As part of a teaching team, we are always trying to encourage the parents of children at the school, to get as involved as they can in their children’s education. For many parents however, teaching is done at school, and school alone - that’s what schools are for – and their child(ren) should be able to do as they please when they get home; for example, sit in front of the TV, play the Wii or X-Box all evening, pausing briefly to eat some tea, a bit more Playstation, then up to bed and lights out.
You don’t need me to tell you that this is the fastest way to prepare a child to fail in their education. Of course it’s hard, coming home from work, preparing dinner and then doing homework and reading with and to your child, everyone’s tired, of course it’s easier not to do it.
But it doesn’t have to be a chore or as regimented as all that. Helping a child is easier than many think. All it takes is to introduce learning into your everyday routine. Instead of asking your child to pass you a piece of fruit from the bowl, ask them how many apples are in the bowl, could they please pass you one and how many are left now that he/she has taken one. With literacy, it is literally a case of telling a story or, better still, make one up! Just while you’re walking them to or from school, or from their after school club, or anywhere, just talk for a bit, ask them to carry on the story, swap it around, introduce a new character every now and then (or every other day!) and see where it goes.
It’s really very easy and, as clichéd as it is to say, I’d like to meet the child that doesn’t enjoy being engaged by his or her parent or guardian.
Yes, yes, I know there are plenty of parents who aren’t bothered about engaging with their children – that is undoubtedly a sad truth – so if you know a child like this, then if you get a chance, YOU discuss the contents of a fruit bowl, YOU make up a fantastic tale, see how it goes.
I know I’m lucky; my children are happy, they’re quite bright, but more importantly, they enjoy learning. When we walk to and from school, they ask me if we can play a game. I ask if they want maths, literacy or general knowledge (you see? I’ve made free time learning fun! It was a doddle – just do it regularly and not too serious, plus plenty of praise!).
If its maths, we do number bonds – to 20 or 30 for Annabel, to 100 or 1000 for Joseph. If it’s literacy, we play Just a Minute, taking it in turns to try to speak for a minute (or 30 seconds, depending on the mood), without hesitation, deviation or repetition.
We sometimes play the ABC game – choose a topic such as boys name, girls name, fruit or animal, then someone says the alphabet to themselves, announces the letter, and then we all try to beat the others to come up with a word before the others.
This morning, walking to school, Annabel chose countries, I ran through the alphabet and Joseph stopped me on ‘Y’. Now, we’ve had this topic and letter before, so I rather selfishly announced ‘Yemen’. The race was on between the two of them and Annabel, cleverly using her phonics, proudly (and seriously) shouted out ‘Yurope’.
While Joseph staggered around laughing, I hid my own chuckles and explained how sometimes the letters ‘eu’ also makes the ‘y’ sound.
Good try bubba