Advanced search

How to support learning at home? I don't know how to approach it

(17 Posts)
HappyAsEyeAm Fri 12-Oct-12 11:10:15

DS2 started reception this year. He loves school, and I am keen to support what he is learning at school, at home. Until now, I have just played with him and whatever toys he has enjoyed at teh time ie nothing structured, and I have let him take the leadf,. We've had a wonderful time. I have loved it!

Now that he has started school, as well as the free play that we do at home,. I want to support what he is doing at school, at home. Some friends of mine are teachers, and they are obviously 100% on top iof what children do in each year at school, and they do all of these things at home too.

I feel at a massive disadvantage as my background isn't in education (I am a solicitor) and I don't know what toys to buy, or where from, or what to do to try and advance him and challenge him at home. Where canm I start? What should I buy, and from where, and how should I structure what we do at home? I simply have no idea. Just some info on my DS - he seems more numerate than literate (can ciunt, add, take away etc in his head); ecognises letters (gets confused between u and n, also d and b) but cannot read; just traces around dots to write letters at the moment; is massively into trains, animals, nature and space; they teach sight recognition for reading at school and don't sound don't sound out words, just give him the first letter; and finally, he's nearly 5.

Can anyone give me some guidance please?

PastSellByDate Fri 12-Oct-12 11:58:21

Hi HappyasEyeAm

First off - you aren't at a disadvantage - you're highly educated and a Mum - that's a huge advantage. Statistically your child is highly likely to do well in school just because you are so educated.

What you can do to help in reception.

1) READ!!!!!! 10 minutes a day makes a huge difference - we do it after bath and just before bed and it's now my favourite 'down-time' in my day.

It may be that you're just reading to him right now - but try and find out what letter sounds they're working on at school (what phonics system they're using - say jolly phonics) - and gradually start to exaggerate to him and with him how you sound out words.

Really important to do as much reading together as possible - and can include reading things in shops, on signs, on tv, on games, etc...

If you want to help with learning how to sound out letters - try jolly phonics workbooks - available from most good bookshops/ newsagents.

Alphablocks is also brilliant and very catchy tunes:

2) HIGH FREQUENCY WORDS: The children usually will be introduced to the first 100 high frequency words in English - words like: said, the, don't, could, should etc... A lot of these words just have to be learned, they aren't obvious to pronounce. The list for 1st 100 high frequency words is here:

Nice website here for phonemes (letter sounds/ blends) and high frequency word games:

3) In reception it really is about counting skills - to 10, to 20 and then to 100.
Counting by 2s may be introduced and even counting by 5s. Simple addition/ subtraction - with a lot of visual aids (so buttons, dried raisins, marbles, etc...) also can be introduced. It really depends where you DS is.

Games really help at this stage:

Snakes and Ladders is ideal (play forward for counting up/ play backwards for counting back - at some stage you can shift (maybe Y1, even Y2) to having them do the mental maths - you can add dice to make larger numbers).


Crickweb (click EARLY YEARS on blue menu bar across top) has all sorts of games to help at this level:

BBC has a nice page with useful weblinks to great games for Early Years Foundation:


Finally don't forget the knowledge you can share just doing ordinary things at home:

planting vegetables you can grow and eat together (let him tell you how the plant is doing each time he goes out in the garden).

making cakes or biscuits (why not make a Christmas Cake and let him do all the measuring).

Looking at the stars (there are some great APPS out there that explain what the constellations are you're looking at based on your GPS location).

Read some of your childhood favourites to him

Take him to the theatre (children's play/ panto)

Take him to a music or dance event geared for young children (We did Stomp with age ranges 4 - 12+ let's be discreet about parents/ grand parents ages - and everyone loved it).

Visit Museums, especially those designed with children in mind

Visit child friendly historic sites or historic places with child centred events (English Heritage and the National Trust usually have tons going on at their properties around Halloween/ Christmas/ Easter)

Well that should keep you busy. My advice HappyasEyeAm - is do what you can, when you can - and don't beat up yourself about doing everything.

Do try and keep in touch with the school/ teacher about what is going on, so that you can help support him at home. Don't be afraid to ask questions - you'd feel awful if you subsequently find out he's fallen behind and you could have been helping with something.

Get in the habit of asking your son about his day (at dinner, at bath time - whenever it suits - but make the time to show interest), but accept that at first you're most likely going to hear about what he had for dessert or that they watched a film (which may have only been a 10 minute clip they then went on to discuss as a class, but that will be glossed over).

Your son will learn from his friends, from his teachers, from his coaches/ instructors at clubs, from field trips, from family friends and relatives and his own mistakes - it's not just down to you!

The most important job is to encourage him to be positive about going to school and learning. Oh and offering hugs as needed.

learnandsay Fri 12-Oct-12 12:23:28

Encourage him to buy things and calculate the change. Get him a savings account and work out amounts in and amounts out.

Personally I would still teach him the letter sounds and later on easy words like cat, dog, hat and so on. You can buy cheap phonics readers from Thebookpeople. If they don't teach phonics in his school I don't know what his school is going to do when the phonics test comes to his class next year. The simple sounds and basic words are easy. You don't need any special training to teach them either to yourself or to your child. It's the complicated stuff which comes in later years that may need expertise. (But you don't have to worry about that now.)

redskyatnight Fri 12-Oct-12 12:36:13

I don't think you really need to do anything "special" at this age. Probably you are already doing lots to support him.

As a PP said reading to him (and listening to him read his school reading book) is definitely a huge plus. Also doing any homework from school. If school covers a topic he is interested in you can do more at home - get books from the library, look it up on the internet, visit a suitable place to find out more etc.

Board games and cooking are great to improve numeracy skills.

Encourage him to pick out letters on signs, read the back of the cereal packet. Can he write you a shopping list (doesn't matter if it's mostly scribble at this stage)?

Fuzzymum1 Fri 12-Oct-12 12:53:18

I think the most important thing is to expose him to a wide variety of experiences and talk about things - the wider their range of experiences and vocabulary the easier it will be for them to learn.

I have found asking "what was the best thing that happened today?" or "what did you learn today?" were much more likely to start a discussion about what he'd done at school rather than "what have you done today?"

HappyAsEyeAm Sat 13-Oct-12 12:32:04

To everyone who has replied, thank you so much. Special thanks to you though, Past as your advice and suggestions have been fantastic. I am very grateful.

I now realise that we have been doing a fair bit to support him at home as we read all the time, talk about everything imaginable, play games, go to museums (we are in London, so lots of opportunities - DH is at the Transport museum with him as I type), go on lots of days out, holidays etc, cinema, theatre ... the list goes on.

This has given me confidence that we are already doing a lot to help him, but I am truly grateful for the suggestions as although I know that they will seem obvious to some, this is exactly what I was looking for but couldn't get there myself.

I am keeping this thread forever!

mrz Sat 13-Oct-12 13:12:59

Unless your friends are reception teachers they are unlikely to know any more than you do about good early years teaching...and from what you've said what you are doing is perfect!

As someone who taught reception for many years and is now teaching Y1 please, please don't teach HIGH FREQUENCY WORDS

Bonsoir Sat 13-Oct-12 13:24:15

My DD is nearly 8, and bilingual (English-French). We live in France and she speaks French with everyone in the family but me. She attends a bilingual school (but English is the minority language).

From the outset, I wanted my DD to hear as much good English as possible. Given the limited possibilities for exposure in daily life, I decided to go against the grain and let her watch masses of DVDs (not TV), carefully selected by me for their language content.

Frankly, it was a very inspired decision. She has had an awful lot of screen time versus what many people think is appropriate (but has done an awful lot of other things too) but her vocabulary and expression in English (as well as her cultural and historical knowledge) are brilliant and that (rather than me reading her endless baby books, which I didn't do) are the key to her reading in English. Her reading in English is better than her reading in French and that is due not so much to having practised more in English but rather to her much wider and deeper knowledge of English.

I agree with all the other stuff, though - board games, museums, counting change and all the other suggestions.

GoldenPeppermintCreams Sat 13-Oct-12 18:15:31

If you want to do something at home with him, take a look at the Education City website. My son's school use it for their online homework, and I find it's a good way to find out what they are doing that week, and extend on it. You might enjoy spending 10 mins a day on it with him. My son loves it.

PastSellByDate Sun 14-Oct-12 08:48:07

Hi mrz & HappyasEyeAm

Just to say wasn't suggesting all 100 High Frenquency words should be taught immediately - just thought that making a start with some words - the - and - he - she - could be an idea if the child is already making good progress with sounding out words.

I had one reception teacher teach all 100 and one do absolutely nothing. Children so different (DD1 very weak reader & no High Frequency Words/ DD2 strong reader and high frequency words taught from get go) that I really can't say on the basis of my two.

But my own experience has been that if children are reading well (and mrz we're in a city right in the shadow of a Russell Group University, with many children of University/ hospital staff at this school) it has been quite usual practice to teach high frequency words from YR in England's largest LEA. This is school lead and not parent lead and occurs in several schools in this area.

I respect mrz that you are highly experienced but you do rather have a tendency of being the sole educational authority (often giving brilliant advice) but yours isn't the only way of teaching or necessarily exemplar (certainly as an anonymous poster we've no way of ascertaining your qualification to make such a pronouncement). As a parent what would be helpful is for a more unified approach to this type of things for parents' benefit. This is a debate you should have professional elsewhere - not on the pages of Mumsnet where you could confuse or confound parents searching for help or advice with your strong opinions. I suspect as usual there are divided opinions/ research results on this point - you have opted for what makes sense for you, but don't confuse that with being right for all situations.

mrz Sun 14-Oct-12 08:57:36

If the child is making good progress sounding out words then they can sound out he, she, we, me etc so I would teach "the"

" As a parent what would be helpful is for a more unified approach to this type of things for parents' benefit."

perhaps the schools under the shadow of the Russell Group universities that are teaching the 100 HFWs should read the official guidance how to approach them so that there is a unified approach. Unfortunately many teachers seem to think HFW is a synonym for sight words rather than what they really are the most commonly found words in text. As they are so common they are practised in every text a child reads.

seeker Sun 14-Oct-12 09:01:02

OP- you don't have to do anything more than you are doing. The most important thing is to read, read,read and read to him. And really importantnis for him to see you, and even more important, significant men innhis life reading books for pleasure.

PastSellByDate Mon 15-Oct-12 09:41:09


My dear I believe you are willfully misunderstanding. Once a child is successfully sounding phonemes, the schools in our LEA encourage parents to ensure that the first 100 and then the next 200 High Frequency Words are decodable.

Not all of the high frequency words are immediately or obviously pronouncable (e.g. Mrs, Mr, people, could, ...) - as you should know. But a large portion are. The point is they are looking to see that by Y2 the first 200 high frequency words are no problem.

Which I suspect is much the same as you are doing - but possibly in a different way.

In our area - parents are given 3-5 high frequency words for the week and asked to encourage the child to spot them in their reading and pronounce them. Even my very week largely non-reader DD1 in Y1 was included in this approach, and did get a great deal of time spotting words like 'she', 'he' and 'the' in the stories we were reading. It made her feel she was reading too.

The shadow of the Russel Group remark was to indicate to you that we have a large proportion of children who come into YR in this catchment already making good progress with reading skills because of the high educational attainment of their parents. I'm sure you will agree that schools tailor their teaching to their intake and parental support of learning.

gabsid Mon 15-Oct-12 11:57:15

Bonsoir - I did it a bit similar. We live in the UK and DS (7.5) is bi-lingual (German/English), he goes to an English school, he reads better in English, but his understanding and vocab in German is probably better.

DS speaks German to me, his sister and anyone who he thinks is fluent. We have many DVDs where you can choose the language. If I put it on for them I will choose German and DS usually makes an effort to choose the German version. He also watches German programmes on YouTube. Often they are very educational/scientific, e.g. documentaries and I find it difficult to turn him off after an hour or so. But he says he understands German better - after 3 years at school here.

fraktion Mon 15-Oct-12 12:06:48

bonsoir it would be interesting to know which films etc you think are beneficial. I'm fed up with baby books and the only DVDs we have are a box set of Waybuloo and a boogie Beebies hmm

OP you are doing all the right things but talking and incorporating literacy and numeracy into activities will lay great foundations without making learning too overt.

Alibabaandthe40nappies Mon 15-Oct-12 12:20:32

Frak - you could get M going on the Thomas stories now, T loves them and the sentence structure and vocabulary are pretty good. Much more fun than reading Dear Zoo and Hungry Caterpillar 50 times (although I do love those books, just not multiple times a day!!)

I never knew that reading methods were such a battleground!

Bonsoir Mon 15-Oct-12 13:29:57

fraktion - how old is your DS now? DD had a long Angelina Ballerina phase, and then a long Charlie and Lola phase, and then launched into A Secret Garden, A Little Princess, Black Beauty and Pirates of the Caribbean before getting started on adaptations of Jane Austen, Dickens, Mrs Gaskell, Thomas Hardy etc etc. Also all sorts of films about monarchs and aristocracy. Basically any sort of period drama.

Join the discussion

Registering is free, easy, and means you can join in the discussion, watch threads, get discounts, win prizes and lots more.

Register now »

Already registered? Log in with: