Think of study habits as the foundation that gives your children an enjoyable and effective way to learn.
Strong study habits will help children in school and for the rest of their lives because they will have mastered how to learn on their own terms. And, as crucial as these skills are, they generally aren’t taught in school. Study skills are taught by parents.
When is a good time to start working on study skills? You might not like this answer, but most teachers and experienced parents suggest the best time to instill these habits is when children begin going to school. I hope that doesn’t sound like a Tiger Mom answer.
Nowadays, many parents express dissatisfaction that large quantities of homework rob children of unscheduled playtime. There is no easy way through the homework debate, so why not teach children to study well and efficiently so that their fourth grade math worksheet will take 10 minutes instead of 40? And by all means, make it fun. Kids learn better when they are enjoying themselves.
When your child starts kindergarten, ask her to tell you about what she wrote or read in school. Just by doing this, you are teaching her that school is important and interesting, and that you like to hear about it.
As your child starts to bring back homework, establish a place and a time for her to complete her assignments. Maybe it’s the kitchen table as you make dinner, after dinner when the house is calm, or right after school with a snack. Ask your child if the chosen space is good for her. If it isn’t, talk to her about how to improve it. If it is, maintain it as your child’s designated homework space.
Keep it somewhat bare during homework hours. We had to take the erasers from my son’s desk so that he wouldn’t get distracted. Erasers. Tell your child that this is her time to do her work. You can work on your computer at her side.
Let’s say your child puts off a fairly big assignment until later at night when she is really tired. Let her experiment and struggle, and yes, fail at managing her homework time so that she will better understand her own limitations.
If a page of math is starting to take an inordinate amount of time, put a timer on and challenge your child to get it done in 10 minutes. Experiment with the homework schedule. Maybe your child is fried after school and needs to wake up early in the morning to finish some of her assignments. Sometimes that’s the best way to do it.
Not every student learns in the same way. If you figure out what kind of learner your child is, you can tailor study sessions that are more effective and fun, says Erin Colligan, a former teacher and learning specialist. Most people respond well to a combination of learning types, such as visual, auditory, or kinesthetic learning, so a little variety helps keep students engaged.
Is your child an auditory learner? Does she have to read aloud to somebody or hear a text to know it? Any study techniques that involve speaking aloud, such as reading in accents or with dramatic flair, will help an auditory learner.
If your child responds well to this type of learning, have her use mnemonics and acronyms to remember lists and theories. A child might work up a study script or list of key information and then record herself reading it. She can play it back as often as she needs in order to master the material. Verbal learners can typically study in a busy environment and are great study partners for other auditory learners.
Some children are strong visual learners, meaning that they need to see something to learn it. They will have to write things down and highlight them, or make elaborate maps and charts to illustrate how everything fits together. If your child seems to prefer visual learning, you can suggest that she convert her illustrated notes into words. Visual learners tend to do best studying on their own in a quiet room. Flashcards are a natural fit here, too.
Kinesthetic learners are extremely tactile and will learn best while moving. They are often the doodlers, the fidgeters, and the pencil drummers. They don’t want to talk about geology; they want to hold the rocks and see characteristics that other students might prefer to read about.
A high-energy student might also need to take more breaks during studying, and possibly stand during circle time or while reading. She might need to take notes on a big whiteboard (which allows for bigger movements than regular pencil and paper). This child would benefit from taking a walk around the block or using counting blocks in math. Keep in mind that movement need not be a hindrance to learning. On the contrary, incorporating movement into learning can aid memory.
There are many apps, quiz makers, and computer sites that help children learn. But there is a dark side to these, as well. One educator with twenty years of experience said that electronics are by far the greatest distraction to real studying and learning. To help your child stay focused, set boundaries. If your child has to go online to get assignments or do a set number of math drills each night, make sure it’s a finite operation. Segregate electronics and study times.
Remember that it is your child’s homework, not yours. Maintain a steady and persistent course. One of the most important purposes of early schooling is to encourage students to cultivate a love of learning — and a set of effective study habits that support their individual learning styles.