Your child’s learning
In the school years, your child’s learning is built on observing, listening, exploring, experimenting and asking questions. Being interested, motivated, engaged and involved in learning becomes more important for school-age children. They also often enjoy the chance to help organise learning activities.
Helping your child learn
Some children learn best by seeing, some by hearing, some by reading, some by doing. When you give your child opportunities to learn in different ways, you can both work out which way he learns best.
You can use this understanding to help your child with other areas of learning. For example, if she learns best by seeing and doing, but needs to write a story for school, she might be able to make a comic strip story to help organise her ideas.
Older children and teenagers still need your support and encouragement for learning, just in different ways. You can support your older child by trying to understand what he’s going through and thinking back to your own learning experiences. Sharing his excitement when he masters something new – and being supportive when he doesn’t – will encourage him to keep trying.
You might think you don’t know much about learning and teaching – and you might have had bad experiences at school yourself. But you’re your child’s first teacher, and your child will keep learning from you over the years.
Learning disabilities are serious and ongoing difficulties with reading, spelling, writing and/or maths. Learning disabilities are sometimes called specific learning disabilities, learning difficulties, specific learning difficulties and dyslexia.
If you think your child might have a learning disability, you can look out for some common signs. These include trouble with reading, spelling, spotting sounds in words, handwriting and remembering lists.
Your next step is talking with your child’s teacher and then possibly asking for a formal assessment of your child. You might like to read more in our learning disabilities FAQs.
Children with learning disabilities might think of themselves as ‘dumb’ or ‘stupid’, which can affect their self-esteem. You can help by explaining that learning disabilities aren’t linked to intelligence – it’s just that parts of your child’s brain have trouble handling information. You could mention that lots of very successful people have learning disabilities.
Having a good relationship with your child’s school is one of the best ways to support her learning and education. It will help her get the most out of her primary and secondary school experience.
Direct, regular contact with your child’s teacher, and visits to the classroom and school, are the best foundation for a strong relationship. This can include casual conversations with teachers and other parents at school, helping in the classroom or with other school activities, going to parent-teacher interviews, doing canteen duty and getting involved with the parents association.
Talking about school
Talking about school with your child shows you’re interested in what’s going on in his life. This boosts his mental health, happiness, wellbeing and achievement. It shows your child that you value school and education, which encourages him to value it too.
But ‘How was school?’ is a big question. To answer, your child has to sum up a whole day, and that’s hard for kids (and even adults!) to do. It’s also a normal part of school-age development for children to want to keep some parts of their day private.
For younger children, simple, specific questions about parts of the day can get them talking. For example, ‘What was fun?’, ‘What did you like best at school today?’ ‘What are you working on in social science at the moment?’
As she develops into the teenage years, your child might be more open to talking about the links between schoolwork and future plans. For example, ‘How’s the webpage you were designing in information technology coming along? Are you still thinking you might want to get into web design after school?’
Starting secondary school
Starting secondary school is one of the biggest transitions in a child’s life. It means the excitement of new friends, subjects, teachers and routines. But it also means a move from the familiar to the unknown, and a whole new way of doing things.
Before your child starts secondary school, you can put some thought into choosing a school that will be right for your child. Once you and your child have decided, taking advantage of any transition and orientation activities will help your child get ready.
During and after your child starts high school, you can help the transition by finding out the name of the teacher responsible for your child’s overall care, attendance and social and academic progress. Your child might need some encouragement to get into new activities or some help to make new friends. This might be as simple as driving your child to after-school sport or band practice or making new friends welcome in your home.
Homework has many benefits – although your child might not think so!
In the early school years, homework can help children learn time management and organisational skills. Later, it has clear academic benefits – research shows a clear link between homework and achievement, particularly in secondary school.
You can help your child get the most out of homework by making time and space before or after school for him to concentrate on his homework, keeping younger siblings away while he works, helping him get organised and being positive about homework tasks.
Ups and downs at school are part of life for many young people. A good relationship with your child’s school and teachers can help you head off problems.
If school problems do come up, it’s important that you quickly recognise and address them. This is because even short-term school problems can have a negative impact on how young people feel about school – and themselves.
Problems at school can show up as poor academic performance, lack of motivation for school, loss of interest in school work, poor relationships with peers or teachers or even truancy and school refusal.
Bullying is a systematic abuse of power. For some young people, it takes the form of repeated teasing and name-calling. For other young people, bullying can end up in social exclusion or verbal or physical assault. It can also happen online – on social networking sites, for example – or via mobile phone.
Adolescent bullying can be hard to spot, so it pays to watch for the signs – especially around the time children start secondary school. Bullying rates increase at this time, but drop rapidly after that.
Some of the signs might be your child not wanting to go to school, starting to do poorly at school, having physical injuries she can’t explain, or coming home with damaged or missing belongings.