A Parent’s Perception of Home Learning
A parent’s perception of home learning will very much depend on what phase of education their child is in. In the Early years’ and foundation stage, play based home learning is inclusive, exciting and fun. It is also, for the most part, easily facilitated and supported by parents. All parents want their child to do well, to thrive and achieve, academically and in life, and it is at this time more than any other during a child’s education, that parents have the confidence and resources to engage with their child’s education. If this enthusiasm is harnessed, and an explicit link between the learning that happens at home and school explained and built upon, foundations are set for parents to engage in their child’s learning and development for the future. Sadly, all too often this opportunity is missed. Either by schools who eschew play-based family centred homework for a more academic focus, or by parents who don’t necessarily understand or see the value of apparently ‘simple’ activities and so don’t prioritise playing actively with their child. Up to the point of starting school or nursery parents have largely been their child’s main and often only educator. Both schools and parents need to recognise how much learning has already taken place prior to this point. This needs to be talked about and celebrated as the family learning unit expands to teachers and school staff. Instead of developing partnerships to support learning, more typically, the teaching baton gets handed quickly and firmly over to the school. Parents very much take the lead from school in terms of teaching and learning. Many parents of primary school age children report positively about the experience of having regular contact with a member of staff who knows their child well, but some parents quickly lose their confidence in their ability to support their child’s learning. Overwhelmed by the language of the curriculum and learning…phonics remains a mystery to many parents! This is the perfect time therefore, to acknowledge and support the role of all parents in their child’s learning and establish the foundations for a parent-school learning partnership that needs to endure throughout the child’s entire schooling journey. But often this doesn’t happen. Instead, we frequently hear teachers’ frustrations saying parents are not supporting their children and then the opposite, of parents clamouring for homework and teachers setting homework just because parents want it. Parents then complaining about homework that is too challenging, too easy, too much, too little and of course the cost and time implications of providing costumes/equipment/ingredients. But listen closely and what you hear is parents asking to be engaged in their child’s learning, and teachers valuing parents input and support. What is missing is the connection, the communication, the knowledge and understanding of how to work effectively together to support learning. Schools are often under the misapprehension that their parental engagement is good because they have an active PTA, good attendance at events and plenty of parent volunteers for activities. And of course, this kind of support is fantastic for schools. But at best it is parental involvement in school life, and not an opportunity that all families can access. It is vital that every parent has the opportunity, knowledge, understanding and skills to support their child’s learning. As children move through school and become more independent, the often-daily contact with teachers appropriately disappears, but this is also the time when there is an increased lack of understanding and parental confidence about how to support their children. Homework gets ‘harder’ and as anxiety about the pressure to perform and meet academic targets increases. This can lead to increased stress at home spiralling quickly into a what we hear frequently described as a daily ‘battle’ around homework souring all other essential opportunities for conversation and learning. Add to this that the language used by teachers becomes increasingly riddled with educational jargon, unexplained learning acronyms and ‘new teaching methods’ and the gap becomes ever wider still. Overwhelmingly when parents are asked what they want for their children it is for them to be happy, to do their best and have friends and we know that teachers value the importance of this too. Opening two-way channels of communication and building effective learning partnerships, committing to their maintenance will go a long way to ensuring all children are supported both at home and in school to meet their full potential. Join the Parental Engagement Network for resources and support to better engage your parents in their child’s learning.