What is Family Home Learning?

Learning is naturally self-directed. It happens at an individual level, and is enabled and supported by our family, friends, neighbours and wider community. Learning experiences are available to everyone, us humans are naturally curious, constantly wondering and asking questions, and there are many opportunities for us to explore and to find out, both on our own and together. And this is what we mean when we talk about family home learning here at PEN.

Learning is often thought of as something that happens as a result of formal teaching; something that we must achieve e.g., to learn the times tables. Yet, before we even begin the first part of our educational journey, we have already learned so much. From the minute we are born, we have been learning, taught by our first educators… our families. And every opportunity and experience we encounter in these first years sets the foundations for much of what and how we will subsequently learn.

When school starts, learning can soon lose its organic playful context and we are suddenly bound by an agenda outside of our control. All too quickly a family’s only acknowledged experience of learning is reduced to resentfully and stressfully completing set homework tasks. Making time for this at the expense of important family time leads, too often, to anxieties and negative feelings that can then become associated with all formal learning – difficult to reverse and stressful for all parties, teachers included!

If we only accept that teaching and learning is something that happens within a set programme of study delivered by teachers to pupils between the hours of 9.00 to 4.00, we are significantly underestimating the role that families and the wider community can have in enhancing the learning experience. By rethinking the way we approach learning, to exploit the natural capacity of families, teachers can begin to build productive and supportive partnerships where information flows back and forth, rather than the one way street we are used to.

So how does that happen? The world around us is an exciting place, with infinite opportunities for teaching and learning. Families facilitate learning through these organic opportunities every day, almost without being aware of it. For instance, watching or listening to a news item together, talking about it, allowing opinion, asking questions, checking facts and looking up information are powerful tools for learning. Particularly when involving the whole family who all have different experiences and who may have lived through different times. There doesn’t have to be a consensus, nor do all the facts have to be known or understood. What is important here is the awareness of the existence of knowledge, the thirst to know more and the gathering of tools to find out.

Some of our fondest memories are often of learning how to do something with a family member. Whether it’s tying shoelaces, kicking a football, planting vegetables or making a favourite family dish, research states that a collaborative style of learning between children and their families can help develop their knowledge as well as linguistic and social skills. Children themselves view collaboration as a valuable learning strategy, particularly when appropriately structured and organised. The experience of doing this together is not just the learning of a task, but also the learning to learn. By connecting the accomplishment to a happy moment in time, learning becomes a positive experience.

This blog post is the second in a series addressing the recent legal requirement to provide remote learning to any student who cannot attend school due to COVID-19, and also to promote a wider discussion on parental engagement in learning.

Find out more, and access our unique, curriculum based Family Home Learning Sheets by becoming a PEN member. Members enjoy many other benefits including: a wide range of resources covering Early Years up to secondary schools, a network of similar schools, opportunities to pilot new resources as well as priority when booking PEN training or applying for funded projects. Find out more at penetwork.co.uk or join the conversation with us on Twitter, facebook and Instagram @PENetworkUK.