Parents and guardians are widely acknowledged as the primary educators in a child’s early years, and the significance of their role cannot be overstated. Cultivating a child’s independence and self-assurance begins with fostering a sense of belonging and security within the family unit. This foundation provides children with the confidence to explore, learn and grow, knowing they have a supportive home base to rely on, an education expert says.
“Research consistently underscores the pivotal role that parental involvement plays in shaping a child’s educational trajectory. When parents actively engage in their child’s schooling, the impact is profound: improved academic performance, enhanced social and emotional development, and a stronger foundation for lifelong learning,” says Kassandra Strydom, academic adviser: Foundation Phase at ADvTECH, Africa’s leading private education provider.
Assisting young children in adjusting to and navigating their educational journey begins in the formative years, yet Grade 1 emerges as a pivotal transitional period, she notes.
“During this stage, children often benefit from additional support and reassurance as they embark on new academic endeavours. By nurturing and guiding your child through this critical phase, stress levels can be minimised, while simultaneously fostering the development of a growth mindset and nurturing a child’s self-esteem, instilling in them the belief in their own capabilities.”
Crucial to remember is that while most parents want their children to perform well, the parent-child relationship is paramount, and that it is more important to help children develop a love of learning and a growth mindset, than to apply too much pressure focused on marks only.
“As your child settles into Grade 1, they are embarking on a journey of growth, curiosity and newfound independence,” says Strydom. “As parents, there are a number of practical ways in which we can support and nurture their intellectual and personal development at this early stage.”
She says parents can foster a love for learning and strengthen the parent-child bond around a shared joy of discovery by reading together, spending time together talking over school matters and what was learnt that day, and encouraging independence.
“Around the age of 7, children are like sponges, soaking up knowledge. Learning to read is a pivotal developmental milestone for children, shaping their future academic success and overall life trajectory. As parents, we play a crucial role in fostering a love of reading in our little ones.
“So be sure to create a home environment where books are readily available. Visit libraries or explore bookstores, and let your child choose titles that pique their interest. Having a variety of books accessible encourages exploration and curiosity.”
It’s also important to start developing healthy routines from early on, Strydom says.
“Even though there won’t be much homework in the earlier grades, it’s important to start developing routines, especially on school days. This may include talking over what was done in school that day, what tomorrow may look like, what needs to be packed, and so forth.
“For instance, if there is a school project scheduled for a week or two in the future, spend a little time on it every day. This will help establish a mindset associated with gradual and compounding gains, rather than one characterised by procrastination, which can become a burdensome habit that’s hard to break in later years.”
“One aspect often overlooked in the early years of schooling is the importance of laying a robust foundation in mathematics. Mathematics is a concept-based subject, and its mastery requires more than just memorising formulas and algorithms. It demands a deep understanding of fundamental principles and the ability to apply them in various contexts,” explains Strydom.
“Therefore, it’s crucial for parents and teachers to ensure children grasp these foundational concepts solidly from the outset. Rather than rushing through the curriculum, allowing students to grapple with mathematical concepts fosters problem-solving skills and resilience. When children encounter challenges, they learn to persevere, think critically and devise strategies to overcome obstacles.”
She says children should be encouraged to engage in hands-on, practical activities that reinforce mathematical concepts, which can significantly enhance their understanding.
“Whether it’s through measuring ingredients while baking, sorting and categorising objects or solving real-life problems, these experiences provide tangible connections to abstract mathematical concepts.
“Moreover, fostering a growth mindset toward mathematics is essential. Instead of viewing mistakes as failures, children should be encouraged to see them as opportunities for learning and growth. By emphasising effort, perseverance and the process of learning rather than solely focusing on outcomes, parents can instil confidence and resilience in their children’s mathematical abilities.”
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