Help your kids master subjects you find challenging - A guest blog
Here at PlanBee we know how daunting it can be to teach a subject you don't feel confident in. Our own past experiences of a subject combined with juggling home learning during a pandemic can give our confidence a big knock. This guest blog is written by Julia, who shares her tips for supporting children when learning at home.
The day my eldest daughter started school I was the happiest parent in the world. I was so proud of her in her pigtails and her new dress, ready to take on the world of academia.
My younger daughter followed suit a couple of years later, and we lived very happily in our education-filled world.
Until the pandemic came knocking, and I found myself homeschooling two bright, curious young girls who were used to having incredible teachers at their beck and call. Now they were stuck with me, their hyper-creative mother who was terrible at maths, couldn’t memorise birthdates let alone important historical ones, and who was above all else terrified she was going to do something wrong.
(May I just take this moment to kindly ask you to say thank you to your kids’ teachers when you next get the chance? They are undervalued and underappreciated heroes who fill our children's heads with pure magic. They deserve way more credit than we could ever give them.)
As we slowly started getting used to homeschooling, I also started overcoming some of my fears and shaking off that mom-guilt mantle we are all so very familiar with.
Here is what I’ve learned about helping your kids master subjects you find challenging (especially maths).
Don’t go into it with an “I can’t do this” attitude
This, I feel, was my first mistake. I kept focusing on the fact that I was bad at maths, and letting this fact show.
My husband is brilliant with numbers. Nothing odd there, given the fact that he’s an engineer. However, his job was always the more taxing between the two, especially during the pandemic, so I took on spending more time with the kids, while he focused on work.
Knowing I had an expert to run to, if I really needed to, made it a bit less daunting, but I was still racked with guilt, and my attitude was lacking.
If you are facing the same issue, try not to let yours get the better of you and the situation. You may not be brilliant at a certain subject, you may not enjoy it either, but spending time with your kids helping them become smarter humans is always a worthwhile pastime.
And you can make it work. If I could, you can too.
Don't be afraid to admit you don’t have the answer
This is another belief I find pesters a lot of parents, myself included - we are incredibly afraid to admit we don’t know something.
However, instead of trying to emanate some misguided sense of majesty, trying to convince our kids we are infallible, we might want to teach them another valuable lesson - there is nothing more natural than not knowing something, and no one knows everything.
When you come across a subject you are not familiar with, or you are asked a question by the kids you wouldn’t know where to start answering, smile, say you don’t know, and go about finding the answer. The internet is there to help, luckily, and so are the kids’ textbooks.
Encourage them to ask questions in class and to question everything they don’t understand. This will not only make them more rounded and inquisitive, it will also help them cope with life’s challenges a bit better, never having to settle for the status quo.
Not to mention they will grasp the fact that not knowing something is not an innate failure, boosting their self-confidence.
Ask them to teach you
When you find yourself trying to help your kids understand a subject, a topic, a problem, sometimes the best course of action is to let them explain it to you.
After all, they are the ones tackling the issue for the first time with fresh minds. They are coming at it with a fresh pair of eyes and a new perspective, they are meant to understand it and internalise it.
I’ve found this method works wonders. I just sit the child in question down, and ask her, completely honestly, to explain what she is working on. "Pretend I am your cousin Rob," (two years younger than my younger, a child so eager to learn and so incredibly intelligent we are certain there is a Nobel Prize at least in his future), I say. "Teach me something."
The girls are luckily incredibly eager to oblige. If they get stuck, I ask them to look the answer up.
Of course, when the subject at hand is maths, we do sometimes have to come at the problem together. Which brings me to my next point.
Use all the help you can get
The first thing I did (technically the second, the first was rushing off to buy two laptops) when I found out schools were definitely closing was email the kids’ teachers and my sister for resources, references and rescue.
I wanted to arm myself with as many possible pastimes, books, textbooks, courses, reading materials, workbooks, arts and crafts assignments and ideas to keep the girls entertained 24/7, for what I then imagined would be years.
Try to find some amazing resources for your kids - in every subject you need to. Here are some of the ones we love using:
- Dreamscape, a great reading game
- Let’s Play School, a neat maths game
- Elemental Sciences, listing over 80 at-home science-based activities
- The British Museum, the kids’ firm favourite, now available online
Contrary to popular belief, you don’t have to be able to come up with 174 interesting ways to teach your kids something. There are certainly parents who can, but most of us are simply not fit for the task. Again, luckily, there is the internet, and a whole wide range of materials you can access.
Use them, and don’t ever think of yourself as less-than just because you need a new reading comprehension workbook for your kids.
Let them suffer for it
Finally, let me leave you with a bit of an unpopular opinion.
Your kids will be just fine if they struggle a little bit. Struggle is good, it means you are working on something, detangling something, getting somewhere. A lot of learning is a bit of a struggle, in school and in life, and the kids are entitled to their fair share.
You don’t have to jump to their rescue every single time. If they are having trouble with their homework, they can ask the teacher. If you are homeschooling of course, that teacher will be you. But if they have another authority figure covering the subject, they don’t have to get their questions answered by you the minute they arise.
If they come to you after having worked on a problem for half a minute, let them stew in it for a bit longer. It will do them a whole lot of good to realise what perseverance can get them, and coming up with solutions and answers on their own will only boost their confidence further.
To sum it all up
I do hope these tips and insights will help you and your kids establish an even better and more efficient study routine. Let me know what you have been doing and how you tackle difficult or boring subjects!
Julia is mother to two girls and two labradors, a writer by day and by night, an avid runner constantly questioning her decisions as a parent and her choice of words. She has finally allowed herself to start writing for a wider audience in 2020 and is trying to figure Wordpress out so she can start her own niche blog.