1. TURN OFF THE TV SET
Make a house rule, depending on the location of the set, that when it is study time, it is “No TV” time. A television set that is on will draw youngsters like bees to honey.
What about the radio? Should it be on or off? Contrary to what many specialists say, some youngsters do seem to function well with the radio turned on to a favorite music station. (Depending on the layout of your house or apartment, maybe an investment in earphones would be worthy of consideration.)
2. DESIGNATE SPECIFIC AREAS FOR HOMEWORK AND STUDYING
Possibilities include the child’s room or the kitchen or dining room table. Eliminate as much distraction as possible. Since many young people will study in their own rooms, function becomes more important than beauty. Most desks for young people really don’t have sufficient space to spread out materials. A table that allows for all necessary supplies such as pencils, pens, paper, books, and other essentials works extremely well.
Consider placing a bulletin board in your child’s room. Your local hardware store sells wallboard that might not look too pretty and isn’t framed, but a 4′ x 3′ section is inexpensive and perfect on which to post pertinent school items. You might want to paint or cover it with burlap to improve its appearance or let your child take on this project.
Encourage the use of a planner, small book or pad for writing down assignments so that there is no confusion about when certain assignments must be turned in to the teacher.
Keeping general supplies on hand is important. Check with your child about his needs. In fact, make it his responsibility to be well supplied with paper, pencils, note pads, notebook paper, etc.
3. SET A CONSISTENT SCHEDULE
Try to organize the household so that supper is served at a standard time, and once it and family discussions are over, it’s time to crack the books. If the student doesn’t have other commitments and gets home reasonably early from school, some homework can be done before supper.
Consider your child’s developmental level when setting the amount of time for homework. While high school students can focus for over an hour, first-graders are unlikely to last more than 15 minutes on a single task. Allow your child to take breaks, perhaps as a reward for finishing a section of the work.
4. ORGANIZE STUDY AND HOMEWORK PROJECTS
Get a large calendar, one that allows space for jotting down things in the daily boxes. Rip it apart so that you (and the child) can sequentially mount the school months for the current semester. For example, you can tear off September, October, November, December and January and mount them from left to right across one wall. Have the child use a bold color writing instrument (felt tip pen) to mark exam dates in one color, reports that are coming due in a different color, etcetera. This will serve as a reminder so that things aren’t set aside until the last dangerous moment.
5. GO ABOVE AND BEYOND
One of the most misunderstood aspects of schoolwork is the difference between studying and doing homework assignments.
Encourage your child to do things like:
Take notes as he’s reading a chapter
Learn to skim material
Learn to study tables and charts
Learn to summarize what he has read in his own words
Learn to make his own flashcards for quick review of dates, formulas, spelling words, etc.
6. TAKE STRONG NOTES
Many students don’t know how to take notes in those classes that require them. Some feel they have to write down every word the teacher says. Others have wisely realized the value of an outline form of note-taking. Well prepared teachers present their material in a format that lends itself to outline form note taking.
Should notes ever be rewritten? In some cases, they should be, particularly if a lot of material was covered, and the youngster had to write quickly but lacks speed and organization. Rewriting notes takes time, but it can be an excellent review of the subject matter. However, rewriting notes isn’t worth the time unless they are used for review and recall of important information.
7. GET A DICTIONARY
A home dictionary is essential, but if it is kept on a shelf to gather dust, it won’t do anyone any good. Keep it in an accessible place and let your child see you refer to it from time to time. If the family dictionary is kept in the living room and the child studies in his room, get him an inexpensive dictionary for his exclusive use.
Good dictionary, encyclopedia, and organizational skills depend on the ability to alphabetize. See if your child’s teacher practices alphabetizing in class. Try alphabetizing spelling words, family members’ names or a few favorite toys at home as a way of practicing.
8. HELP YOUR CHILD TO FEEL CONFIDENT FOR TESTS
Taking tests can be a traumatic experience for some students. Explain to your child that burning the midnight oil (cramming) the night before a test is not productive. Better to get a good night’s sleep. Students also need reminding that when taking a test, they should thoroughly and carefully read the directions before they haphazardly start to mark their test papers. They should be advised to skip over questions for which they don’t know the answers. They can always return to those if there’s time. Good advice for any student before taking a test: take a deep breath, relax, and dive in. Always bring an extra pencil just in case.
9. LET YOUR CHILD DO THE WORK
Parents should help if it is clearly productive to do so, such as calling out spelling words or checking a math problem that won’t prove. It is not necessary if it is something the child can clearly handle himself and learn from the process. Help and support should always be calmly and cheerfully given. Grudging help is worse than no help at all!
Read directions, or check over math problems after your child has completed the work. Remember to make positive comments – you don’t want your child to associate homework with fights at home.
10. TRY LEARNING A TUTOR THAT TEACHES STUDY SKILLS
Study skills can change your child’s life. That is why The In-Home Tutor of Hinsdale provides study skill tutoring along with all of our other tutoring services. Our program:
Helps the student understand study skills in terms of their own interests and experiences.
Explains why strategies work and puts them in a bigger context with real life examples like movies, musicians, sports, and video games.
Doesn’t read like a textbook. The tone is conversational and the pages are full of pictures and stories.
“Sells” each technique to the student by explaining why the strategy works.
Plays to the adolescent mindset by emphasizing personal style and providing students with options so they can find a system they like.
Uses hands-on activities as much as possible.
This program will teach students how to listen better, how to read better, how to study better… but that is just the beginning.