We expect our students and children to ‘study’, but most of the time we just mean completing homework or prepping for a class test. Studying is much more than this. It is an art – even a science, or at least a technique – which needs to be made explicit. Children need to be taught how to study. One of the main ways to encourage them to study is to combine a routine and organisation with lifestyle changes and motivation.
Making studying part of a lifestyle:
Studying can be divided into studying for a purpose, such as for a test or homework, or studying to learn. If your child is doing well with studying for a purpose, it can be time to move on to more general studying, where your child trains to learn and achieve mastery over a subject.
Here are three important lifestyle ways in which we can help children make studying a daily habit. You should start with this first, as it is unlikely you and your child will go further without first accomplishing these steps. I will go into actual studying habits in detail in another post.
- Build the Homework Habit
Set a daily routine for homework. If your child is old enough, make this a joint decision, so that he or she becomes interested in the process. A contract is a good way to do this, with negotiated rewards and consequences.
The best time for homework will depend on your family’s routine and your child’s personality. Does your son come home and immediately sit down for dinner? Then homework will of course be after this. Does your daughter go out to play with other children after she comes home from school? Perhaps homework should be done when she returns and has got ready for bed. However, is your child too tired after play to be able to study with concentration? Then perhaps homework will have to be completed before your child goes out with friends. If this is a contentious issue, make the timing part of the contract.
If you have a child who is raring to go out and so finishes homework without paying it much attention, then you need to make sure you check his or her work after it is done. Keep answer schemes away from your child, or make sure to sit with them to supervise. If there is no homework (check with the teacher if this is happening too often) then a book is a really good thing for them to read, and then answer questions on (see the next point). Or ask your child’s tuition teacher for more work, or buy support material for their exam online. There is more than enough stuff out there, for there to be no excuse for your child not to have a good amount of studying to do everyday.
Another way that works is to do more hours of study one day, and less the next. Basically, one day on, one day off. All you have to do is be prepared in advance, and not give in to moping, tantrums or parental guilt. You are not doing your child any favours in the long run by not disciplining them about their studies.
- Read Together
Parents don’t like to hear this, but your child does what you do, not what you say. So, if you don’t read, it is likely your child doesn’t read as well. This is especially true if your child is a slow reader, and has an identified (or unidentified) reading disability, like dyslexia. If you put your child to bed by reading him a bedtime story, it is likely your child will develop a love for stories. If your child is surrounded by books, it is likely she will pick one up to read by herself, regardless of how difficult she finds it. If your child is only surrounded by computer games, televisions and electronic paraphernalia, just like you are, it is unlikely he will reach out to pick up a book instead of an Xbox controller. So, my advice is, let there be books! All around you. Let your child see you read, even if it is a magazine to start with. If he is used to technology, get him on an Audible book and put a Kindle in his hand, so he can listen to the book while he reads. Teach your child that reading can be fun, not only a chore for school. Let there be an hour every day when everyone in the house sits down in the living room and reads an honest-to-goodness print and paper book that feels wonderful in your hand, compared to the characterless swipe of a tablet screen.
- Make a Study Space
Give your child a space to study, both mental and physical – This is really important. One of the main reasons children do not focus on their studying is because they are doing it on the dining table with the telly blaring in the background, or they have to find and haul out all their books, pencils and papers each time they want to sit down and do any work.
A study table or a study space even, is a good way to make sure that your child has a place that belongs to their academics. All their books, pencils, colours, maps, encyclopaediae and study calendar are in one place. With a desk, chair, shelves and pin board, this sort of space is crucial as your child begins to get ready for important competitive exams
like the 11+, where simply doing homework is no longer enough to succeed.
If you are worried about your child not doing work unless you keep a constant eye on him or her, you will have to keep popping your head through the door to make sure that she is not surfing the web for Justin Beiber’s latest video (keep your apps limited for your child’s use like YouTubeKids etc. , and lock down to a single app when handing your iPad over for homework).
It is also important for you or your partner (or older child) to invest in the process and quiz your child on what they were just supposed to have studied. It may sound obvious, but again, make sure there are no answers in the book they have, or that they have not cut and pasted text straight from Wikipedia for their report!
Once these main three steps are in place, and your child has settled to a routine of daily homework or studying, then it is time to understand how to teach them to study. You might think that they would cover this in school, but this is not so. It is one of the reasons tuitions like mine are essential nowadays. We teach the explicit skills that schools in the UK no longer have the time, belief or inclination to teach, though good pedagogy demands it is present.
Stay tuned for more study skills on this page. If you have any questions, please drop me a line and I will definitely answer them for you.