10 Ways to Give Your Kids a Boost by Helping Them Study Better
When your kids go back to school, it’s almost like you go back to school, too. Teachers and childhood development professionals agree that when a child’s parents are involved in his education, he learns more and gets better grades. That means, you have just as big a responsibility in his schoolwork as he does.
Good study habits bring early success in school as well as success later in life. Being good at homework gives kids confidence and helps them do better in school. And the work ethic they learn early in life will stay with them well into adulthood. But, having to help your kids keep up with their homework can feel like an overwhelming task, especially if you were never good at your own homework when you were in school. Here are a few things you can do to give your child a boost when it comes to schoolwork.
Teaching your child how to get and stay organized in order to keep up with his schoolwork is one of the best things you can do to prepare him for his adult life. Helping him keep track of his assignments, manage his time and get his work turned in finished and on time is a lesson he can take with him long after he’s forgotten who ran against Abraham Lincoln when he was elected. Get your student a notebook that is just for writing down assignments so he has somewhere to record his homework every day. This also gives you a list to help keep track when seeing if his work is complete.
Create a homework chart with him to track daily and weekly assignments and put it in a visible place so you can check in with him and find out how he’s doing. If he has longer assignments, create a calendar where you can record and track due dates. Make sure he has an organizer with folders for each class so he has somewhere safe to keep his completed work, so he’s not losing his assignments or handing in crumpled pages. Have folders for keeping graded assignments and tests to help him study later. Being well-organized can take a lot of the stress out of homework.
Establish a Routine
The best way to combat the “I’ll do my homework later” fight is to establish a routine early in the school year. Make your student stick to a set time for doing her homework every night. This time will vary based on other activities your child participates in and what the family schedule is like, but once you find out when it’s best for her to sit down and focus on her schoolwork, set it and stick to it. You should also consider establishing a minimum amount of time to spend on studying. This will prevent your kid from rushing through her work or saying she doesn’t have any.
If she knows she has to spend an hour on schoolwork of some kind every day, she’ll be prepared and she’ll concentrate more on her work than on what she’s going to be doing next. Something that might help with keeping your routine is having a homework chart. If nothing else, help her create a plan for getting her work done so it doesn’t seem overwhelming, especially if she has a lot of chores at home or other activities that take up much of her spare time.
Create a Study Spot
If you want to help your kid focus on schoolwork at home, one of the best things you can do is create a dedicated study spot in your home for him. This place should be free from distractions, quiet, well-lit and have plenty of work supplies on hand. Make it a comfortable spot, but not somewhere that will inspire sleeping. A desk in his bedroom is great, as long as you can be close enough to come help when he needs it. A space at the dining room table or a workspace in one of the family areas also works well, as long as there aren’t too many distractions and interruptions.
Having a dedicated area for doing homework helps your child get focused and stay focused. It can also be fun for him to get to decorate it a little bit and make it his own. If there isn’t room for a study spot away from distractions in your home and your student still can’t focus, consider allowing him to do his studying at the local library or another quiet, public place.
Having a specific study place set aside for your student is a great way to get him focused and working, but that will only work so well if he still has distractions. Homework time has to be free of distractions if he’s going to get his work done and retain any knowledge from doing it. First of all, there should be no television during homework time. It is just too distracting. Listening to the radio is okay, and can sometimes help with memory and recall, but the radio should not be too loud. It needs to be background music only.
The other thing to say “no” to during homework time is the phone. Kids should not be allowed to talk on the phone during their scheduled work time. The only exception would be if they need to reach out to a classmate to ask a question about an assignment. If this is necessary, set a time limit and monitor the call to make sure they’re staying on task. Otherwise, take the phone away. Texting can be a huge distraction while doing homework, as can the internet. If a computer is not required for your child’s work, make sure it’s off and stays that way. If he does need to use it, set up your parental controls and monitor internet usage.
And, remember to check on your kid while he’s doing his work. If his desk is in his room, there are probably plenty of distractions there like magazines and video games that will get in the way of his studying.
Don’t Do the Work for Them
Watching your kid struggle to complete an assignment can be difficult. It can be very tempting to just get in there and do the work for him while he watches. You need to be available to help answer questions if he has them, but you must avoid the temptation of just doing the work yourself. Coach him along in an assignment by asking leading questions. Help him work through a problem by presenting the issue in a different way. If it’s a math problem, find a real world situation to tie it to. If it’s spelling, relate the word to things he’s interested in. Use it in a sentence about something he’ll remember. Before he gets started on his schoolwork, have him divide it into work he can do on his own and work that requires help (like flashcards and self-quizzing) so you know when he’s leaning too much on your assistance.
Good learning comes when a child struggles through something to get it done. He won’t learn if you jump in every time he’s a little confused, and he won’t gain the problem solving skills and self-sufficiency he’ll need when he’s an adult. Always check your kid’s work when he’s done. If you see a lot of errors, talk about them and have him take another swing at it. But, keep in mind that unless you’ve discussed it with his teacher, don’t feel like you need to send him a way with a perfect assignment. It is helpful for teacher to see what he’s getting wrong in order to know where he’s struggling.
Remember That Breaks Are Okay
While it’s important to set aside regular homework time and it’s helpful to require your child to spend a set amount of time on schoolwork or studying each night, remember that breaks are okay. Sometimes when homework is hard for a student, it’s helpful for him to be able to step away from it and relax a bit. If there’s something that’s particularly challenging and you can see that his frustration is getting in the way of completing the assignment, let him take a break.
To prevent breaks from becoming a distraction or excuse to not work, have a list of tasks or a certain amount of his work that must be completed before he can take a break. Then, have him do something with you, rather than giving him permission to zone out in front of the TV or a video game. Shoot some hoops or take a short walk. Have him help you clean up in the kitchen or do some other quick chore. Take him out to grab a snack at the grocery store, and maybe even apply some of that math that he's doing. Give him a little bit of time to do something different, especially something physical, to decompress and refresh his mind.
Stay Involved and Be an Example
Of all the things you could do to help your child with his schoolwork, the best thing any parent can do is stay involved. Meet with your child’s teachers to understand the type of work they expect and the assignments he’ll be getting. Ask about tests and quizzes and then ask him how they went. Check his homework when it’s done and ask to see his graded tests. Be available during homework time, without hovering, so your student knows that he can ask you for help if he’s having trouble. Monitor your kid and motivate him.
A kid will be more apt to stay committed to doing homework when he sees his parents also focusing on work. Maybe during homework time, you’re balancing the checkbook, making your list of meals for the week to prepare for shopping or even just quietly reading a book or writing letters. Showing your kid that good work habits carry through life will help him maintain his study habits during school. And don’t forget to take time to listen. A kid can get excited about school if he has the chance to talk about the things he’s enjoying or some successes he’s had.
Watch for Issues
You should pay close attention to how your child is doing in school and what challenges she’s experiencing with his homework. Some issues aren’t based on a lack of commitment or work ethic. If he’s doing the work but continues to struggle, try setting up a small study group with classmates who may be doing well in the subjects where he struggles. If that doesn’t help and the grades don’t seem to match the amount of work and time he’s putting in on studying, talk to the teacher. Teachers are great partners in your child’s education and they want to help.
Maybe your little guy needs glasses and can’t see problems worked out on the board or the projector. Maybe he has hearing issues and sitting in the back of the class is causing him to miss valuable information. Maybe he has a learning or behavior disorder and reading or staying focused is more than a simple behavior issue, but something that you need a professional to help you figure out.
Praise, Praise, Praise
Another way to stay involved with your child’s learning is to make sure you praise good work. Most child psychologists agree that a little praise goes a long way, especially when it comes to good study habits. Even if a kid doesn’t get 100% of the answers correct on an assignment, he should be praised for completing it and encouraged to do even better.
Have a tiered system of small rewards for good scores on tests and for marking improvements in subjects that might be more difficult for your child. Praise him for struggling through a certain assignment and getting it completed. Use some of those normal study time distractions as rewards for completing assignments and getting good scores. Let him know when you’re impressed with his accomplishments and it will encourage him to continue to do what he’s doing and more.
Make Schoolwork a Priority
If you want to help your kid establish good study habits, make sure he understands that schoolwork is his priority. Having a routine, staying organized and having a specific area set aside for homework will help do this, but you need to do more. Don’t let him slack off as the semester continues. And, while having extracurricular activities is important for growth, discipline and getting into college, if your child’s activities are preventing him from completing his schoolwork or doing it well, you need to cut down on what he’s doing.
If he can’t manage his time well enough to handle multiple activities, the schoolwork needs to take precedence. If there are activities your family wants to do as a group, make sure these do not preclude your student from completing his assignment. His homework is your priority. If you make him take the time to do it, you also need to be prepared to spend the time he needs you to spend helping him and checking his work. If schoolwork is a priority for you, it will be a priority for your kid. You set the tone in your home.