As we settle into the summer holidays, it’s a good time to stop and reflect on the school year. What have your children been learning this year? What do they still remember? And most importantly, what really caught their imagination?
It is the most inspiring classroom experiences that plant seeds which may blossom in the form of a hobby, a career path, or even a new outlook on life. However, too frequently due to exam pressure or the expectation to make continuous progress, students’ real passions in education are squashed, and they become disengaged.
Without the opportunity to approach learning in a fresh way, education can become dry and irrelevant. Here are some suggestions for how to spark your children’s interest in education this summer:
Make the learning relevant
Encourage your children to look for a way in which what they are learning relates to them. Good teachers always build this into their lessons, selecting novels with characters that negotiate similar challenges to their students or choosing issues to discuss that affect the daily lives of teenagers in the local area.
You can stimulate this yourself by encouraging your children to always ask ‘How does this affect the world around me?’ and think of the bigger picture. You could also introduce extra material to their studies that bridges the gap between the classroom and your home lives: flag up news stories that relate to your child’s school topics and dig out family heirlooms and records that relate to periods being studied in history.
Looking through letters my great grandfather sent home during World War One really brought the period alive for me, as I truly appreciated the horrors of trench warfare not as an accepted fact but as a personal experience that changed the life of a family member.
Make the learning experience interactive
Children will also have a greater interest in education if it is something that they perceive others are involved in – take an interest in what your child is learning about at school and discuss it with them over the dinner table and in the car. Find out what their opinions are and discuss how your own ideas overlap and contradict theirs.
Of course, children (and particularly teenagers!) often prefer talking to their peers, so encourage your child to work together with their friends, for homework or revision purposes.
If your child is particularly passionate about a subject, find out what extra-curricular opportunities are available and urge them to join to discuss the topic with like-minded individuals. If there isn’t anything available at school or in your local community that gets them fired up, look online. Websites such as www.futurelearn.com run online courses in a huge range of topics ranging from life in the reign of Richard III to maritime archaeology, where students (particularly highly able GCSE pupils or those in the Sixth Form) can pursue their interests and discuss this with others from across the globe. (You should obviously explain to your child how to use social media safely before exploring this avenue!)
Take the learning outside
The best learning experiences occur outside of the classroom. I’m willing to bet some of your best memories from school come from trips. Follow this up at home by taking your children to visit sites relevant to their studies, such as museums, battlefields, historic houses and palaces, archaeological remains and geographical locations (there’s a list of top museums here).
Even a walk up the nearest hill to sit and discuss cloud formations when thinking about weather fronts in geography will help students see the point of their studies, and lock the learning into place.
Taking the learning outside helps students see the ‘big picture’ and understand that what they discuss inside the classroom is real.
Take the learning online
As the technological revolution continues to explode around us, it’s easy to underestimate the enormous benefits it offers to education.
Most obviously it encourages students to follow up their own interests online, with the world’s biggest library at their fingertips. Therefore, it stimulates independence in learning, as students can follow both institutions and individuals they’ve become passionate about, ranging from the National Theatre to CERN.
It also allows learning to be interactive, as they can send messages to their favourite authors, fashion designers and composers, who in turn can respond.
Finally, using new technologies makes education more exciting. Trust your children to use their laptops and iPhones to access apps that revolutionise how we read Shakespeare, blogs that explore the quirkier areas of chemical experiments, and games that explore daily life as a gladiator in Ancient Rome.
Trying out some of these ideas should help your children remain engaged with their education and interested in learning. However, remember that children can never be interested in everything, and nor should we expect them to be! Encourage your children to follow up anything that catches their individual attention, from the engines of racing cars to embalming in Ancient Egypt. By pursuing these passions, children realise the point of education: to make us excited about the world in which we live.
Written by Laura Clash
A MyTutor Latin Tutor