning differences can find this particularly helpful. When the student returns to school, the onus of reading page by page becomes more of a review and they may find it easier to listen to the connections the teacher shares or supports the class in generating together. It gives slow readers a leg up and advanced readers some room to find further connections or insights.”
Travel the world through a book
Introduce your kids to the books in your library, suggests Marshall. She advises sharing non-fiction books, a genre which, she says “contributes to creating a more worldly child and fosters the wonders of the human spirit.”
Teach geography on the go
As you move through different communities and towns on holiday car trips, support learning in geography and history Hebdon recommends. Ask questions like, ‘why do so many people settle along the water and fewer people live in-land?’ “Have the kids take note of the quick shift from urban to rural when entering and exiting a city,” she says, and adds that car rides are a good time to spring friendly pop quizzes. For instance, “ask your child what terms they have learned in geography and social studies that help us understand the different uses of land in area you might be exploring—for example, is the land used for commercial, residential or green space purposes?”
“Let them paint their room,” advises Dennis. To do this, they will need to figure out how much paint they need and practice their fine motor skills to do this properly. Your kids will also learn to negotiate the challenges involved in with trying something new. In addition, she suggests buy them a sketch book and some cool pencils. “When kids—and adults—devote 30 minutes a day to drawing outside, they will find a new appreciation for the natural world.”
Listen to the news
“You can teach media literacy by reading the paper with your child or turning the radio to news while you are in the car,” states Marshall. “Then,” she says “be prepared to talk with your children about what they are reading and hearing.” Ask why a reporter chose to use certain words to describe the situation and what could they have said differently. Having these conversations about local and global issues, and how they are reported in the news, will help shape your child’s perspective for life. Unfortunately, however, it’s a reality that the news can be distressing but that doesn’t mean parents should change the channel. Prepare yourself with trusted advice to have a meaningful, age-appropriate conversation about what your kids are hearing.
Foster life skills
“Don’t forget that self-management is an important learning skill that your child needs your support to master,” reminds Hebdon. To build this skill, she advises having children make their own breakfast or lunch; pack their own school, camp or sleepover bag; and help grocery shop using a list they co-construct with you.