Starting out on the right foot
Whether your child is just starting nursery, or is already working their way through the education system, enjoying the time they spend in the classroom is fundamental to their ability to learn well. “The human brain and body respond positively to laughter with the release of endorphins, epinephrine (adrenaline) and dopamine, and with more oxygen being taken in,” says neurologist Judy Willis, who is one of many experts who have recently highlighted the learning benefits of happiness and having fun.
“When a lesson starts with humour, children are more alert and the subsequent information is attached to the positive emotional event as a flashbulb memory,” says Willis. In other words, your child is far more likely to remember something that’s been taught in a joyful and entertaining environment.
A sense of happiness thus promotes learning.
Yet, as a parent, how can you ensure that your child is happy at school? Well, whereas a generation or so ago, you simply packed your children off and let the teachers get on with the business of educating them, these days parents are very much expected to get involved. One of the benefits of this more hands-on approach is that you can now have direct access to your child’s class through volunteering. This is welcomed by most schools. Even if you only go into the classroom once a month, it will give you a good steer on your child’s feelings about school and how they interact with teachers and fellow pupils.
You’ll also get the chance to see how the class is run, while allowing the teachers to get to know you better, too. If, however, work commitments make volunteering impossible, keep the lines of communication open by attending the regular meetings with your child’s teacher, and asking your child about the school day. More often that not, you'll get the standard, "Fine", so try things along the lines of who they played with, what was the most fun lesson, etc. That way, you're more likely to get a real idea of how they feel.
they key to communication is listening and kids are no different. Set aside five minutes each day, away from the emails, laptop, Blackberry, iPhone (and other siblings) to discuss the day and/or any issues, homework etc. Even if you can't fix it, your attention will reap dividends in the long run.
Leading by example
Children learn by observation. If you want them to read, let them see you reading. Likewise doing exercise, learning an instrument, or taking pleasure from nature. It really works.
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Department of education
The Good Schools Guide
The British Association for Early Childhood Education
This article previously appeared in Junior magazine as a print article.