Handy Hints For Helping Children Learn At Home, Pt.2

A teacher’s take on how you can help your child succeed…

Click to read Handy Hints For Helping Children Learn At Home, Pt.1, Tips 1–5.

No. 6. “Know Your Child’s ‘Down time’”
Here, Andrew Fuller isn’t referring to that relaxing ‘down time’ we have when we’re surrounded by candles, having a bath with a glass of vino. He’s talking of the time at which you don’t learn new information as well as you do at other times. “As a rough guide, think of the time they go to sleep, then think of the time they usually wake up, calculate the midpoint of their sleep, add twelve hours and around that time is their “down time”. For example, if your child sleeps from 9.30 pm to 7 am, the midpoint of their sleep is 2.00 am. Adding twelve hours takes us to 2.00 pm”. 2.00 pm therefore, is the time at which that child’s brain is in ‘downtime’, switching off and least likely to be primed for quality learning. This is the perfect time to engage in hands on activities, play, relaxation, crafts, sport and other activities that are less taxing on the ‘academic’ parts of the brain.

No. 7 “Eat a good breakfast”
“If your Mum ever said have fish or eggs for breakfast because it’s brain food, she was right! As long as it’s medically safe to do so, a breakfast that is high in protein (think cheese, milk, bacon, eggs) and lower in carbohydrates (think cereal, orange juice and toast) promotes concentration and learning. Also encourage your child to drink lots of water- the brain runs on it! Students who don’t eat breakfast are not only more likely to gain weight; they will also have to work harder than others to do well at school.” Ew, fish for breakfast. I think parents can exercise common sense here. Obviously, Coco Pops every day for breakfast – although delish! – are not the best choice. Or worse, no breakfast at all. Give your child the right fuel!

No. 7 “Use Music”
“There is a growing evidence to suggest that playing instrumental music softly in the background enhances learning.” Avoid music that’s likely to be distracting, such as pop songs that they’ll want to just sing along to, instead of knuckling in to their homework!

No. 8 “Use aromas”
“Most people have had the experience of smelling a particular aroma and having a series of memories flood back. Partly this is because your olfactory nerve is directly linked to the hippocampus, which is the part of your brain where memories are integrated. The aromas most often associated with improvements in concentration and memory are lemon, basil and rosemary.”

No. 9 “Monitor their use of video and computer games”
“Video games are incredibly popular and give a sense of great mastery, challenge and involvement. Boys particularly use video games in a social way. It is important to realise that the use of video and computer games is not completely passive. Too much playing of these games can be negative. These games can be so compelling they become addictive. While some games require quite intricate problem solving, the skills learned on these games do not appear to readily transfer into other arenas of life. Very few of the games require creative problem solving or an opportunity to be an active participant in determining a story line. Some exposure to computer games is good. Too much, though, can be toxic. Sadly, there is no research that tells us what the right amount of time spent of computer games should be so you’ll need to think about the balance of your child’s life and their range of activities and interests.” Treat TV similarly.

No. 10. “Help them to build the essentials skills for success”
“Three of the skills needed for success at school (and in most areas of life) are concentration, memory and sequencing or getting things in the right order. The games that parents play with their children such as Snap, Uno, Concentration, Battleships, Monopoly, Chess, Jigsaw puzzles all play an incredibly important role in developing these skills of success. Computer versions of these games are not as effective in helping children develop these skills. To really help your child to succeed at school every so often switch off the TV, unplug the computer and pull out a game.”

No. 11. “Limit the amount of part-time work”
“Senior secondary students should not work more than ten hours a week at a part-time job. If they do so, there is clear evidence that their marks will suffer.”

Download the summary at http://www.andrewfuller.com.au/free/AndrewFullersHandyHints.pdf, extracted from Andrew Fuller’s “Help Your Child Succeed At School”.

Also read this post I reblogged, about What NOT To Do If You Want Your Child To Succeed, based on the article The Overprotected Kid.

What other Handy Hints for improving learning at home do you know of? Please share them in the comments section below!

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Handy Hints For Helping Children Learn At Home, Pt.1

A teacher’s take on how you can help your child succeed…

It’s Parenting 101. Limiting TV time, making sure your child gets plenty of sleep and helping them set up a designated learning space. Yes, it’s common sense. But hey, it doesn’t hurt to be reminded.


It goes without saying that a school isn’t the only place learning occurs. You’ve previously heard my thoughts on why I’m not fond of homeworkand that I think kids should get more opportunities to play and just be kids, but alas, parents are always asking me what they can do, to help their child’s learning. It’s actually a question I love to hear as it demonstrates a parent’s understanding that learning is a partnership between home and school; child, family and teacher. Naturally, different children need extra help with different academic areas, but this list – based on Andrew Fuller’s “Help Your Child Succeed At School” – outlines the basics.

  1. Most Learning Doesn’t Happen At School!
    “Children spend only 15% of their time at school. They spend more time asleep (33%) than they do at school. Most of their time (52%) is at home, awake, mucking around, playing, and learning about life and it’s what they do with that time that is important.” Remember that you play a much great role in your child’s education than their teacher.
  2. The Learning Space – Getting Organised
    Work with your child to create a dedicated space where they can do homework, projects and read. As you know from their bedroom, kids have trouble keeping things neat and tidy! They’ll need help with this initially, but you can help them figure out ways of keeping their stationary in order, the workspace clear and clutter free.
  1. The Learning Space – Lighting
    “Natural or indirect lighting such as a desk lamp is best for learning. It is best for your child not to study under fluorescent lighting as it is related to raised cortisol levels in the blood stream (an indicator of anxiety and agitation). Cortisol also suppresses language functions.”
  1. Limit TV/ Computer/ iPad Time, Of course!
    Don’t make them go cold turkey. An hour and a half per day is plenty. That’s not to say they should be doing ‘homework’ for the rest of the time: Arts, crafts, playing outside, listening to and making music, socialising, relaxing, family time, the list goes on. Oh, and keep electronics out of the bedroom and away from their ‘learning space’.
  2. Plenty Of Sleep!
    “A good nights sleep (at least 8 hours) is essential for optimal brain functioning at school. Memory consolidation occurs during sleep especially during dream (or REM) sleep. During the normal 8-9 hours of sleep, five dream (REM) cycles occur. Adolescents getting only 5-6 hours of sleep lose out on the last two REM cycles and thereby reduce the amount of time the brain has to consolidate information.Teenagers need as much sleep as children, partly because their brains are doing so much development. Always remember there is no such thing as a sleep bank. So just because you slept 10 hours one night doesn’t mean you can get away with only sleeping six hours the next night. Students who don’t get enough sleep have to work much harder to do well at school.”

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Download the full summary of Andrew Fuller’s version at http://www.andrewfuller.com.au/free/AndrewFullersHandyHints.pdf.

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Forget Homework, Let Kids Be Kids

A teacher’s take on homework…

Hands up if you loved doing homework when you were a kid… Nobody? Fair enough. Homework stinks, but it is so cemented in our idea of what children do that it seems to be here to stay. Somewhere, many years ago, some absolute liar spread the rumour that getting kids to do uninspiring worksheets on their own time, will improve their learning. Let me present some reasons why homework should be outlawed.

Firstly, kids these days are constantly busy, moving from one organised activity or event to the next and their days are planned to the minute. Take a class of 20 five-year-olds that I surveyed. Every single one of them stated that they partake in some form of ‘organised’ activity outside of school weekly, on a school day (ie. After school, Monday-Friday). 17/20 students participate in an organised sport weekly, outside of school on a school day (eg. basketball, football, swimming). Half of the students said they engaged in more than one organised activity weekly, outside of school on a school day (eg. Some combinations of instrumental music lessons, dance classes, tutoring, sport, art classes). Remember, THESE KIDS ARE FIVE!

Not only do we then deal with the obvious stress and exhaustion for coping at such a young age, with such busy schedules, but we’re forgetting a key point – letting kids be kids. A typical day might go something like 7am wake up, breakfast, brush teeth, get dressed, 8am-4pm school, 4pm home, afternoon tea, 4:30 swimming lesson, 5:30 dinner, 6pm homework, 7pm shower, 7:30 bed. I reiterate… This is a five-year-old’s schedule, so imagine what that of an eight-year-old or 14-year-old might look like.

Kids need time for playing with friends, and just as important is having time to play alone and be creative and use their imaginations. And what about some downtime to perhaps relax and watch some TV or do a drawing? We can’t forget that homework actually puts pressure on parents too, that are trying to juggle assisting their child with their homework (alongside everything else the child is doing), plus worrying about their own lives, jobs, finances, cooking dinner, keeping a tidy home, operating their chauffeur service and so on!

So, how can anything that makes children anxious, takes away the opportunities for them to experience regular ‘kid stuff’, all while giving them a negative experience of learning ever be considered a good thing? Oh, and here’s the kicker – teachers hate homework too because it takes an awful lot of our time away from doing things that actually improve student learning such as planning lessons, giving students feedback on their learning and actually teaching!

When done properly, I will admit that homework can be a valuable experience and create links between home and school whilst reinforcing and extending the child’s learning experiences. Homework can foster lifelong learning and study habits, responsibility for one’s own learning and develop organisation and time management skills.

Homework must be balanced with the range of home obligations, out of school recreational and social activity, cultural and family events and so on. Kids already spend most of their waking hours doing school work and much of the rest of their time is already planned. Homework becomes a chore, the dreaded elephant in the room and leads to stress, exhaustion and most negatively, it makes children hate learning and hate school. Parents always seem to think there is either too much homework or not enough and teachers can never please anyone. So what do we do about it? Don’t ask me. You didn’t expect me of offer solutions did you… I just felt like airing my grievance!

So, what do YOU think of the dreaded H-word?


 –  Teachling <WordPress> <Tumblr>

 More from Teachling:
An Australian teacher’s take on America’s Common Core…
A teacher’s take on positive thoughts and how kids let negative thoughts consume them…
A teacher’s take on independence and helicopter parents…

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