Tips on supporting your child at home
Hayley works in our digital marketing department and has two children aged 3 and aged 6. Here, she discusses feedback from her latest parent’s evening and what she’s doing to help her child at home before their Year 2 SATs.
If, like me, you’ve been up to your child’s school recently for parent’s evening, then you have probably had one of two experiences. If you were lucky, then you were told your child is doing well, above expected attainment or working at the age-expected level and you are (parent and child) sailing through the school experience pretty smoothly. Phew!
If however, also like me, you had the second type of parent’s evening where your child is below where they should [ideally] be then possibly, like me, this has caused you some degree of concern. We knew our eldest (in Year 2) was finding maths a challenge back in the autumn term, but she’s summer-born. I wasn’t going to panic and as I kept telling myself: she’s only 6! But unfortunately this parents’ evening, we’ve been told she’s still struggling and sadly as the pace of the class moves on to cover all the ground needed before the dreaded SATS later this year, I can see that my daughter is getting left behind and has started to think of maths as something she “can’t do”.
So what to do and how to help her? I have no doubt that there will come a day when she’ll catch up but for now, how can I help her confidence, how can I support her through this trickier year? I really don’t care what she gets in her SATS (as I said, she is 6!) but I do care that she’s happy and approaches her learning positively.
I’m delighted that our infant school has a no homework policy but this does mean, with not much coming home from the school, I’m a bit at sea as to how to help and what it is that would make a difference. When I asked the teacher, she said things like:
Be creative with numbers when you are out and about! (Great! With a kamikaze 3 year-old in tow, it’s usually all about survival when we are out of the house!)
Why not add up door numbers as you walk up to school? (Hmm. I would do but I’m always running up the hill to get to school. Next!)
Teach her the time with a clock in her bedroom (err can I hold this one back a while? It suits me quite well at bedtime that she can’t read the clock and doesn’t realise I’ve moved bedtime half an hour earlier!!)
Plus, what’s more, when I have tried to talk to my daughter about what she does in school, it seems like the very language and methods they are using in class aren’t anything I remember. You see, the maths I was taught [ahem] over 35 years ago it turns out, while still the same, is also completely different. It’s very confusing!
So for all those out there in the same position, here are the handful of things that we have started doing that seem to have helped and our daughter’s confidence is returning:
There is one of these for Maths and English and we’ve got both. We do a page of the maths one with our daughter every night (working from the beginning of the book) and for me it’s the easiest way to understand how they are being taught in the class. It follows the curriculum so there’s no conflict with what they are learning in class and it uses the language they know and that the teachers use which means I can finally help my daughter in a real way. If like me, you need a bit more of a handhold through the curriculum, these are brilliant.
I’ve been resisting the request for pocket money but have now given in and my daughter is now ‘earning’ a small age appropriate allowance each week which we add up in a little book. She earns it by doing chores (eg taking her plate up after meals, making her bed each morning, practicing her maths each night, not killing her younger sister). Each school holiday she can take some of the money out of the jar (but must also save some) to spend on something at the shops (her choice and she has to pay and check her change). It’s really simple but there’s a self-interest which is clearly motivating!
The whole Disney Learning range is pretty excellent in my view, having used a few books now. These aren’t as comprehensive as the year by year practice books but they are great for when you need an activity book. It’s learning with a small ‘l’ if you see what I mean. Plenty of stickers, character-driven activities to complete so immediately less dry and still packed with great curriculum-aligned assistance. One of the big things we’ve found with our daughter is encouraging her to have a go (rather than worrying if she will get it right). Books like this make everything a bit ‘lighter’. See the full range here to see if there’s a brand or character that might work for your child.
Yes sorry, I sound like my daughter’s teacher now but learning doesn’t have to be off a page if it doesn’t work for your child. “See here for loads of brilliant ideas to use Lego to teach simple concepts.”: http://spaceshipsandlaserbeams.com/blog/party-crafts-and-diy/20-ways-to-learn-with-legos
One thing we did with my daughter was build a model castle using a big poster tube and 2 cereal packets (very Blue Peter). We had her measuring and marking out where she was going to cut and, as art is something she really loves, she didn’t realise she was doing maths as we went along. It was only afterwards we pointed out what she did and she realised with pride that she could do it.
Finally, really don’t panic (I’m telling myself as much as anyone). The fact that you are reading this means you care, and studies show that it’s this parental care and interest that is one of the most important factors in a child’s success at school and beyond. Ask them about their day, do a bit of practice if you have time, pick up a book and read it together. It’s enough, I promise!