ChildLinks Issue 1: The Home Learning Environment

Barnardos. (2017). ChildLinks Issue 1: The Home Learning Environment.
The home learning environment (HLE) concerns any activities that parents carry out with their children to support learning. This might include interactions that encourage learning opportunities, practices and activities that nurture learning, and the availability of educational materials in the home. The quality of the HLE during a child’s first years of life impacts on their school readiness and social emotional competence, as well as having a long term impact on their academic attainment, progress and learning behaviour. Home learning practices and resources are widely recognised as crucial contributing factors to language ability outcomes in infants and children. The first article in this issue of ChildLinks looks at the impact of the HLE on language development and shows how the practices of shared reading, talking to the child, educational play, screen time and the availability of educational resources all contribute to the overall HLE. Also in this issue the home numeracy environment is considered. Children develop early mathematical competencies long before they start school, acquiring mathematical language, such as the names of shapes, positional and directional language, and number words, as part of general language acquisition. The HLE provides many opportunities for parents to support their children’s increasing competencies in daily activities such as using recipes, measuring ingredients or counting out cutlery. Two further articles examine programmes that support the HLE. The first gives an overview of Better Finglas, one of the programmes in Ireland selected to participate in the Area-Based Childhood (ABC) Programme, which aims to improve outcomes for children and their families in some of the most disadvantaged areas of the country. Better Finglas recognises parents as the first educators of their children and has designed its programmes to reflect the essential need for a positive HLE. The second looks at the Parent-Child Home Program, which works with under-resourced families in the US and several other countries, including Ireland. This programme targets parent child interaction and the child’s social-emotional and language development, with the aim to improve the quality and quantity of verbal interaction between parent and child, and to foster pro-social behaviour in children to improve school readiness and, ultimately, overall functioning in childhood and beyond. Also in this issue, Dorothy Keane, a Home School Community Liaison Coordinator, outlines a study that aims to gain an understanding of the issues that impact on the involvement of fathers in the education of their children. Some strategies identified that encourage paternal involvement include a strength-based, gendered approach, enlisting the support of mothers and building on fathers’ interests together with an overall proactive approach to communication with fathers by all educational professionals. It is apparent from all of the articles in this issue that the home learning environment is highly influential and that the more involved parents are in their children’s learning and development, the better the outcomes for the child.