Successful learning at home

How do you help support your children’s learning at home? What should be expected of children while they’re learning? Learn how to support your children’s learning while they’re home.

Girl writing on paper

The unprecedented situations we find ourselves in have many parents unexpectedly taking on a role of a teacher or educator while still trying to balance work and other expectations. Parents are trying to make sure children are still learning when they are at home during a school closure. What should study time at home look like? How do you work while teaching your children? Michigan State University Extension offers the following important tips to support a successful routine for learning at home.

Study time is just one small part of the day

Children need a variety of activities at home just as they experience a variety of activities at school. Study time is just one part of the day, just like physical activity, family time, quiet time and whatever other priorities you have built into your family routine. It is not reasonable, appropriate or realistic to expect children to sit at a desk or table and study for hours.

Set a consistent study time routine

Consistency matters. If possible, have study time at approximately the same time every day and have a consistent study space setup. Your child may end up moving from that space for some learning activities, but starting out at the same time and place sets a routine for learning. Remember, the gift of being home is the ability to be flexible, so embrace unplanned yet valuable experiences.

Reduce distractions

Others in the home, media, snacks, toys or lots of noise may distract your child. While you cannot eliminate all distractions, try to plan your study space and times to reduce distractions as much as possible.

Make sure supplies are readily available and accessible

It is hard for a child to sit down and get to work when they cannot find the crayons, cannot reach the paper or do not know if there is a ruler in the house. Set your child up for success by stocking the study space for most of your child’s needs.

Set goals together

Children need to know what the expectations are. Regardless of your child’s age, it is a good idea to have them help establish goals. They generally know what they are or should be doing, so give them a chance to tell you. You might have to help young children come up with the right words but if you listen, they often have a very good sense of what they can and should accomplish.

Break learning into manageable, age appropriate chunks. Research from Karrie Godwin et. al in 2016 has shown that children’s attention spans start to wane after 10 minutes, so expecting them to sit and do one task for a long period will not enhance learning but may enhance frustration. Consider providing ways for your child to learn using different styles, such as listening, reading, writing, watching video, manipulating objects or actively moving. Also, consider varying the content and remember that younger children learn best through play experiences.

Follow your child’s interests

Children will be more engaged in learning about something they care about, so use their interests and passions to create learning opportunities. Denise Pope of Stanford University suggests project-based learning for children at home. With project-based learning, children direct their own learning and learn deeply about their interests — conducting interviews, researching information, creating videos or creating experiments.

Engage with your child

Finally, the real learning often occurs when parents and children engage, converse and debrief together. According to “Parental Involvement in Child’s Education: Importance, Barriers and Benefits,” children whose parents are involved in their education often have higher achievement and a more positive attitude about schooling. Talking to your child about what they are learning can help build their skills and your relationship with them.

We hope these tips will help study time become less stressful and more enriching. It is less about finishing a worksheet or packet and more about getting children excited about learning in new ways. Remember that some days study time may not go smoothly or may not happen at all, and that is OK. Your child is learning, growing and connecting just by being with you.

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