A place to learn

2008-07-02 00:00

The child’s social environment plays an important role in determining how much he or she will benefit from the learning process.

In helping a child to learn, parents should foster a stimulating and enriching environment. Parents who read widely and discuss issues with their children help to generate curiosity about the world. A home with books which a child can explore helps to ignite an interest in studying and learning.

The opportunity to learn curriculum subjects that interest children is another important motivator for learning. A factor that may interfere with the child’s intrinsic motivation to learn is when parents push their children into areas that they dislike which demotivates them and hinders the learning process.

Children learn best when they have the space to work and time to learn. The study space should be a personal space to which the child can retreat to read, write or draw and, in the case of the older child, use the computer for research purposes.

Children need structure at home such as specified periods for homework and a parent or caregiver should be available to give advice. While it is good to provide guidance, parents should also give their children the freedom to find out about those things that interest them.

Children learn best when they have good role models. If parents set the example of learning as a lifelong process, their children will naturally be encouraged to study hard. If they have friends who read widely, they will do likewise.

Establishing good relationships from an early age is part of a social-learning process. Some children are naturally good at creating positive relationships, while others need increased opportunities for interaction. It is important for parents to create conditions that promote positive social interaction.

A child who feels safe, secure and confident will learn better. A good parent-child relationship ensures this. Critical and harsh parents may make studying unrewarding and stressful. When parents exert unrealistic pressure on their children, this can put them off learning completely. On the other hand, a lack of stimulation and encouragement at home will also have a negative effect.

Parents need to understand their growing child’s need for independence. For example, teenage children tend to get better results when given the freedom to decide what and how they want to study, and when they are encouraged to set realistic goals.

Good relationships between spouses ensure that children feel secure and are able to learn without the distractions of worry and anxiety.

Teacher-pupil relationships are also important. Unclear classroom instructions do not promote an interest in learning. A dislike for a particular teacher is unlikely to encourage the child to learn the subject.

A chaotic classroom setting can lead to a reduced capacity to learn well. Bullying is a common problem in school. Research has shown that most bullying is verbal and there are long-term effects from being bullied. It is important for parents to listen to their child, especially if he or she is an introverted personality who tends to be socially isolated. Watch out for signs of bullying such as a torn school uniform and missing personal items.

If parents suspect that their child is being bullied, they should do the following:

• Speak with the child first with a view to discussing solutions before complaining to the teacher.

• Help the child to report the bullying incident rather than to speak out for him or her. This may empower the child to defend herself or himself.

• Alois Nzembe has several years of teaching experience at both primary and high-school levels. He is currently teaching geography at Icesa College.

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