Supporting Classroom Learning from Home

Thursday 12 Mar 2020

It’s not uncommon for parents and carers to ask what they can do at home to support classroom learning. This is a powerful question because it demonstrates a desire for home and school to work in partnership for the benefit of the child and we know that, when this partnership is solid, sparks of the best kind fly.

While we can easily respond to this question in terms of curriculum and formal education, a back-to-basics stocktake is a stronger starting point.

One of the best ways parents can support classroom learning at home is to ensure a child’s basic physiological needs are met. This includes sufficient sleep, abundant physical activity, quality fresh air, adequate hydration and a nutritious diet. I could write at length about each of these topics, but I’ll focus on diet.

The scientific world is continuing to discover direct correlations between what children eat, and their physical well-being, mental health, brain activity and cognitive function (eg memory, concentration, problem-solving and decision-making). For example:

  • A review article published in December draws attention to increasing evidence of an association between a poor diet and the exacerbation of disorders such as anxiety and depression.
  • A study released a month earlier assessed the eating habits and academic outcomes of a diverse sample of children. The study found that children who reported unhealthy dietary patterns (including higher consumption of snack foods and sugar-sweetened drinks) exhibited poorer academic achievement than those who consumed fewer of these foods.
  • Multiple studies (eg this one and this one) show links between breakfast and academic performance.
  • Many studies (eg here and here) indicate that diet can exert immediate or long-term beneficial or adverse effects on the cognitive ability and behaviour of children and adolescents.
  • Research also exists (eg here and here) connecting childhood eating habits with cognitive impairment later in life, including dementia and Alzheimer’s disease.

Life is busy and we often use this busyness as an excuse for quick and easy meals that lack nutrition. But when we look at the impact that diet has on the short-term physical and mental health and cognition of our children, as well as on their long-term quality of life, we cannot afford to skimp.

There’s a wealth of helpful websites that offer simple, healthy lunchbox ideas. These include Taste, Australia’s Best Recipes and the Queensland Government. Further, New York Times Parenting publishes evidence-based guidance and support to help parents make informed decisions for their family, including a dedicated Feeding & Nutrition section.

The extent to which a child’s physiological needs – and psychological needs for that matter (but perhaps that’s an article for another time) – are met, is a strong indicator of a child’s ability to reach their academic potential. With that in mind, be confident that you are supporting formal classroom learning through the care you provide for your child in the family home.

- Jane Mueller, Principal