Those of us with kids know how hard it can be to help them with their homework and encourage them with their studies. It’s not a simple matter of assisting them in figuring out grammar or math problems – and many parents will have to take a trip down memory lane to be able to help at all! Far better to encourage them to learn how to study, to help them form good habits so that they can structure their own ideas effectively. Teaching is, of course, best left to the professionals, but a large part of modern education is done away from the classroom, and it goes without saying that learning to be an autonomous worker and learner at a formative age can only pay dividends in unlocking your child’s potential for the future.
An important part of productivity for students (and workers) of all ages is having the right space in which to work. Apply the same principles to your child’s working space as you would to your own if you were to work from home – free from clutter and distraction and in a part of the house where domestic hustle and bustle is at a minimum – it’s hard to focus when someone is doing the dishes, cooking or hanging out the laundry! Whether the working space is in their bedroom or a different part of the house it’s important that a child should feel focused and relaxed – the desk free of clutter, the television far away.
Children are more and more exposed to technology – and whilst this can be useful – sometimes even vital – to success in the modern world, the way that they interact with technology is of great importance. Seeing a computer or a tablet as a powerful tool to work with, rather than a conduit for social media or gaming is vital. You can teach your children how to use technology effectively to study – from focused research to typing skills to learning to print and troubleshoot their work. For those inclined to time-wasting it’s also possible to install software which can block access to social media platforms, games or even the internet as a whole – whilst this may seem a little draconian to begin with, it’s likely to instill a better work ethic in your child, and foster a better relationship with technology in the long run.
Kids thrive on routine in all aspects of their life, and study is no different. Set aside a few sessions per week – the length of these will depend on the age of your kids – and stick to them religiously. Knowing that a session is approaching will give your child the chance to prepare themselves mentally, so that when they begin to work they hit the ground running, rather than having to get into the zone once the session begins.
Realistic goal setting is also to be encouraged – if the goals are too easy the child could grow bored or worse – complacent. Too tough and the child is likely to grow disheartened and lose interest. Goals are all about challenging kids just the right amount so that they can attain what they set out too, without it being a walk in the park, fostering a great feeling of achievement. And that feeling of achievement is powerful – it’s pride, it’s personal satisfaction, and of course, it leads to more of the same.
Back and Forth
Any teacher will tell you, in a classroom environment dynamic is everything. And a positive learning dynamic is produced by positive, back and forth dialogue, between teacher and student and between students themselves, with teacher supervision. It should be the same at home – children should be encouraged to ask questions, and parents shouldn’t be afraid to ask their children questions. A keyword many teachers use is elicitation – rather than merely providing answers or asking direct questions this means asking questions and encouraging dialogue. In turn, this dialogue creates a path to understanding the key points of any lesson or exercise.
Buddy up to Study
Remember those lonely evenings in your bedroom trying to write an assignment or finish an algebra problem? Imagine how much more productive that time could have been if you had spent it with a friend, working on the assignment or the problem together. Now, depending on your kid’s concentration levels or the dynamic of the friendship they have with their ‘study buddy’ they may need supervision, to begin with. But once a routine has been established you’ll see great results. Again, this may need a little encouragement, but often each student will be able to use their strengths to help the other and find that their buddy will be stronger in other areas, to their mutual advantage.
Focus on Effort, Not Grades
It’s very important to focus your child’s mind on doing their best – and for them to realize that effort can be just as – if not more – important than achievement. Learning to really work at something, to put effort and heart into it is far more valuable in the long term for most of us than being able to breeze through school with minimum effort. For most of us, it is a slog – and a child needs to understand that, and also to understand that where there is an effort, good grades will follow sooner or later. Praise is enormously motivating for a child, and of course, being scolded or dismissed for not scoring straight A’s can only be detrimental to their long term development. So focus on the effort, not the achievement to start with.
Learning how to learn is a really crucial skill in the tender and formative years of a child’s education. Of course, as parents, we want to guide, nurture and motivate our little ones to fulfill their potential, and in close collaboration with their teachers (and by following some of the advice above) fostering good study habits is a huge step in the right direction.