A person’s ability to learn can lay the foundation of a successful life. But how do we best prepare our children to become learners?
Research looking into the factors that influence educational achievement clearly shows that engaging with our children at home well before they attend formal education is the best way to offer them the gift of learning. After all, we are our children’s first teachers and we create their first learning environment.
A couple of years ago British researchers from the Universities of London, Oxford and Nottingham conducted a research to investigate how parents create supportive learning environments at home and assess the impact on future education achievement. They recruited 2857 children attending preschool and their parents (mostly mothers). They then conducted assessments as well as interviews with the parents. The researchers investigated the frequency that children engaged in 14 activities:
Seven social/routine activities
- playing with friends at home
- playing with friends elsewhere
- visiting relatives or friends
- shopping with parent
- watching TV
- eating meals with the family
- having a regular bedtime
Seven activities providing clear learning opportunities
- frequency read to
- going to the library
- playing with numbers
- painting and drawing
- being taught letters
- being taught numbers, songs/poems/rhymes
The latter category forms the Home Learning Environment.
The researchers found that the quality of the Home Learning Environment has a positive effect on children’s academic performance at primary school. In other words parental engagement at home equips children with the skills to have a successful academic life.
But the question of how parenting may influence educational achievement is certainly not a simple matter. Surprisingly, this research indicates that socioeconomic factors do not play a significant role although they still have a small contribution.
Creating a supportive Home Learning Environment for our children is not rocket science. However, we should not underestimate the effect of poverty as well as some other socioeconomic factors on the quality of parenting. Poverty, parental education, culture, ethnicity, parental age, health, and other factors are all likely to be important.
I believe that the challenge is to educate and support as many parents as possible in creating supportive home learning environments both for their children’s education and wellbeing. This is quite an undertaking and deserves a proper and well rounded discussion. Above all, it requires an understanding of what makes a good/bad parent.