Home Alone – It’s not who you are but what you do that makes the difference to your child’s home learning

Home Learning became a big issue during our first lockdown. The importance of connecting with children and families, the offer of teaching support and the nurturing of friendships was a surprisingly powerful wake up call for so many. This lockdown is a bit different because nurseries are still available for anyone who wants to use them. However, there were some lessons that we learnt during lockdown that we need to consider and develop further.

Firstly, exploring what parents understood by home learning. We did some research at LEYF because I was a bit perturbed by the idea that home learning was being described and delivered by so many organisations as if parents were a homogenous group. This does not align with the views of those working in Early Years because we pride ourselves on the way we try to build harmonious relationships with each parent. Secondly, understanding what teaching small children looks like.

The power of home learning has been supported by lots of national and international research, particularly the findings from the Effective Preschool Primary Education (EPPE) (2001) which found home learning is only moderately associated with parents’ occupational and educational level – it’s more about what parents DO than who parents are.

There are three features of home learning which help to support children’s educational, health and wellbeing development. These are:

  • children’s participation in learning activities
  • the quality of parent–child interactions
  • the availability of learning materials

Despite this research, many parents remain unaware of the important role they can play in their children’s education – especially those with low literacy who lack confidence about how to help their children. We cannot ignore the barriers some families face such as separation, busy working lives, lack of skills and communication difficulties that makes home learning more challenging.

To better understand how to spread the word about how and why home learning is a good idea (and to avoid the ‘one size fits all’ approach), I was interested in what parents thought about the home learning concept. We conducted a small study using interviews and questionnaires which resulted in four emerging parent personas:

Inquisitive (~40%): The parent who understands home learning as activities that open more shared conversations about their child’s learning.

I’d love to get more frequent updates about the activities my child is doing at nursery and also give updates on what we are doing at home.”

Social (~20%):   The parent who understands home learning as the provision of expert advice and a route to creating social interaction for the child at home and in the community with other parents.

 “Speaking to other parents to understand what is working for them would be very helpful.”

Enthusiast (~20%): The parents who understands home learning as teaching using a wide range of activities that are provided by the nursery.

“I just need a timetable and a menu plan which tells me what to do and when and I can execute that.”

Apprehensive (~20%): The parent who isn’t sure about their role in home learning and thinks of it as the expert advice received from nursery teachers to build parental confidence to support their child’s development.

“If someone had suggestions on activities and resources, I could use with my child then I’d be happy to listen to them.”

All the parents across the four groups linked home learning to activities but differed in how they understood their part in designing and delivering the activities. They were all uncertain about the role of play in learning and whether just having fun while doing the domestic chores was a source of learning.  Do you relate to this?

Given the impact of home learning on children’s development, how do we get parents to buy in to this and find their own home learning pathway?

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