The child development and learning performance expectations for today’s kids are vastly different from those their parents faced as children. Add in the brain drain from nearly two years of pandemic-related upheaval in the classroom, and things get complicated.
Fortunately, caregivers can play an important role in their children’s educational journey. The home environment sets the tone for kids’ learning appetite and performance. To ensure your child is set up for success, create a supportive learning structure and narrative outside of the classroom. Here are three ways you can do that.
Educators everywhere can agree that the abrupt switch from a traditional learning setting to an entirely digital one was hard. Aside from the jump into tech-first learning, kids’ attention spans were challenged. Add the new demands on caregivers, many of whom were navigating new work-from-home arrangements, and things got hairy.
As schools have returned to traditional in-person instruction, school systems are also reinstituting performance standards and academic rigor. Many children are eager to learn but find themselves behind the curve as they reaccustom themselves to being students.
Caregivers can give their kids the additional support they need by scheduling online tutoring into their weekly calendars. To bridge gaps left by classroom instruction, caregivers can select specific tutors and skill sets for their kids’ needs. With flexible hours, immediate availability, and specialized expertise, online tutors can provide kids the instruction they need in an efficient manner.
Reinforce tutor-led learning with parent-facilitated instruction. Using classroom instruction and tutoring as a model, provide guidance on additional home-based learning. Worksheets, traditional homework, and conversational problem-solving all give your student new opportunities to test their knowledge. Offer feedback and support, but resist the urge to do the work for them. Instead, ask questions that encourage your child to break down problems into more easily resolvable chunks.
Traditional classrooms are often regimented, even in early learning settings. Establishing structure and routines is essential for learning and development for kids of all ages. However, the modern-day, schedule-driven extracurricular calendar can actually produce a learning disadvantage for kids.
Unstructured play is cited as one of the best ways to spark curiosity without external pressures or rules. Unstructured play isn’t just letting your child run free at the nearest play structure or park. It’s also letting them be bored, which can be a rarity in today’s stimulant-rich world. Without diversions served up to them, children will need to find their own ways to amuse themselves.
In a kid’s universe, there are few chances to truly be in charge. That’s why making space for unstructured play and screen-free leisure time is essential to support your child’s learning journey. On the outside, unstructured play may feel more like stepping back than leaning in. However, without rules or parental influence, kids get to practice their problem-solving and social skills.
Listen in on a group of five-year-olds on the playground, and you’re likely to overhear sophisticated rules of play. With open space and opportunity to interact, kids sample everything they’ve learned in real-world settings. Over time, they’ll round out their formal instruction with both soft skills and problem-solving abilities that boost classroom performance.
3. Connect Classroom Instruction to the Real Word
As a kid, it can be hard to understand why what you’re learning in school matters. Instead of leaving it to your child to make the connections, practice applied learning outside of story problems.
Review your kid’s coursework regularly, sparking discussions about what’s going on in the classroom. Check in with their teachers and tutors to get a read on where they’re thriving and where additional support could be useful. Then consider how you can facilitate real-world experiences that will let them put their formal education to use.
Empower your child to take on the family grocery needs for a week. Discuss the budget, menus, and ingredients needed to create a plan. Then make the trip to the store, using product selection as a chance to discuss details like price and size. Adjust this exercise for any age, with younger kids covering colors and word recognition and older students applying math skills. Afterward, discuss the trip with the whole family, providing a second opportunity to reinforce what they’ve learned.
Over time, such exercises will build your child’s confidence in their problem-solving abilities. Plus, opportunities to exercise patience, make thoughtful decisions quickly, and interact with others will boost empathy. The more you empower your child to apply their knowledge in the real world, the more engaged they’ll be in the classroom.
No one expects caregivers to be the experts in everything or to serve as their child’s formal teacher. However, children tend to perform at their best when their family members show an active interest in their lives, school included.
One achievable way to do this is to take an active role in your child’s learning journey. Make it fun, no matter your kid’s age, and award stickers, provide feedback, and coach your child’s educational progress. Connect over new topics, breaking down concepts that are surprising or confusing.
Focus most on listening, paying attention to what subjects cause your child’s imagination to run wild. You’ll instill confidence in your child, empowering them to learn, even in the face of difficulty. Throughout their learning journey, they’ll be able to push through tough problems thanks to the foundation you’ve built at home.