Many parents don’t spend too much time worrying about homework or tutoring until their child shows signs of lagging behind at school.
Yet new research suggests that from the time children are babies, it is important to talk and read to them, since by doing so, we are helping them build the foundations of effective speaking, reading and writing skills. It is not only language we have to be aware of, however; it is equally vital to instil the value of regular study and learning in a child.
So the writing is on the wall, it’s never too soon to start supporting young children’s learning, and that employing a tutor is an effective way of supporting them, maybe when you cannot help.
When subjects are taught in fun, study is never boring; rather, it is an opportunity to bond with you, learn through play and increase a child’s self-confidence.
What follows are our tips for getting the most out of home learning for young children:
Discover your child’s learning style: The theory of multiple learning styles/intelligences helps give us an insight into how their minds work, and how best to attract and hold their attention. Your child’s learning style is likely to be based on the following intelligence:
- Linguistic: They love to talk, read, write; in general, they are great communicators, knowing how to express themselves and listen to others.
- Interpersonal: These are great ‘people persons’; they work well in groups and love indulging in debates with friends.
- Intrapersonal: They love to reflect, and enjoy writing poetry, keeping journals, etc.
- Kinaesthetic: They love movement and learning ‘on the go’.
- Logical-Mathematical: They understand abstract concepts and to explain them to others.
Sometimes, a child will not favour one particular learning style, but many of them. Learning about the way your child prefers to process information will help you individualise your home tutoring sessions to the greatest effect. For instance, if your child boasts high interpersonal intelligence, you may consider tutoring another child simultaneously, so your child can indulge in the kind of healthy debate and discussion they find so stimulating.
On the other hand, if your child is a reflective learner, they may prefer studying alone and may require time alone for reflection on the material to be studied. An active learner, on the other hand, will probably prefer to learn by solving a practical problem rather than spending precious time reading manuals and instructions. For some kids, graphs and maps are extremely useful while for others, written instructions are far easier to understand.
If you are unsure about your child’s learning style, there are a myriad of online resources which will help you identify it.
Before creating a study plan for a term or year, meet with your child’s teacher. Find out what they should be learning and aim to meet those criteria and even go a step further, so that your child is never daunted by the material he encounters in class. If the teacher does not provide you with a detailed enough plan, go to the www.education.gov.uk site, which will provide you with valuable information on what your child should be learning at each stage, in each subject.
Invest in good materials. Any parent who has begun the challenging task of teaching a child to read knows what an incredible help books like the Jolly Phonics or Oxford Reading Tree series are. They are tried-and-tested resources written by highly experienced educators and kids take to the material like ducks to water. The financial outlay doesn’t have to be significant, with entire sets of readers available, for instance, for under £40 and many books available from libraries or second-hand online bookshops.
Moreover, there are a host of free e-books that you can use for home tutoring; Oxford Reading Tree offers new readers a host of free e-books on www.oxfordowl.co.uk. Another site, www.bbc.co.uk, offers KS1 kids to play a host of incredibly fun maths, science and literacy games.
Teach your child core subjects in practical, understandable ways. The Montessori method is renowned for a constructivist approach, which encourages children to learn concepts and work with super fun materials rather than just rote learn or use standard textbooks. The method often astounds parents, whose kids are able to do arithmetic into the thousands while still at preschool. Check out this fascinating video which shows how a few simple tools can simplify complex mathematical tasks for kids.
Give your child regular, specific feedback and reward them for good work and consistency. Don’t wait until the end of a home tutoring session to say something generic like, “You worked really hard today”. Rather, be on guard and give feedback immediately, focusing on specific achievements. For instance, “It’s really impressive that you were able to read the word ‘loophole’. The ‘e’ at the end was silent and you read the word perfectly”.
Make learning an adventure. Don’t limit your home tutoring sessions to a review of boring textbooks; take them to the theatre and the museum; spend an afternoon together at the library or take your study session outside on a sunny day. The more your child associates learning with fun and affection, the more likely they are to find their own motivation to keep at it.
Remain patient. If you’re feeling tired, take a break rather than let your child feel you are annoyed with them for failing to perform tasks quickly or correctly. One of the key goals of tutoring should be about boosting your child’s self-esteem by showing them they can accomplish much more than they ever thought possible; don’t risk undoing all your good work by losing your patience on a given day.
Share the load: If you are a working parent, then you know how hard it can be to find just one or two spare hours in a day to dedicate to a home tutoring session. Your spouse and your child’s siblings can do their share as well; each family member can focus on a specific task they would like to teach a younger child. The tutoring sessions can turn into a fun competition to see who’s making the most progress!