How To Create An Effective Home Learning Environment For Your Child
One of the important elements of a good home learning environment is parent–child interactions. Read on to know how you can create opportunities for your child to learn at home.
By Arun Sharma
Acharyat padam adatte (From the teacher is learned a quarter)
Padam sisyah svamedhaya (A quarter from the student’s own intelligence)
Padam sabrahmacaribyah (A quarter from fellow students)
Padam kalakramena ca (A quarter with the passage of time)
The above-mentioned commentary by Haradatta (in Apastamba Dharmasutra — 1.7.29) has withstood the test of time.
More and more research studies are now acknowledging the fact that learning is not limited to gaining knowledge in school from a teacher. In fact, home learning environment, of which parent–child interactions is an important element, play a crucial role in helping increase a child’s fund of knowledge.
And, as I tell you all this, my mind goes back to that rainy day when, as a 6-year-old, I learnt the first lesson of science from my mother. Let me share with you what happened that day.
After lunch, sitting by the window, I got busy making paper boats. After making a few, I requested my mom to bring a pan of water as I wanted to see my boats to sail through the ‘ocean’.
As I placed the first boat on water, my mom sat on the floor beside the pan and dropped her hair clip into it. The clip sank to the bottom. I was thrilled.
Looking at my mom, I said, “Your clip sank but my boat is floating.”
“But, beta do you know why your boat floats while my clip sank?” asked my mom.
“Because I make the best boats mom,” I said with a proud expression.
“Of course you do, but let me tell you the real reason,” she said.
And, then my mom went on to explain buoyancy force and narrate the story behind Archimedes principle. This event remains etched in my memory and is one of my best learning experiences.
Let’s make this lockdown our rainy dayLike a rainy day, the lockdown has forced our children to stay at home, away from the playground and school. While some schools are taking online classes, it is no substitute for hands-on learning.
As parents, we can step in and help our primary schoolers learn in various ways such as through conversations, DIY activities, household chores and arts.
What your child learns through conversations
- Active listening skills: Children get distracted quite easily. So, it is important to teach them active listening skills. By modeling active listening through maintaining eye contact, not interrupting, and asking questions when your child speaks, you can teach her active listening skills. This also reinforces the message that the speaker (your child) is important and worth paying attention to, thereby building her self-esteem.
- Understand emotions: The ability to understand the feelings of others is very important. By talking with your child, you can introduce her to emotions and how to recognise them in others. For example, “What did your mum feel when you asked her to make pancakes after she had already cooked breakfast?” This can be the stepping stone towards teaching your child to empathise.
- New words: Good vocabulary helps children express themselves as well as understand others. Through conversations, you can introduce your child to new words and help expand her vocabulary.
What your child learns through DIY activitiesThe principles of science govern our everyday lives. Understanding the fundamental science concepts helps a child comprehend the world around her. An interesting way to introduce your child to science is through simple DIY activities.
Science concepts you can teach your child through easy DIY activities include:
- Nutrition for plants/flowers: Ask your child to dip a few big white flowers in separate bowls of water to which different food colours have been added. Observe it after a few hours and see what happens to the colour of the flower petals. A fun way to introduce your child to capillary action, transpiration, and the way plants and flowers derive nourishment.
- Fire needs oxygen: Light a candle and ask your child to cover it with a glass tumbler. Ask your child why the candle stopped burning, and explain the role of oxygen in combustion. Another version of this experiment can also explain the concept of air pressure. But for this, you will have to place the lit candle in a basin of water, and then do the experiment.
You can come up with similar DIY activities to teach concepts such as density by dropping spoon of oil on water; time with the help of a water/sand clock; and magnetism with the help of magnets.
What your child learns through household choresUnderstanding the fundamental principles of science is essential, but equally important is to learn certain life skills like organization, responsibility, self-reliance and teamwork. By involving your child in doing daily chores around the house, you can teach her a lot about life as well. Don’t delay thinking that your child(ren) is too young or incapable of handling responsibilities. Draw a list of chores and have a discussion with your child about which ones he would like to take up. Some ideas:
- Arranging the shoe rack and folding laundry: Both these are very simple tasks that a child(ren) can easily do. Doing these would teach your child(ren) how to keep things in a neat and organized manner.
- Tidying up the house: Ask him to tidy up his own room and making his bed every morning after he wakes up. Tidying up his space would teach your child to appreciate cleanliness and keep his surroundings clean.
- Maintaining the garden (if you have one): Connecting with nature can make your child feel responsible for the environment. If your house has a garden, ask your child to take care of it by watering the plants and pulling out the weeds. Not only would this bring your child closer to nature but also help her learn a lot about the plant kingdom.
- Preparing the evening snack: One of the most important life skills to learn is the art of cooking. Initiate your child into cooking by encouraging him prepare the evening snack for himself. He can begin with learning to prepare a sandwich and gradually moving to more complex dishes. Learning to cook teaches a child how to measure, understand and follow directions, and appreciate healthy food and the habit of healthy eating.
Like knowledge gained from academics, life skills learnt doing household chores also help children lead better lives. But, there is no end to learning and children can learn a lot even when they are engaging in art.
What your child learns through art
- Storytelling: Children have a vivid imagination, and most young children do come up with stories of their own. Tell your child a story and then encourage him to come up with one of his own. Or, you can tell a part of a story and challenge him to complete the rest. Storytelling can help your child in several ways like improving logical thinking and language ability, and teaching moral values.
- Drawing and painting: you can encourage him to draw and paint. Suggest something that he can try like drawing a landscape or a butterfly and colouring it. Drawing and painting teach a child to focus, pay attention to details, and control their hand movements, apart from nurturing creativity and imagination.
- Music: Almost every child enjoys listening to music, be it vocal or instrumental. While your child is at home, encourage her to sing, dance or learn how to play a musical instrument like a keyboard. Learning to play well takes time and practice; this helps a child understand that if she doesn’t give up and stick to what she is doing, she will improve.
**It takes a long time for a child to learn draw and paint or play a musical instrument well. However, when your child is doing any of these activities, emphasise on practicing regularly to improve. Do keep in mind the fact that encouraging your child to persist with what he is doing important instead of emphasizing the outcome.
Learning is not limited to reading books, completing assignments, and solving puzzles. Children also learn from everyday experiences of conversing with someone, doing tasks, coming up with a new way of doing something, and finding solutions to problems they may be facing. Let the break from school be an opportunity for your child to explore and learn from the world outside of books.
In a nutshell
- Learning can happen even without books through conversations, DIY activities household chores and art.
- Learning outside the classroom through activities is challenging, interesting and fun.
- When children learn outside the classroom and through activities, they become more independent, learn how to problem-solve and work in different environments.
What you can do right away
- Try to engage your child in conversations, and use age-appropriate words to explain everything to her.
- “I hear and I forget. I see and I remember. I do and I understand.” — Confucius. This dictum still applies to children. So, engage your child in activities to help him better understand how and why things happen.
- Instead of laying down rigid rules for activities, make them fun, for that’s the way children love to learn.
About the author:
Written by Arun Sharma on 29 June 2020.
The author was associated with the healthcare industry before becoming a full-time writer and editor. A doting father to two preteens, he believes in experiential learning for his children. Also, he loves mountain trekking and nature trips.
About the expert:
Reviewed by Meghna Singhal, PhD, on 29 June 2020.
Dr. Singhal is a clinical psychologist and currently heads the Content Solutions Zone at ParentCircle. She has a doctorate degree from NIMHANS (Bangalore) and holds a post-doctorate in parenting from the University of Queensland (Australia).
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