Many people think of school as the beginning of their child’s education. But your child has been learning since they were born.
On this page:
- Sharing what you know to help your child
- Understanding your child’s learning needs
- Building on your child’s strengths and interests
- Supporting your child’s learning
Your child has been learning from their play and kindergarten experiences, from you and from other family members their whole life. They will continue to learn from family and their lived experiences, and they will also have an opportunity to learn other things at school. Parents and carers teach many things to their children and you can share important information with the school about how your child learns best.
- Learn more about how this happens in Education planning for your child.
Sharing what you know to help your child
How does your child like to learn? What environment do they need, to focus and take things in? What are their strengths? What is their personality like, and how do they like to be helped or encouraged?
“Open the gate, and let them in. Let them know about your child in every way possible. Very much think of the positive, obviously. Because it’s a very negative process when you go to school, because of the current funding process. Unfortunately, we have to identify all of the negative stuff, to secure the necessary funding for support. But I think its really important to tell them – who is your child, what do they love to do, what makes them happy and what makes them laugh? This information needs to be a very big focus in a conversation, and then to work on those positives. It’s also important to let them know the challenges and the fears, because they need to be prepared for that as well.” – Rhonda
In your discussion with your child’s teachers, and in Student Support Groups meetings, try to give a sense of who your child is, and what will help the staff to engage and teach your child, and support them to learn. The teacher and other Student Support Group members (including you) can use this information to develop goals that expand on your child’s strengths, skills and abilities. Remember that teachers and consultants bring professional expertise to these discussions, however families have a unique contribution to make. There are many things that only you, as a parent, know about your child.
Information about your child’s likes, dislikes and interests can also help others to understand your child as a learner. Teachers can use your child’s interests to capture your child’s attention and motivate them to learn.
- Read more about helping your child learn through their interests and passions.
Understanding your child’s learning needs
Here are some questions to consider. If you can share what you know about these kinds of aspects of your child’s learning needs and preferences, that will help the school understand and engage them better.
- Does your child enjoy listening to stories or prefer looking at a book?
- Does your child prefer to watch you do something first and then copy?
- Does your child like to explore and ‘have a go’, or to they prefer to observe first?
- Does your child need instructions to be given one by one, or for tasks to be demonstrated?
- Does your child enjoy drawing and colouring? Making things? Doing messy art exploration?
- Does your child respond well to humour? Or do they need communication to be more literal?
Also consider aspects of the classroom that might help your child learn, or make it more difficult for them:
- Does your child prefer small groups or enjoy the hustle and bustle of a large group?
- Does your child get distracted or overloaded, if they are in a noisy environment?
- Does your child find it easy to sit still and concentrate, or might they benefit from ‘movement breaks’?
- Does your child focus best at particular times of day, or when they’ve had a chance to be active?
Building on your child’s strengths and interests
Its important that the school have a sense of what your child can do, or is confident doing. The teachers can then design activities to expand on these areas of strength. This encourages your child to feel confident in their learning. It can also help you to maintain a positive outlook on your child’s education.
- You can have input into your child’s learning goals, which will be part of their learning and support plan. Find out more about learning goals and the planning process in Education support planning for your child.
- There are resources available to help schools to better understand your child’s abilities and strengths and tailor learning to help meet them. Visit the DET website and search on ‘ABLES’.
Sometimes you might be able to help your child to demonstrate abilities to the school that they might be unaware of. You might be able to do this in ways that also strengthen your child’s relationships at school:
“The other day I picked Roby up early. One of the assistant principals was there, trying to engage Ruby to tell me about a fire drill. [Afterwards] I got Ruby to write a summary of the fire drill, and wrote it in a letter to that person. All that builds the relationship. Ruby will take the person to her today, and that will get read.
First of all, it was because I was struck by that assistant principal taking time out to do that with Ruby. I thought, ‘Wow, fire drills are really important for Ruby’ – for any child, but for her to know. By [getting Ruby to] about it with help, it reinforces the whole process. And by me helping her to do that, and giving the letter to that teacher, that further cements her relationship with the staff. They think, ‘Wow, Ruby’s done this’. Ruby valued that interaction. And I wrote a little post-it note on the envelope saying, ‘Thanks Robin, that was great, and it enabled us to do this at home’.
It’s about recognising that that was really great what the assistant principal did. We do that sort of thing a lot – get Ruby to write a letter to a particular teacher. A brief letter saying, ‘This is what I did on the weekend’. It’s about saying – look I can do this, I have this ability. It’s also about building bridges between her and the staff, and showing appreciation.” – Denise
- Learn more about how schools work with parents and carers to tailor their learning and supports in Education planning for your child.
Supporting your child’s learning
You can also continue your role as a partner in your child’s learning by reading at bed-time or asking them about their school day. This reinforces what they learn at school. Many things that you do together as a family, from playing ‘eye spy’ in the car to helping around the house, will continue to shape your child’s knowledge and learning.
Sometimes, schools might offer ideas or tools to support learning that that you can also use at home:
“I realised I can bring [Casey’s learning] into the home to do different things. So when he walked, he used to take his bowl to the sink. Things like that. He helped, he used to be able to get his spoon out of the drawer. It helped me realise that it was important to ‘never say never’. And to give everything a go.
[And there was] communication technology that I didn’t have at home, that was at the school. It was important for him to be immersed in that. And then we did bring it into the home environment, because it was something that once again, I didn’t realise he’d be able to do.” – Rhonda
Sometimes staff can offer ideas or approaches that can really change the course of a child’s or young person’s educational journey, especially if it can be supported both at school and at home: