Positive Study Habits!


The key to your child doing well in school, is to help him or her develop positive study habits. Few kids are born with them, which means that at first, your child will need your help and support, until they become a part of her.


Set a homework area


I’m not saying that you have to go out and buy your child a fancy desk, but kids do better if they have a space to call their own for as long as it takes them to finish their homework. This can be the kitchen table, their favorite chair in the living room with a board or lap ‘desk’ to write on, or - yes - even a desk. Kids take pride in knowing ‘this is MY homework space’…even if they are sharing the countertop homework area with their older sister, Alyssa. The homework area should be well lit, preferably away from distractions like TV, or little sister’s Brownie meeting.


Homework should NEVER be done in a bedroom with access to a TV. Really. Homework and TV are like oil and vinegar; they do not mix.

This was a Must Rule in our house: No TV, at all, until 100% of your homework is done and checked by mom. Did our boys fight it? You bet. They are also both now successful young adults.


You child should have the ‘tools of the trade’ nearby. (paper, pencils, erasers, crayons, pens, glue stick, ruler, calculator, etc; appropriate for their age and homework needs.) I’ve seen kids waste a lot of time getting up to get a pencil, then getting back up to get the sharpener, only to get up once more to find an eraser. Items can be stored in a cup, shoebox, a ziplock bag, or nice pencil box.


Establish a homework time


As much as they fight it, kids need structure. Leaving homework to get done by itself - means it doesn’t get done. Set a time: 3 o’clock, or perhaps ‘half an hour after you get home’. Try to make it the same time each day. If you can’t do that because of a recurring after school activity - say - reading club every Monday and Wednesday, then establish one set time for Tuesday, Thursday; and a different planned time for Monday and Wednesday.


Do not say, ‘we can’t set a time, because Bobby has soccer practice Monday-Wednesday, followed by Boy Scouts, and ballet, and on Tuesdays and Thursdays he has jujitsu, followed by Odyssey of the Mind, and pee-wee football and, and, and…


I’m not saying that these don’t have value. They all do. I am saying you as the adult must think about what should have priority; which should come first; which will give them the most tools on their journey to becoming a successful adult? If you aren’t willing to give homework value, why should your child?


Check their homework


Now before you panic and break out in cold sweats, I’m not saying you have to be able to do algebra, or write a chemistry lab report, but you can check to see that it is done. Math problems 1-12? Yep, I see twelve problems done.


If your child is in elementary school, you might want to read over their paragraph on how to make a peanut butter and jelly sandwich, or check over a few of those math problems to see if your darling Emily is getting the idea. It is a good way to show your child that homework is important, and that you care about how they are doing. Yes, you say the words, but actions are far stronger. Kids learn a lot by watching what we do.


Remove the battle


This is a challenge for every parent. When Tyson says, “I don’t want to do my homework now!” you can scream at him to sit down and just do it, but even if he does, angry studying is useless studying. Instead try, “Would you like to start with your math today, or your spelling?” When Tyson says, “I don’t want to do either,” remind him that wasn’t one of the choices and repeat, “Would you like to start with math, or spelling?” This gives Tyson a little control over his life. Does it matter in the long run if he does spelling or math first? Nope.


Some parents get concerned about their child’s posture while they do their homework. Choose your battles - it doesn’t matter if they are sprawled across the living room carpet, or have their feet propped up, it doesn’t change the outcome. As long as they are actually working on their homework, save the posture lesson for the dinner table.


Model study behavior


I know that work and other adult responsibilities pull you every-which-way, but if you can squeeze in five minutes to sit and read the paper, or write out some bills while your child is doing their homework, they see 1. reading and math carry over into the adult word 2. adults have ‘homework’ too 3. they feel the love of your spending time with them - that homework isn’t some horrid thing that you avoid at all costs!


Preparing for tests


Research has shown that students learn and retain information better if they have at least two ‘sleeps’. So, if Merida as a spelling test on Friday, she will do far better if she practices the words on Wednesday, then again on Thursday. (Two reviews, two nights’ sleeps)


Some tools:


• Flashcards (best if made by the child)

• re-writing notes

• re-doing assorted homework problems (good for math, upper level science)

• exercising while reciting out loud (This is good when your child has been sitting a while and needs some stretch time, but you don’t want them wandering off and forgetting to return to their homework. Sort of a best of both worlds.)


For example, your child has to practice his spelling words - suggest he do jumping jacks as he says each letter. It doesn’t have to be jumping jacks. Be creative, just don’t wind them up so much that they can’t settle back down.


Study habits are learned


Remember, good study habits take time to learn. Your goal is to help your child learn and take ownership of them, so that when they go off to college and the ‘real world’ they can take these with them on their path to successful adulthood.


See books on study habits

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