Family Learning is the phrase we use to describe whole or individuals from families and people who you would consider you have a close relationship with taking part in activities together, to improve their own skills and the skills of others around them across all generations. ‘Families are the main context of learning for most people. Learning within the family is usually more lasting and influential than any other.
Family life provides a foundation and context for all learning. (Riches beyond price: making the most of family learning, NIACE 1995) Family learning can provide emotional and financial stability for the majority of families who take part in and gain from the experience. Self-esteem and confidence are raised throughout the family, commitment to learning is improved as they are able achieve and succeed together. This can provide a more encouraging environment for children to learn in as parents can share their own experiences of learning and gaining qualifications through education.
Overview: Most families engage in family learning through either of the two processes. Theses are formal and informal learning. Formal learning includes Literacy, Numeracy and many other courses that are offered to improve skills and qualifications. Helping a child with their homework or going into educational settings, hearing readers and assisting children with learning. Formal Gemma Turner Family Learning BA (Hons) learning through Families, School and Beyond learning can take place in a variety of settings such as child care centres, schools and libraries.
Families can also take part in the National Family Learning Week which is held across the majority of authorities once a year in October, originally this was held as a one day event in 1998 and has grown into nine fantastic days of learning fun. All families are invited to come along with their children and grandchildren to join in the activities and to find out more about activities that can involve their whole family. It is estimated that up to 300,000 family members join in the fun of Family Learning Week each year.
Informal learning takes place between family members by sharing knowledge and experiences which can be taken, extended and learnt from to help improve the quality of life no matter what the age or gender. This can also be incorporated in all aspects of family life such as family days out, visiting museums and sharing meal times together. The real value of Family Learning is that children and parents learn together. Family learning courses aim to help parents and children work together so that parents gain confidence in supporting their children’s learning.
It enables parents to understand what their children are learning at school and also to be able to understand the vocabulary used for subjects within the school setting and have an understanding of the relevant strategies that are in place for Literacy and Numeracy. It has been reported that many children show an improved willingness to work in the classroom and are appearing to be more confident in themselves when working alone, in small group or whole class activities (Bastiani, 1999)
Parental involvement in a child’s learning is more powerful than family background, size of family or level of parental education and, in the primary years, has more impact on attainment than the school itself. (campaign for learning) There are many different ways for parents to become involved in helping their children learn it can happen as early as from birth right up to sixteen examples include talking to your baby, becoming involved with literacy classes in ways such as helping or
Gemma Turner Family Learning BA (Hons) learning through Families, School and Beyond teaching reading and writing, completing literacy courses to help improve a parents basic literacy skills and complete formal qualifications which help improve the future career opportunities of the parents benefiting both them and their local communities. Talking to young children helps them become good communicators, which is essential if they are to do well at school and lead happy, fulfilled and successful lives. (Talk to your baby, 2006) Policies and strategies:
Family learning has developed greatly over the last forty years; particularly with family Literacy, Language and Numeracy courses which play a large part in the Skills for Life strategy. The Skill for Life strategy was developed in March 2001 and was set up as a long term plan to break the cycle of low Literacy and Numeracy skills across the UK. At least 3. 7 billion would be spent on implementing the programme between 2001 and 2006 and targets were set to improve adults Literacy and Numeracy skills by 750,000 by 2004, 1. 5 million by 2007 and 2. 25 million by 2010.
During this time significant changes have been made to improve the service and how it can be accessed by all parents this is particularly noticeable since the riches beyond price research was published (Alexander ; Clyne 1995). Learning in the home environment is the biggest achievement in children’s learning between the ages of 3 to 7 (Charles Desforges, 2003) he then went on to say that we may only think that children learn to read when at school but they gain the love for books from home and the same can apply for many other subject and refers to history and how a grandparents stories will be far more interesting than reading from a book.
There is a large emphasis on parents being involved in children’s learning from birth up to the age of sixteen and its impact on improving children’s skills not only in learning but in social awareness to. This can also help reduce underachievement, low paid employment, unemployment or poverty, and also prevent low self-esteem and a Gemma Turner Family Learning BA (Hons) learning through Families, School and Beyond poor quality of life which could lead to social exclusion. (Nagcell report, 1998)
Family learning has also been extended into the prison service when it is estimated that 92,000 offenders have taken part on the courses and gained qualifications in Literacy and Numeracy. These prisoners have gone on to find employment and are less likely to reoffend. (Nao report 2004) From the dads who completed a family learning course while in prison 60% felt more confident about their role in their child’s learning, across all families 75% felt more confident and communication skills had improved as a result and 80% thought that family relationships with one another had improved after completing a course of shared learning.
Big lottery fund, 2007). The basic Skills Agency model for family learning and the objectives were obtained from pilot programmes that were run very successfully (Brooks, 1996) the objective is to target those families across the generations who show signs of a lack of basic skills in Literacy and Numeracy and break the cycle of intergenerational educational disadvantage. Teachers will deliver these programmes with in a primary school or children’s centre.
There are also smaller courses running that cover the wider curriculum including cookery, ICT, foreign languages and music (OFSTED 2000) When looking into family learning, one of the most valuable aspects of formal and informal learning is that which takes place between a grandparent and grandchild. More parents look towards family members to provide informal childcare whilst they are at work or completing further training. Grandparents are often the providers although health problems, old age or the fact that the grandparents still works may mean it is not always possible.
Grandparents are extremely important and influential members of the family, as they are able to provide a safe, loving and affectionate learning environment Whilst providing childcare, some grandparents feel that they are helping their own child but Gemma Turner Family Learning BA (Hons) learning through Families, School and Beyond never spend any quality time with them as they rush in from work, grab the children, and go straight home never having enough time to have a cup of tea and a conversation.
This can be difficult for the grandparents as they feel they are contributing positively to their grandchild’s development as well as care but are unable to share the aspects of both. Ochiltree found that there were concerns from grandparents that looking after more than one child could cause strain because of the developmental gaps between the children, this was made harder if the children fought. Some grandparents also felt pushed into helping when it was not the most practical thing to do. (Ochiltree G, 2006).
Recent research completed by Age Concern showed that two thirds of grandparents were providing informal childcare for three days a week which is millions of hours of free childcare. Some grandparents had taken on the role of carer when their own child was not able to be the parent. Surestart published an article which suggested that grandparents should be recognised for being the invisible backbone to the family and for all the support they offer not only to their child but also their grandchildren and they should be encouraged to register as childminders.
As more grandparents are providing care for children it is the grandparents who attend the family learning events. At present Family Learning initiatives are aimed at inviting mothers and their children to come along to events as it is presumed that they are the primary carer, this is not the case anymore as more mothers are going out to work and children are being cared for by their fathers or grandparents. These initiatives are changing and more events are being introduced for children and their carers. This makes these events more accessible to everyone.
Some grandparents think that they are too old to learn and their time at school is over so they don’t attend the events. Practitioners have to find a way to overcome these barriers and make it easier for people to attend, asking the carers if they have particular skills has helped in some authorities as they have encouraged the grandparents to come along and run a short course to help others, at the same time they are teaching and working together with their grandchildren. Gemma Turner Family Learning BA (Hons) learning through Families, School and Beyond
Intergenerational learning in our schools is building opportunities for children to learn not only from the life experiences of their grandparents but increasingly, as grandparents are getting younger, great grandparents are able to make a significant contribution. Conclusion Family learning has a significant impact on family life not only socially but emotionally as it improves relationships between family members, raises self-esteem and confidence which provide the children with a more stable learning environment. Every individual has a variety of aspects in their life that will be very different from that of others.
Spending time with people you love and sharing experiences is the first step in sharing time as a family. Parents are able to improve their own quality of life as well as everyone around them. Family learning has proved to be highly successful in providing hundreds of courses that bring families closer together, trying new experiences whilst having fun especially for hard to reach families. Literacy, Language and Numeracy courses bring a sense of achievement to parents who in the past may not have achieved anything in these areas, for some this will be their first learning experience since leaving school.
Many parents who felt that they would not be able to do anything with their lives have gone on to gain qualifications and have great careers when they thought that this would not be possible. Daniel Goleman stated in his book Emotional Intelligence (Goleman, 1997) that “family life is our first school for emotional learning. In this intimate cauldron we learn how to feel about ourselves and how others will react to our feeling, it operates not just through the things parents say and do directly with children but also in the models they offer for handling their own feelings. ” (Goleman, 1997)
Parents and grandparents alike offer support and stability in a child’s life through social and emotional learning and as Daniel Goleman stated. This is how children are able to Gemma Turner Family Learning BA (Hons) learning through Families, School and Beyond continue to grow into thriving adults with successful careers. With the help of family learning unemployment, low income jobs and low self-esteem could become a thing of the past for many families helping them to provide a better quality of life for themselves, their children and families and the local communities around them.