The science of learning at home

A guide for supporting your child's learning at home during lockdown

Authored by Prof. Paul Howard-Jones, in partnership with STEM Learning

Discover what's going on in your child's brain

With a greater understanding of what ‘learning’ is, based on scientific research, we hope you’ll feel more confident and more able to help your child learn at home. We start with an introduction video, before exploring 'engagement', 'building understanding' and 'consolidating knowledge'.

After reading this guide, watch the Q&A videos where Professor Paul Howard-Jones answers the questions sent in by parents who are supporting their children to learn at home.

Making sure you child is still learning now will help reduce the difficulties they experience when the Covid-19 pandemic has eased and schools re-open. The brain only consolidates learning that is regularly practised and so, after a significant break, learning often gets lost. We know this from research on the impact of summer holidays, after which it usually takes some time for children to reach pre-summer levels. The break will be longer this year due to the lockdown, but there are things that you can do to help your child to be in a better position to move forward with their learning when they return to school.

There are plenty of websites with good activities to help your child continue to learn, such as the STEM Learning Home Learning resources. Your school will be sending worksheets and tasks to do as well, but simply encouraging your child to complete these activities cannot guarantee learning will be achieved. Children often need support from an adult to stay engaged and learn, and you may need to adapt activities to suit your child, their interests and your family routines during this difficult period.

This makes your role in supporting your child’s learning as a parent or guardian more important than ever before. But this isn’t just an important time for children to learn. Exploring how your child learns can be an incredibly rewarding and a truly fascinating experience for everyone involved, and a journey that can benefit your family now and long after this crisis has lifted.

How do we learn and what is 'learning'?

Educational neuroscience (the study of what’s happening in the brain when we learn) has helped uncover what goes on in the brain as learning is taking place. Broadly speaking, learning processes can be grouped as: engagement to start learning; building new knowledge; and consolidating understanding (bringing together and storing what we’ve learnt).

In other words: Engage, Build, Consolidate.

In the next three pages we'll explore these processes in the brain and what that means for how you support your child's learning.