How To Be A Parent Teacher
Across the nation, parents are suddenly faced with the prospect of supporting their children’s education. Waking up and realising it wasn’t all a dream...and wondering if we have enough toilet roll. Let’s face it, we’re all feeling a little bit fragile. Many of you, whilst your children bounce off the walls, will be wondering where to start.
Thankfully, whether you are a qualified teacher or not, we all guide our children’s learning in some way. With every question a child asks (and we know there are many), we try to give an honest answer. Even if that answer is, ‘I’m not sure’. It may seem like a daunting task, but don’t worry. Your children will be happy just to spend time with you (or around you, if you are working from home!) So, take a deep breath, and let’s go on this learning journey together.
To help you on your way, we have compiled a few handy tips to make life that little bit easier:
First and foremost, learning should be fun! It’s easy to get caught up with the pressures of wanting your children to keep up with their school work, and although those things are important, having fun is equally as important. Children learn best when they are interested and engaged.
Practical tip: A great way to keep your children engaged is to involve them in the planning process. What do they want to learn about? What are they interested in? You could start with a topic and build a mind map of ideas and questions of what you already know and what you would like to find out.
There are so many learning opportunities at home and outdoors. Here are some simple and practical ideas to make the most of your space:
- Go on a scavenger hunt around the house.
This can be applied to so many different objectives. Maybe your objective is to identify 3D shapes. Ask the children to search around the house for different 3D shapes, then ask them to sort them according to their properties.
- Go outdoors and collect leaves, sticks, whatever they can find!
Children could make a collage, do printing, sketch or draw the items they found - the possibilities are endless!
- Teach them life skills
Bake a cake together, cook a meal or teach them how to sew on a button. All of these skills are a valuable learning opportunity and will give children the tools to look after themselves in the future.
Remember to be kind to yourself. Anything you can do with your children to support them will be great, but there are times when your children will need to learn independently in a developmentally age-appropriate way, and even have the chance to be bored! Some say, with boredom comes creativity!
We, as humans, are creatures of habit. Just like us, children need a routine or structure to their day. Getting your children involved in organising their time gives children ownership over their learning and allows them to understand what is expected of them.
Practical tip: There will be many routines or timetables that people have shared that you might like to follow. Just remember to adapt yours to suit your children and their needs.
Things you could do:
- Allow children to work in small bursts - this is also age-specific. The younger your child is, the less time they will be able to concentrate. Aim for an hour at a time for children in Key Stage 2 (Year 3-6) and shorter bursts for children in Early Years and Key Stage 1 (Reception - Year 2).
- Schedule regular breaks.
- The best learning happens in the morning - start the day with English and Maths and save topic work such as Art for the afternoon.
- Get children moving! Make sure to put time aside for children to move, exercise and get outdoors (making sure to follow guidance on where children can go!). There are plenty of ways children can exercise inside the home. Check out Joe Wicks aka The Body Coach who has already taken the nation by storm with his live PE lessons!
There are so many brilliant resources at your fingertips via the internet. Be sure to make the most of all our freebies, lesson plans and worksheets!
A typical lesson structure might look a bit like this:
Starter - a short activity to engage children and ‘warm up’ before diving into the main input.
Input - share the aim of the lesson (it doesn’t need to be formal, just to let children know what you are planning to learn) then talk through the teaching. For example, if you were teaching how to identify mammals, you might talk through what a mammal is and look at some examples. This would be the time to ask some open questions and allow children to ask questions to improve their understanding.
You may also spend a short amount of time ‘modelling’, for example, if the learning objective is to write a diary, you could write a diary together to show children what is expected in their writing.
Activity - this is the part of the lesson where children apply what they have learnt through an independent task, related to the lesson objectives and input. From this, you are able to see how much they have understood and address any misconceptions.
Plenary - when children have finished their task, this is a good time to re-group, share and see how the children feel about the learning. You could use a home learning tracker to summarise the day's learning. Open questions like ‘what have you learnt?’ and ‘what do you think you can improve on?’ will encourage children to reflect on their learning and consider what they might need to do next time.
Practical tip: keep a record of what you have taught. This way you can look back at what you have covered and think about what you can do next. It’s OK to cover something more than once, especially tricky concepts such as telling the time, money and grammar. You may want to leave some time between teaching a new concept and revisiting - this will allow you to assess how much your child has remembered and whether they fully understood.
Don’t worry too much if your home-learning lessons don’t quite follow this structure. Follow your child’s lead and do whatever works for you! Why not check out some of our free lesson plans to get you started?
Something all teachers struggle with is talking too much! It might sound daft, but actually we want to do as little ‘teacher talk’ as possible and allow children to lead their own learning. Of course, there are times when children need direction and explanation - especially when teaching a new concept - but it is also important to give children time to digest new information and explain their understanding.
One way to do this is by using a mix of open and closed questions.
An open-ended question is one that cannot be answered with a simple ‘yes’ or ‘no’ and usually begins with what, why or how. These encourage children to explain their thinking. For example:
‘How do you know…’
‘Why do you think…’
‘What would happen if…’
‘Tell me about…’
‘How did you…’
A closed question can be answered with ‘yes’ or ‘no’. For example:
‘Do you understand?’
‘Have you finished?’
Equally, it is just as important to allow children to ask you questions. You may know some of the answers, but there might be times when you don’t. Use this as a learning opportunity for both of you! Find out the answer together!
It’s OK to be confused, to not know the answer or to make a mistake. Showing children that everyone makes mistakes, even adults, is an important lesson. Teachers even make mistakes on purpose! We understand the challenges faced when children are taught in a different way now to how we were years ago. So have patience and confidence… you’ve got this!
Top Tip: Lessons don’t always go to plan! Don’t be afraid to divert from what you had originally intended. Let your children set the pace. It’s OK to revisit something that they didn’t quite grasp the first time round.
We all know the struggles of trying to get children to do their homework, so having to make sure they keep up with school work at home will be a challenge! One way to encourage children is through a reward system. Involve your children in deciding what the best reward system will be, what rewards they will get and for what learning/behaviour they show.
Some children may not need a reward system, but for those who might benefit from a little nudge in the right direction, here are some helpful suggestions:
- Marbles in a jar
Marbles in a jar is a reward system many teachers have used in their classrooms. First, decide together what learning/behaviour deserves a marble. Then, each time they earn a marble, it goes in the jar! Simple!
You might like to set an amount of marbles that equates to a reward. For example, four marbles in the jar earns children ten minutes of iPad time (we all know the power of the iPad!). Don’t worry if you don’t have marbles lying around or a spare jar; this can be applied to whatever you have in the house.
- Sticker Chart
Similar system to the marbles in a jar but with a sticker chart! Super Stickers do some brilliant affordable sticker charts.
- Jigsaw Puzzle
Why not encourage children to earn pieces of a jigsaw? These reward jigsaws, when completed, reveal fun and topical pictures! They can be used to reinforce good learning or behaviour by giving children a piece every time you want to reward them.
Pinterest has some great ideas for reward systems. Check them out here!
Top Tip: reward systems where children need to wait a long time to see the fruits of their labour are not always successful. It is best to devise a system where children get their reward, such as play time, straight after the learning they have done. Make a list of things your children enjoy and decide together under what circumstances they get their reward.
No one is expecting you to suddenly become the best teacher in the world. Enjoy this time and get creative! Learning is a journey - a marathon, not a sprint. Some days will be successful, and some might end up with you on the sofa... with a glass of wine. Both are OK!
In the words of The BFG,
“I cannot be right all the time. Quite often I is left instead of right.”
Roald Dahl, The BFG