A guide to supporting your Reception child’s learning at home
by Noëlle Zrelli on February 17
We have faced a multitude of challenges during this pandemic and the closure of schools has been an emotional whirlwind for many parents, children, carers and teachers worldwide. As schools closed their physical doors to many children’s schooling, it was perhaps parents and carers who felt they were the ones left out in the cold. For many whose lives had already been turned upside down, picking up the reigns as their child’s ‘teacher’ really was the icing on the cake of impossibility.
However, what if I told you, not only that you can do this, but that you are already doing this, and, that you have been doing it for many years. Home learning may sound like a daunting task, but you, as parents and carers, have always been in the role of your child’s teacher, from day one.
Where to start?
Firstly, remember that learning is a journey and not a destination. It is a path for you and your child to walk together. The road might be a bumpy one and you are likely to take wrong turns or discover dead ends at times, and maybe feel slightly lost along the way, but, as long as you keep putting one foot in front of the other, you are moving forward, and importantly, you are succeeding.
Helping and supporting your child’s learning at home is a key part of their educational life and their overall growth and development as an individual. So, let us use the analogy of going on a journey to guide us through how best to support your child’s ‘home learning.’
Know your route
First, you need to know your route. What does it look like and where are you heading? This is less complicated than it sounds – the EYFS curriculum is comprised of seven areas:
- Personal, social and emotional development
- Communication and language
- Physical development
- Understanding the world
- Expressive arts and design
Think of each of these areas as roots growing from a plant. In this case, the plant is your child. Exactly like roots, these areas all work together to feed into the successful growth of your child. The ‘prime areas’ (in bold) are the first roots to grow, they must be strong and sturdy to help your child to stand tall. Without the prime areas your child will not have a firm enough foundation to be able to cultivate the other areas of learning.
Much like roots of a plant, all the areas are intertwined, and this leads to a lot of crossover. This is exactly what we want, as this enables us to cover all seven areas in one single activity rather than seven separate isolated ‘lessons’, which would be both monotonous and time-consuming! The infographic below shows how one simple activity, such as reading a story, can be linked to all the areas of learning.
There’s no need to overthink this. Turning a simple story time into a laborious maths lesson is certainly not what we are looking for here. Children naturally ask questions and you will find, like the ball of a pinball machine, that you will effortlessly bounce across the different learning areas, hitting multiple objectives, as you progress through an activity. Some activities may not lend themselves to all seven areas of learning, and that’s okay too.
The early years staff at your child’s school will also be consulting a range of development resources to support them in following your child’s progress in more detail.
Pack your bag
So, what do you need to create a positive home learning environment?
- A clear routine – try to set a bedtime, time for going outside, drink lots of water, have a time for your home learning focus that works for you and your child.
- A ‘workspace’ – is there a place in your home (or outside in better weather) where you can both go when it’s time to do a little bit of focussed learning?
- Equipment – keep this simple, depending on what you have available: pens, pencils, paper, paints. Try looking up ‘loose parts play’, it is amazing just how many resources you already have, that you might not even know would be useful.
- Play – so much of a young child’s learning happens through play. As well as a short amount of focussed learning time (that may have been suggested by your child’s teacher), make sure you have time to join in with and encourage your child’s play.
- Everyday moments – from sorting the socks to preparing some sandwiches, there is a learning opportunity in so many of the things you do every day.
- Positive encouragement – remember that your child is learning, and it takes time to acquire new skills. Be patient, keep it fun and always be positive. Keep in mind that their first experience of something will likely shape how they see it in the future. So, if you can make maths fun, they will hopefully always believe that maths is fun.
I would recommend keeping a diary or log of your child’s learning. This could be tasks that they did really well with, things they found difficult, or little notes based on the play you did together or an everyday moment you shared – ‘today they made their own breakfast’. These little snippets of information are great to share with your child’s class teacher to help keep them involved and up to date with their learning. Tapestry is a wonderful resource for this, and it helps keep everything neatly organised and in one place.
Remember the essentials
There are four guiding principles in the EYFS.
- That every child is unique.
- That every child can learn to be strong and independent through positive relationships.
- That children learn and develop best in enabling environments.
- That children develop and learn in different ways and at different rates.
Don’t be afraid to venture off the subject. This can often lead to really fun and spontaneous learning. I remember a time when we were drawing fruit and vegetables and one of the children asked if we could eat them afterwards. This led us down a path where we not only drew the fruit, but we also tasted it, described it, printed with it and played with it until we had completely demolished all fruit remnants. It did not stop there, we used the mush to make weird and wonderful potions, which the children used to heal a variety of diseases and ailments, in a totally brilliant, ‘casualty’ style, role-play! Not only did we have so much fun, the room was also full of new vocabulary, excitement, exploration and discovery. It was completely child-led and totally organic.
Pause and take-in the scenery
Your child is at school for around 6 hours a day. That does not mean that they need to spend 6 hours sat at a desk at home. During those 6 hours of school, a large proportion of time is spent doing things other than those that involve sitting! They may be learning through play inside or outside, or completing random, but essential, tasks such as: going to the toilet, going back to wash hands properly, water breaks, play time, going to the toilet again… the list goes on.
When you are at home, focus on the quality of the time rather than the length. Young children have very short attention spans and you will need to keep activities brief or they will quickly lose interest. Active learning is a great means of maintaining their engagement, so try to keep it fun, stimulating and practical.
Yours and your child’s wellbeing should be at the forefront of everything you do, and time taken to feel at peace, is not time wasted. It is also important to note that teachers may have up to 30 children in a class, and we need time to check in with each child individually. Teachers therefore require much more time during the day, than parents and carers will at home. You will get tasks completed much more quickly at home, and that is perfectly okay.
Look back at how far you’ve come, not how far you have to go
It can be easy to get caught up in worrying about how much learning you feel your child might be missing out on at this time. Instead try to focus on what they have learnt and always celebrate the small successes along the way.
As long as you are engaging with your child, playing with them, talking to them, reading with them and including them, then they will be learning and progressing.
Learning doesn’t happen in a straight line. Your child will go forwards, sideways, backwards and stand still at different times and in different areas of learning. Sharing what your child is doing at home, and what they are showing you they know, whether via Tapestry or whatever platform your school is using, will help staff to support you with new ideas for what to do another day. It will also inform them so they can be ready with learning for your child when they are able to return to school.
Remember that you are not alone and that every small step you take to support your child at home, will build up into big leaps along their journey of learning and development.