Home | In The Classroom | Health+Wellbeing | A holistic approach to education starts in the home: opinion

A holistic approach to education starts in the home: opinion

The COVID-19 crisis has caused increased parental engagement in children’s education as a matter of necessity. But it need not end now.

“A holistic approach to learning” is one of the key factors that feeds student success, according to The Australian Student Well-Being Framework.

This is indeed correct from a neuroscientific and psychological perspective – and we all need to recognise that a 'holistic approach to learning' starts in the home.

When I was at school, Mum helped me produce a book about a little magical lamb who healed sick children – and I won a state-wide competition. I was in Year 2. I learnt that I could do anything regardless of my age.

Mum later supported me when I wanted to tell the editor of our local newspaper that I thought I could do a better job of producing the children’s page than him. He agreed and I got the gig. I was paid $50 a month, plus bonuses when I wrote other articles. I was a bonafide journalist at age 13.

Throughout school my mum helped me with my homework. Together we did reading, writing, researching, arts and crafts, photography, cooking, spelling, maths and she helped me research areas of interest, from fairies to fashion.

In primary school and lower high school, Mum helped me write and rehearse speeches and debates for my school’s oral language festival and other competitions. I won every year. And I developed confidence and a love for public speaking; entertaining and educating others.

In Year 11 and 12, independently, I won multiple competitions and graduated with the DUX award of Albany Senior High School.

By 23 I was the first person in my whole family to finish a university degree and now I have two, with distinction averages.

But, my mum’s own schooling stopped at Year 10 and she hated school. She never went to university. My mum raised my brother and I as a single mother from the time I was three years old. We lived below the poverty line for most of my childhood, going to five different rural, public schools, living under two aliases, whilst going through the family court process.

I’ve now been a classroom teacher for eight years, a social entrepreneur, freelance journalist and business founder/owner.

I’m an educational neuroscience specialist teacher, running my own business as an international educational presenter, running workshops to help students realise and reach their incredible true potential; aiming to help transform Australia’s education system.

I know my mum’s engagement in my education made all the difference to my outcomes in life.

Yet parental engagement, regardless of a parent’s past schooling experiences or a child’s current circumstances, is sadly often overlooked as an extremely powerful influence on a child’s learning and wellbeing.

The Federal Education Department recognises this fact: “Research has shown that when schools and families work together, children do better, stay in school longer, are more engaged with their school work, go to school more regularly, behave better, and have better social skills. Parent engagement also results in longer term economic, social and emotional benefits.”

Unfortunately, parents who may not have enjoyed or done well at school may feel unskilled and inadequate in their knowledge to become engaged in their children’s education.

Some parents, unintentionally, negatively impact the learning and motivation of their children, simply because they don’t know how certain things they do or say (or neglect to do or say) severely affect their child’s mind and brain.

One study found that schools with strong engagement from families were four times more likely to improve student reading and 10 times more likely to improve student improvements in mathematics.

Parental engagement at home can radically increase a student’s own engagement with their learning and boost their motivation.

A report by the Australian Research Alliance for Children & Youth concludes that: “Given the clear benefits of positive parental engagement in student learning, by way of improved academic achievement, wellbeing and productivity, … progressing parental engagement initiatives is warranted, if not essential to education reform and the future of Australia.”

Parental engagement is “essential”.

So, what if there was a clear approach to support parents to be engaged with their child’s learning in the best, most effective, most enjoyable, engaging, and easiest way possible?

Well, the science is out there to do just this. The research and evidence exists.

I’m talking about an evidence-based ‘holistic’ approach to education.

This approach can revolutionise the way a child develops, from a learning and wellbeing perspective.

A child’s mind and brain is used every second they are alive, for learning, thinking and feeling – and many everyday factors, like sleep, diet and movement, massively impact their mental and cognitive abilities.

Yet most parents have no idea how their child’s mind and brain works, learns or grows – or about how simple, holistic factors make such a massive difference.

Without knowing the ‘why’ and ‘how’ behind the science of a holistic approach, many parents sadly will not become engaged in their children’s learning and wellbeing in the most effective way possible.

An OECD report states that a student’s social interactions, environment, sleep, diet and movement are “easily overlooked in their impact on education”, but they shouldn’t be – because these “everyday matters” have a massive impact on the brain.

It is vital parents understand this.

The OECD’s Centre for Educational Research & Innovation recommends a holistic approach to education that does not ignore these everyday areas of a child’s life, saying that this is necessary to "take advantage of the brain’s potential for plasticity and to facilitate the learning process".

If students don’t get enough sleep, for example, their Amygdala switches on.

This in turn ‘locks down’ their Pre Frontal Cortex, making it hard for them to think rationally, stay calm, regulate their emotions, and learn and remember new things at school the next day.

Plus, what they were taught at school the previous day won’t get stored via their Hippocampus, the part of the brain associated with long-term memory.

Chronic tiredness means children won’t be growing many new brain cells, and their grey matter won’t be cleaned of potentially dementia-causing, toxic waste products.

Tired children are therefore at a severe disadvantage, compared to their well-slept peers, before they even slump through the school gates.

With a holistic approach to education, parents can learn evidence-based strategies to help their child sleep well, better manage their emotions, build their resilience and confidence, learn easier, focus better, remember more, and reduce stress and anxiety – all based on the latest in cutting-edge brain-science and psychology.

One WA mother, Britt Dunn, says, "I feel like I have a ‘tool belt’ for education."

Parents benefit from realising the brain-altering advantages provided by movement, music and mindfulness; of time spent outdoors in nature; of moments without distraction from devices; of gratitude and compassion.

One New Zealand parent says understanding how a child’s brain is affected by these everyday, holistic factors is “worthwhile for every parent”.

Australian children do, on average, six hours of homework each week, so parents need to know about the mirror-neuron effect, a growth-mindset, the power of praise and behaviour-specific feedback, brain-based time-management, memory ‘tricks’, and how to help children manage their emotions, stress and anxiety.

Rachel Pontin, a parent of a son with ADHD, says, “We were using the concepts … as soon as we got home that night.”

Promising studies in Africa, Asia and Latin America are showing that when disadvantaged parents learn the choices to make at home to enable their children to enhance their mental achievement – they have the power to potentially break the cycle of poverty in whole countries!

Principal of the small, rural Coorow Primary School, Jancy Whyte, remarked, “The parents have repeated many times about how they were very sceptical [beforehand], but that they learnt so much and were so glad they came.”

One New Zealand mother admits, “[There’s] lots for me to change”, while another parent remarked, “[I am] feeling a lot more positive about everything in life now ... [it] was seriously useful!”

Wouldn’t it be wonderful if parents were 'on the same page' as their children’s teachers, able to work with them to help set their children up for success at school and home?

The Federal Education Department recognises the “strong evidence” showing that parental engagement in a child’s learning journey, regardless of their age, has a “significant effect” on a child’s outcomes in education – and life.

We all want children to achieve to their true potential, but parents usually have no idea what their kids’ incredible true potential really is – or how to help the next generation realise and reach this incredible potential.

What if parents understood exactly what their child’s mind and brain is capable of, regardless of their past or present circumstances?

And what if parents were provided with practical, evidence-based tools, techniques, knowledge and skills to help their children, every day, achieve what they are truly capable of – regardless of their own experiences at school?

As one mother commented, “All parents need to understand this.”

Tammy-Anne is an international educational presenter and founder of Above & Beyond Education, running workshops and training for students Yr 1-12, parents, & teacher PD, using an evidence-based holistic approach to educational neuroscience, across Australia & New Zealand. For more: https://abovebeyondeducation.com

Do you have an idea for a story?
Email [email protected]

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *