Learning isn’t something that starts in a classroom from the age of five on 1st September. Developing a love of learning, exploring, problem-solving, learning to be resilient all stems from the home from very early life.
As an educator for 12 years, I knew this. Working on my Masters in Education and previously completing an SVQ in Children’s Development, I knew this. But it was only when I became a parent that I ACTUALLY KNEW this.
I’ve worked for Explore Learning since the summer of 2004, supporting children aged between 5 and 14 in their maths and English. Explore Learning’s ethos links engagement and progress – the more the children enjoy their learning, the longer they will attend the centre and the more progress they will make. Plus, on a personal level, I always enjoyed (and felt I learned more) in an environment that was fun and dynamic.
So I have always been aware of the importance of loving learning. But it has only been since becoming a parent and raising two young children that I have realised the importance of developing an openness to learning in different places. Here are my top tips for ‘finding the learning’ in everyday life…
Read to your child and have them read to you (no matter their age!)
Reading is part of our bedtime routine, so even when the four year old ignores my offer of a book during the day in favour of Lego, I know we will read together before bed. I recently realised I was ‘leading’ the reading too much, so now I ask if he would like to read to me. (NB he can’t read yet, he just retells the story, but loves doing it). My eighteen month old’s favourite book was also her brother’s favourite, Dear Zoo by Rod Campbell. Couldn’t even estimate how many times I have uttered the words, “I wrote to the zoo to send me a pet…”
Garden language and arithmetic
Spring has sprung and I am really enjoying exploring the garden with the children at the moment: we explore the names of plants, make up names for the plants we can’t identify, and count the level in the rain catcher (often quite high as we live in Glasgow!). I love www.muddyfaces.co.uk for learning ideas in the garden too.
We’ve been working on number recognition and counting order for my son in preparation for him starting school and combine it with his favourite activity of baking (plus I get to eat the results!) Finding the numbers on the scale, counting the number of ingredients. My childhood favourite Fifteens are a great way to practise this as you need 15 of each ingredient www.bbcgoodfood.com/recipes/fifteens. They are delicious and you can feel righteous eating them knowing that you have ‘found the learning’ in baking.
I know from training the amazing staff at Explore Learning that with nearly every query or question they have, they can solve it themselves. It took me a while to realise that I needed to take that approach with my own children. Now when my son can’t complete his Lego vehicle, or my daughter can’t open the pot, I don’t rush in. Rather, I pause and give them a chance to get it by themselves.
If it starts to look like it will end in tears (the kids, not the staff at Explore!), then I will encourage them to rethink their approach, maybe suggest a way of fixing it, but if they manage it by themselves, then I make a HUGE deal about it. ‘You did it! You managed to figure it out – it took a bit of time but you got there.’ Allowing kids to ‘get there’ by themselves is perhaps the strongest gift that teachers, tutors, parents, carers, grandparents can give.
Is it just my family or are playing board games with four year olds more challenging than doing an assault course with your feet bound? Games would either end in joyful exaltations (if he won) or disaster (if, you guessed it…). Family time at the weekend is pretty precious when both parents work so to be honest we stopped suggesting them to avoid the debacle.
But I eventually took the bull by the horns, realising of course that resilience in losing (and resilience in allowing your child to lose!) was actually an important stage in learning. A fellow professional and collaborator, Dr Jennie Pennant from the NRICH Project at the University of Cambridge summed it up best for me when she suggested that we need to change our attitude in learning from ‘I can’t do it!’ to ‘I can’t do it…yet!’
About the Author: Lise McCaffery is Curriculum Development Manager at award-winning tuition provider, Explore Learning which has centres across Essex – in Romford, Hornchurch, Southend, Colchester, Chelmsford and Lakeside. They provide extra tuition in English and maths to children aged five to 14. For more information or a free trial visit www.explorelearning.co.uk.