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How Can I Support My Child Outside Of School?

Since there are likely to be fewer opportunities for you to go into school, it now becomes more crucial to talk to your child. Without interrogating him/her, listen carefully to what he/she says is happening in class and within his/her group of friends. He/she might sometimes tell you about what's happening to ‘a friend' and this might give you a clue. He/she may not want to tell you directly, but you can sometimes get hints about difficulties with teachers, bullying, academic worries, etc. - issues that you might be able to head off by talking to teachers or the head teacher before they turn into major problems.

Even though he/she may now give the impression that it doesn't matter, your child still needs your support. It's worth noticing, encouraging and praising him/her when he/she has done well - and that needn't take a lot of time.

Inviting your child's friends home might give you an insight into what goes on at school and how your child is coping. You'll also get to know other parents and might learn about aspects of the school that your child doesn't remember - or want - to tell you about.

Television and computers aren't all bad. You can watch television together and discuss what's happening or issues that are raised. Some computer games have educational benefits and you can always play them with your child if you're concerned about the contents. There are also websites that help with homework topics and they can be very entertaining.

You can go to the library and choose books to read together. You might also be able to borrow audio tapes, videos and computer software. Most libraries have computers, and you can book time on them to get free access to the internet. Many museums and galleries don't charge an entrance fee and you might enjoy learning with your child by visiting them together. They often arrange special activities for family groups.

Homework

Making sure that homework gets done and checking it will help you to find out what your child is learning. There's no need to worry if you don't understand what your child is being taught; you can get him/her to explain it to you, which will also help to reinforce what he/she has learned.

It will help your child if a quiet space can be found for him/her to do homework. This might, for example, mean keeping everyone away from the kitchen table for 40 minutes or so, or making sure that a corner gets cleared in the living room.

Children will sometimes need help with homework. You might have the knowledge they need, but you could also go with them to the library to get information from the internet if you don't have a computer at home or, if you do, you could help to find relevant sites. Remember that schools don't want you to do your child's homework for them.

Parents often disagree with schools about homework. Some feel there's too little, others that there's too much. This is the kind of issue that you can raise with class teachers or at Parent Teacher Association or governors' meetings

Extra teaching

Supplementary schools (sometimes called ‘complementary' schools) offer extra help and support with National Curriculum subjects outside of school hours. They may also have mother-tongue classes. Supplementary schools can help to boost your child's confidence. Religious and cultural lessons may take place in madrassahs, mosques, churches and temples.

Your child may benefit from help from a private tutor outside of school hours. Tutors may specialise in a particular subject such as Maths or English or Science. Some specialist tutors help with specific learning difficulties such as dyslexia.

Tutors will charge a fee. You can often get recommendations for tutors from other parents.

Exams

Most teachers will try to keep children relaxed about SAT examinations. They'll set ‘mock' exams so that children get used to what will be expected of them. Children do, though, sometimes feel the pressure. You might want to try to reassure them about the tests and explain that they are not being judged - the aim is to find out what they have learned.

Cultural identity

Many parents feel that once children start at secondary school, they are faced with a dilemma of having to choose between two cultures or reconciling them. Parents want to help to strengthen their child's confidence in school by maintaining traditions and beliefs. Contact with friends and family, attendance at a church, temple or mosque can be important. Many parents also make a special effort to talk about family and cultural history or to make sure that this is taught outside of school, perhaps at a supplementary school.

Some parents feel that it's also important to seek out learning materials in which their children are not marginalised. You can find some suppliers and relevant websites as well as details of cultural activities and events in the Real Histories Directory. The Black History Month sites at www.black-history-month.co.uk/ and www.blackhistorymonthuk.co.uk have information on activities and events taking place during October of each year.