Jo Hardy has spent the past 40 years teaching and tutoring primary level children. Here, she offers her top 10 tips to make the most from your child’s education.
Make sure your attention is focused on your child for a certain amount of time every day. For that period put your phone and screens aside and give your attention fully to your child. Meal-time is a good place for conversation. Listen, and discuss ideas with them.
2. Feed their body before feeding their mind
Good food will help a child think better and become more receptive to learning. Make sure they have something nutritional to eat before sitting down to work.
3. Encourage creativity
The value of creative play and encouraging a child to use their imagination through art, music and movement cannot be overstated. Sometimes children need to discover and create for themselves rather than having facts thrown at them.
4. Use positive language
Encourage your child – don’t punish them for the sake of it. Use positive language – don’t put your child down if they can’t do something, remember most of them will be able to do it at a different stage. If a child feels put down they will not want to learn.
5. Read to them
It is amazing how many children I talk to whose parents don’t read to them. Being read to is a crucial aspect of brain development. Children who are read to at an early age go on to achieve better academically.
6. Repeat everything
Keep repeating everything that you teach your child – go back over things and build on them. Talking is really important, and a good way to build understanding is to get them to do oral stories. For example with little ones, say “I’ll start a story… Once upon a time there was a little fox…” Then get them to tell you what the fox was called, what it looked like, and so on. With older ones, get them to tell you a story; as you go along encourage them to describe things, using similes and metaphors and discussing their use of grammar. You can do it in the car, or while walking to school. It will stimulate their imagination, which is very important.
Teach your child their times-tables and make sure they practise them every day, forwards and backwards. Find a time in the day, however long or short it is, and stick to it so that your child expects it and their mind is programmed to do it. This is very good for developing certain aspects of the brain.
8. Discipline is freedom
If you say something is going to happen, it must happen. Make a decision for a good reason and stick to it. One of first things I was taught in teaching was that discipline is freedom: you give children realistic, fair boundaries and they feel secure within them. You give them a warning if they misbehave, and if they do it again you follow through otherwise the child is in control and that is one of most frightening things for a young person, to feel they have no boundaries.
9. Allow them to develop at their own pace
Give your child time and make sure they do things well. Check the work they have done and show an interest; the more interest you show, the more of an interest your child will develop. Check that they have done their work to their best ability and if they have, don’t keep pushing them. Always give a child praise when they have worked hard and tell them how well they’re doing. Don’t push your child to do things they’re not capable of doing at any stage, but encourage them to do their best and praise them when they have.
10. Send them to bed
All junior school children should be in bed by 8.30pm, lights off by 9pm. It’s a good idea to get them to bed earlier than that and let them read a book for a short while before they fall asleep. They will be more receptive to learning, and generally happier if they’re not exhausted.