Many parents have been pulling their hair out since they have, without choice or preparation, found themselves in the role of teacher to their children. This is not ideal even for parents who are teachers by trade. I do remember when my own children needed help with their homework, our peaceful night turned into a nightmare. Note that I am a teacher. It would have been much worse if I were not.
So how do we make life easier for the not-by-choice-home-schooler parents?
Before we start, here are 5 facts to know:
- You do not need to focus on all subjects; you need to focus on the two core subjects; Maths and English
- The Maths curriculum can be taught in 2 hours per week
- The English curriculum can be taught in 2 hours per week
- In each core subject there are a few main concepts that, if they are understood, everything else follows
- In each core subject there are a few strategies and skills that if they are mastered, everything else follows
Mathematics most vital concepts to learn (note that I am using the word learn and not the word teach- parents need to unlearn a few things and try to re-learn them before their child does)
Most important skill – Problem-solving
- Ho to understand a word problem – translate from words into maths
- How to plan it – a very important step
- How to solve it – execute the plan
- What to learn from it
Essential concepts in Maths
- Place value (for high school or senior primary school, place value of decimals)
- Number bonds (numbers that add up to 10- even for junior high school)
- Multiplication and division: explain the meaning of the operations not just the times tables
Important concepts (in order of importance)
- Measurement- the meaning of perimeter
- Measurement – the meaning of area
- Space 2D shapes – basic shapes
- Space- 3D objects
- Data – how to interpret and analyse data (there are different graphs to represent data, just choose one or two)
- Chance- explain the concepts of events happening. Games with dice are great for this.
English most vital components to learn
- Reading comprehension – there are a few levels from finding facts to inferential type of questions
- Vocabulary – build up their vocabulary one word per day. Use better words (more academic words) when you speak to them even outside the allocated learning time
- Grammar – Part of speech (nouns, verbs, adjective, adverbs…etc)
- Punctuation – what to use when (the power of editing your work)
- Writing – this is a significant component, but it does not work solo. Writing is putting together all the above skills in a creative and structured way.
- When it comes to writing, parents and teachers need to familiarise themselves with the most common genres (Narrative, persuasive, information report…etc) including the structure for each one and the marking criteria. In other words, what to look for in a good piece of writing.
I’ll give you a few seconds to go back and read the above two paragraphs and reflect on them.
Now we know these facts, let us see how we can do it.
As per Fact 2 and 3, allocate 30 minutes a day (preferably in the morning) for Maths and 30 minutes for English. To make the best of it, these two 30-minute sessions need to be proceeded by 10 a minute mindfulness session to help with building full awareness and connection. Address one concept for 4 consecutive sessions (over 4 consecutive days). This will allow you to allocate 2 hours per week for Maths and 2 hours per week for English. The fifth day, you reflect on the whole week of learning.
Young children love using what they just learned. Utilize it. When they learn, let’s say measurement, use what you learned in the backyard, on your walks, or in making a meal. Number bonds can be your 2 minutes warm-up before the session or make it a song. Writing can become a project of co-authoring a book with your child.
As I am a “why person” I want to share with you why it works.
So why does it work?
This is an evidence-based approach. I have studied Cognitive Load Theory in my PhD into Education. The theory emphasises structure and efficiency. We have been using the approach for 9 years now at Global Education Academy and it has been delivering great results. According to Cognitive Load Theory, for any learning material to be effective, the design of these materials must keep the learners’ cognitive load at a minimum during the learning process. This will ensure that their working memory is not overloaded, hence building schemas is facilitated. In addition, connecting maths and English to real-world experience reduces cognitive load as it links these concepts to long-term memory bypassing the limitations of working memory. As you might know, long term memory is unlimited in capacity and duration, so make the most out of it. When you connect mathematical concepts such as fractions to fair sharing instead of geometrical shapes, that mean nothing to young children, you are enabling learning with efficiency; in other words, using less space in working memory and consequently enhancing performance. This is what I call efficiency.
Most importantly, when your child masters the four steps of problem-solving (UPSL™- understand, plan, solve and learn) you can rest assured that your child will be an independent thinker and a problem solver. It is a much-needed life-long skill.
Dr Majeda Completed a PhD at UNSW In Mathematics Education and Cognitive Load Theory. She put the theory into practice and established Global Education Academy in 2011. The business grew from a handful of students to near 300 this year in two locations in Sydney. Dr Majeda and the Academy have received many awards, the latest being the 2020 Telstra Business Women’s Award in the Small Business category NSW.
Dr Majeda is also a keynote speaker, a domestic violence advocate and believes in making a difference to children’s lives one child at a time.