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Author: Chitra Iyer
Published on:
May 1, 2022

5 Learning Environment Mistakes Parents Can Avoid

Our kids spend a significant portion of their years between 0 and 18 at home, with us. How we set-up a positive learning environment for them is a key part of the relationships they form with learning and their effective learning habits and mindsets.
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A positive learning environment helps integrate and align the head, heart and hands aspect of a child’s learning: 


“What is the need to learn what I am learning?”

Finding purpose and context for the content being learned (Information)


“Why do I want to learn it?” 

Finding the motivation to keep going despite challenges (Inspiration)


“How do I actually do this?”

Creating an effective learning strategy and activating learning (Implementation)

Creating a positive learning environment is not something that occurs naturally when we give our kids their own room or study area.

Let’s look at some not-so-obvious mistakes we may be making that sabotage our own efforts at helping create a positive learning environment:

5 Mistakes for Parents to Avoid When Building a Positive Learning Environment at Home

1. Focusing on specific content and results, rather than on the process and skills needed to be a stronger and more confident learner

A process and a skill never ends, it's always work in progress. Create a learning environment where learning can always be on.  This could be as simple as resisting the temptation to ask “have you finished the project”. Instead, ask “how is the project going? What’s good, not so great, fun, a drag etc. Ask where they may need help or support. In other words, do all you can to help them reflect on the process.

In many cases, as parents, we want to see the finished product - be it a project or a report or a report card - in order to praise and applaud their efforts and success. Instead, offer value at each step of the learning journey. Create an emotional and intellectual environment that helps them to see the value in their own learning process. Help them see that constant improvement to the process is possible with the right learning techniques and skills. This approach also helps unlock the magical powers of compound knowledge, where each learning task or experience is connected and builds upon the last to deliver exponential knowledge and skills, rather than executing each test, project or report as a stand-alone, unconnected silo. 

2. Over-stressing on the ‘knowledge-input’ stage of learning

Learning is a many layered process.  Reading books or inputting content in whatever form - by watching a video, reading a book or discussing with you or a teacher - is only one step in that process. There are times when a child may appear quiet, but may be processing what they have learned. They could be experimenting with doing what they have learned in science on the football field or in the kitchen. With the right learning skills, they will spend time on reflection, asking for and acting on feedback, asking seemingly unrelated questions, and practicing what they have learned. So, create a learning environment that enables all stages and phases of learning and not just the obvious one for where they are taking in content, for example a nice study area. Create a space that allows for interdisciplinary learning to make connections, and experimentation as much ass for learning subject-by-subject in silos.

3. Seeing our role as problem-solver rather than facilitator

Often, we as parents feel our job is to smooth away all our child’s frustrations and challenges - make the path to learning as smooth and easy as possible. However, some degree of struggle, of grappling with something new, of acknowledging that they are in a challenge zone and only learning it can take them to the comfort zone is a necessary part of the learning process. 

When we spoon feed information, try and remove all obstacles without challenging them to use their resourcefulness in their own learning process, they will miss out on feeling ownership for their struggles as much as for their victories. So create a learning environment that facilitates their learning skills such as resourcefulness, time management, and more by building in predictable routines, keeping things organized, providing a rich environment filled with books and other learning tools - but do not feel compelled to hand them each and every resource on a platter.

Another aspect of this same mis-step is trying to make learning ‘fun’ all the time. Learning process is not necessarily just a smooth sail into the sunset - like I said, some degree of struggle, frustration, wrong turns are part of the process and add immense value to the process and the outcomes. Our children are natural beings with multiple hues. They are not necessarily looking for a bubbly, happy, disney-fied version of every single learning element. We don’t need to feel pressure to create a ‘fun’ learning environment- rather, we should focus on constructive positivity - a physical, intellectual and emotional space that allows for all shades - from confusion to the joys of discovery and all the highs and lows.

4. Creating an unequal space for multiple intelligences

A learning environment that is set up only for ‘academic’ learning, or offering a supportive attitude only for certain learning tasks and not others means parents are not really valuing the need to create a learning environment that makes space for multiple intelligences. 

For example, when we over-invest in the space and tools needed to ‘study’ but not in creating space for music, art, movement and activity, which are all equally important to a holistic learning journey. Parents often say one thing (we really love that you are so creative) but their actions say something else entirely (we will spend 10K on math tuition but not on art supplies) about what skills they really value. 

Not walking the talk when it comes to valuing multiple intelligences creates a confusing and duplicitous learning environment that can be more harmful to the child’s psyche and trust than we may realize in the short-run. 

Similarly, telling the child they are capable of anything, can do anything, and yet doubting their ability to make their own choices, deciding for them or not consulting with them on aspects of the home learning environment that affect them are similarly confusing and duplicitous. 

5. Trying to recreate school at home

Creating a learning environment at home is very different from trying to re-create a school environment in the house. It is not just about making adequate space for studies but to allow for all spaces to be learning spaces, all experiences to be learning experiences, all members of the family to be simultaneously teacher, student, and collaborator. Create a home learning environment that is free of the binaries and labels like teacher-student, study time-fun/play time.

Parents are often anxious that they do not do enough to help their children study, or don’t have enough knowledge themselves to help their children do better at school or with homework. They then tend to over-compensate their feeling of helplessness with extra tuition, extra resources and extra gadgets or ‘educational toys’. 

The relationship soon becomes overly focused on ‘studies’ and ‘results’. The child starts associating ‘mom and dad time’ with difficult or boring questions about test results or homework; and ‘learning’ with only ‘studies and exams’, not possibilities, growth and opportunity. 

In all this, we as parents forget how much agency and power we have to make a more positive, constructive and lifelong contribution to our children’s learning abilities and outcomes. Not by becoming teachers or monitors, but by being involved, interested, and engaged at each stage of their learning journey. 

So don’t feel too bad if you don’t have all the knowledge and answers! You are not meant to! Instead, focus on creating a home learning environment that helps them get better at finding their own answers, owning and pursuing their own learning goals, and willingly sharing their journey with you, at each step of the way.

Also read:

18 Ways to Help Children Build a Growth Mindset

How Parents and Children can Co-Create an Effective learning Strategy

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