Written by: Shani Fowler
“Ooh little Johnny is sooo advanced for his age.” It is probably every parent’s mantr! Most parents like to think their child is above and beyond the expectations of their age range, but in reality they are probably about where they should be, but school brings them on in leaps and bounds. How to motivate your children in school can be difficult. Children by their very nature are playful and develop a lot of their learning through play. They are not always keen to move away from the “play” method of learning.
I know that my little boy has noticed a difference from reception class to year one. When I asked him after his first day what he liked about his new class, he said that he liked it better in reception as now they don’t get as much play time and there is no sand pit. I bit my tongue resisting the urge to tell him when he starts work there is no play time at all! To help and encourage children get the best out of education we can do some of the following:-
It is as children get older their attention span increases, so setting realistic and age appropriate targets and goals is important. It’s no good (generally) hoping that your four year old is going to grasp a great understanding of the theory of relativity or muse the merits of Darwin’s theory of evolution. Set realistic expectations for your child and involve them in that process. Helping to set their own targets allows them to know where they are heading. Once they have reached their goal they are likely to feel pride and achievement and be encouraged to their next level.
Listen To What They Have Learned
Although as parents we like to think that we are the wise ones having travelled through the University of Life, but we don’t know everything. Listen to your children to ascertain what they have already learned in school. Not long ago my five year old told me of a process in nature called symbiosis – I had never even heard of it! Often they know something we don’t know, repeat back what they have taught you and let them know learning is a two way process. They will find pleasure in the fact that sometimes they are the ones to impart information.
Make Learning Enjoyable
Children are better at some things than others and how a child learns can be related to how they enjoy a subject. So try making a subject enjoyable so that it holds their attention. Learning can be a bit hard going sometimes so pep it up a bit! Instead of reading from a history book, go to a museum. Or instead of reading about animals go to the wild life park and see them for real. Outings are enjoyable, fun and educational.
Beyond the Classroom
Learning doesn’t begin and end with school hours and term time. Learning is all around them. Get the kids involved in some home economics! Involve them in cooking, it teaches not only recipes and how food is made but encourages a learning of weight, measurements and time. Take children to the shops with you and get them involved in paying for what you are buying, learning them about the different values of coins. They can see that different products attract different values. It shows how far (or not) money actually goes. Children acquiring respect for money is a very important lesson.
Rewarding children is very important. Even if they were a bit off the mark with something, if they put the effort in they should be praised and rewarded. Not all children are good at everything if a child has really tried their best you can honestly ask no more of them.
Whilst we would all like to think we have a budding Einstein the family, forcing children to learn too much too soon can have a detrimental effect to their confidence when they ultimately fail. Essentially we need to be realistic about what children can learn and whilst not overburdening them manage to encourage them to learn and make it as enjoyable as possible, using as many opportunities as we can to get them thinking and learning. And who knows what knowledge we might gain in the process!