When our children are learning – all of us want to participate in their learning process so that they understand better, learn faster and remember more. But very often when we teach children at home we feel lost and frustrated because we are unable to get the results that we want. We get disappointed because in spite of our efforts, children sometimes learn very slowly and do not retain and reproduce the learnt material as expected.
It is important to understand some things about learning before you begin to help your child with school work or teach your child – whatever the age of your child.
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Things to keep in mind when you teach your child
Teach with the age of the child in mind
If you are teaching a small child (of age less than 7 years) teach the child with examples about her/himself. So you could say – “Do you know? If you color with red and then with green – you will get black.” If you are teaching a child 8 years and above say – “You know – I have figured out how that other child is getting her/his colors so beautifully while using crayons. She/he is using the red crayon and shading it with the green crayon after that.”
Children less than 7 years are self-centered. Whereas children above 7 are trying to figure out the world around them. Anything that goes in the direction of their interest will be most relevant to them.
Make your child want to learn
You would have noticed that if your child really wants to learn something she/he will learn it even without being taught. So your child’s wanting to learn is a very important component if you want to succeed in teaching. But when do children want to learn? Children want to learn when what they are learning is immediately useful to them in some way. A baby who learns how to climb out of the cot and a teenager who learns how to ride a bike – both without being taught – are classic examples. Both the baby and the teenager want freedom and they learn what they do because it will get them freedom. Explain to your toddler how learning math will mean that she/he can go shopping alone. Explain to your teenager how learning compound interest will make her/him rich.
Figure out your child’s preference
Some children are observers and listeners – they want to carefully listen and watch several times before they attempt something. If your child likes to listen and watch – explain things and show her/him things in pictures. Do not however attempt this with a doer. You will be terribly disappointed. If you have a doer – understand that you have a child who wants to learn by making mistakes. Allow her/him to do things first and then help her/him to improve with explanations about where she/he may have gone wrong. Attempting the reverse will only frustrate your child and kill her his motivation and self-esteem. If you have a doer – do not attempt to current her/his language and grammar mistakes as she/he speaks to people. She/he is learning by making mistakes. On the other hand do not push children who are observers to talk. Teach a listener the language by reading to her/him at bedtime. Understand that your child will speak only when she/he has learnt the language fully.
Which is your child’s learning style
Some children will learn better by drawing. Others will learn better by repeating. If you have a talkative child – ask her/him to repeat the material taught verbally – songs chants rhymes and mnemonics will work for such a child. If you have a quiet child – asking her/him to repeat will only result in frustration. If you have a quiet child help her/him to reproduce the learnt material with drawings. Show her/him pictures maps and diagrams.
Assess your child’s energy levels
If you have an energetic child who likes to move around and touch things and explore – do not attempt to nail her/him down with crossword puzzles and word searches to improve vocabulary. Instead take her/him on a walk and point out interesting things to build her/his vocabulary.
Give your child relevant chores
School learning can seem rather abstract to children unless you give them age relevant chores. A toddler who is learning matching can be given the task of finding matching socks in the clothes pile. A teenager who is learning electric circuits can be asked to tighten the screws on an electric plug.
Also read 25 Chores For Your 4 Year Old Toddler : Learning Is Fun
Follow your child’s interests
If your child is interested in football – she/he may be willing to read a book that has many difficult words because her/his interest motivates her/him to find out more. If you align things that your child is learning in the direction of her/his interest – she/he will learn much faster.
Do not expect concentration for long periods of time
Just because you have one hour free – it does not mean that your child will be able to concentrate fully and learn constantly for one full hour. Smaller children may not be able to focus after a few minutes. And even older children may be able to focus on something difficult only for a short while. If you must sit a child down to study for an hour – make sure you are rotating the subjects and shifting to teaching a different subject after a while. Do 10 minutes of reading followed by 20 minutes of math and then go to drawing diagrams.
Always remember to be kind and encouraging
Learning something new or doing something for the first time is not easy. Never ridicule your child for not getting it. Never get angry that your efforts to teach her/him are not working. Be kind. Do not stub out her/his courage and enthusiasm with criticism. Give examples of how you overcame challenges that you faced when you learnt something new.
Also read 20 Ways To Motivate Your Teenager To Study
Don’t be afraid to repeat
The only way to become good at something is to do it enough times. When your child has done something enough times – she/he will be good at it. Never get irritated or disappointed when you have to teach something you have already taught once – a second or third time. Don’t assume that your child is slow because she/he needs a repetition. Repetition builds confidence. Appreciate the fact that she/he is listening every time you teach. And have faith that every repetition is pushing the information deeper into your child’s brain and ensuring that she/he remembers it for longer
Establish a regular routine for studying
It is important for children to revise what has been taught in school once they reach home. When they revise what they have learnt immediately – they can fill gaps in their understanding of concepts and the immediate revision also helps them to remember better for longer. Also – when they have understood a concept taught today – it helps them grasp tomorrow’s lesson better. Which reflects in their performance. Left to themselves children are unlikely to sit down to study unless there is a set routine. Make the habit of sitting with your child to look over the day’s work every day instead of teaching her/him nonstop for hours and days just before the exams.
Also read How To Make Your Child Do Homework
Teach with examples
When a new piece of information enters your child’s brain – it floats around and falls out of the brain unless it is tied to another piece of information or memory or experience which is more deeply rooted. For this reason it is important to teach with examples. A ten line description of coniferous trees can be summarized into – Coniferous trees look like Christmas trees. An example like this quickly ties all the information about coniferous trees to the distinct memory of a Christmas tree and makes it easy to remember.
Don’t get upset when your child forgets
It is extremely disappointing and worrying when you have taught your child something in great detail one day only to discover that she/he has forgotten most of it a day or two later. But don’t worry!! Forgetting is good. Forgetting is extremely important for learning. When a child forgets something – and you teach it again while explaining why she/he forgot it in the first place. Your child will remember it forever. One of the easiest ways to see what you have forgotten and to remember it again is to solve old question papers. It gives your child a safe place to forget and fail and then remember and succeed from there.
Physical exercise is very important for learning
It is a mistake to ask a child to sit and study. Some amount of anxiety is inevitable even if your child is extremely well prepared for the exam. Anxiety can really destroy memory. So it is important to combat anxiety with the happy hormones or endorphins. And the easiest way to secrete endorphins is to run around play and exercise. At the very least – even if your child is extremely short on time – encourage her/him to take a break every hour for a few minutes to walk around and do some chores.
Ensure that your child gets enough Sleep
Sleeping less to study more is absolutely useless. Children need to sleep enough before they begin studying so that they can focus. They also need to sleep enough after studying because it is only when they sleep that short-term memories that are just chemical changes into long-term memories which are actual structural changes in the brain.
5 Things your child needs to succeed in school
To summarize – if you want to teach your child and feel successful after teaching her/him ensure that you have the following in place.
- Intention or the desire to learn
- Attention or the ability to observe and concentrate on details
- Association or the ability to connect new information with old information
- Retention or the ability to remember, which is possible only when you practice
- Recall the ability to remember what has been learnt by understanding what you have forgotten and reading it again.
Good luck !!