Are you constantly nagging your kids to do their homework? Are you disappointed by their report card, since you know they could do so much better if they took their grades more seriously?
The solution seems so easy – develop your kids’ study habits –but this is easier said than done. They’re distracted by TV, the internet and video games. And strict rules and boring drills may actually be counterproductive, if they start dreading school and see study time as an ‘escape.’ The real challenge is to raise kids who love learning and then create an environment where they can do their best work. How do you do that?
1. Find fun, practical applications for concepts.
Why are TV shows and internet so much more interesting than school? Because these media forms try their best to make information ‘user-friendly.’ Of course, teachers shouldn’t have to do a song and dance number just to keep students’ attention. It falls on the parents, then, to try to make the facts come alive.
Make Science more exciting by doing simple experiments at home. There are also books that use math-based magic tricks, or riddles and puzzles that are actually cleverly-disguised word problems. You can even find ways to make handwriting drills fun!
2. Know your child’s learning style.
The theory of multiple intelligences says that kids have different ways of learning. Some remember facts after reading or saying them aloud, but there are those who are more ‘kinetic’ (they need to write things down, or have to pace a room while they memorize) or ‘musical’ (they need mnemonic devices).
What are your child’s natural strengths? Does he memorize pop songs quickly? Then maybe he’ll remember the capitals of the different states if he hums them. Does he like to draw? Then teach him how to do web-mapping.
3. Teach him how to break homework into smaller, manageable chunks.
Many kids are overwhelmed by a big project, put it off, and then cram. Even very intelligent kids get used to finishing ‘easy’ homework overnight, and then crumble when they reach higher grade levels where they can no longer ‘wing’ the assignment.
So, at the get-go, teach kids the habit (and the satisfaction!) of studying every day, long before the test or the project deadline. For example, if they have a book report due at the end of the month, make a list of weekly goals. ‘Read three chapters a week,’ and then, ‘Make an outline by the third week.’
4. Review every day, at the same time and place.
Don’t ask, ‘Do you have homework today?’ Even if the teacher didn’t give anything due tomorrow, they should reread their notes to check if they understand everything. (Ask them to explain a concept in their own words – the true test of whether or not they’ve mastered a topic.) If they don’t, tell them to write down their questions in their notes. They can do further research (reading their text books or the Internet) or ask the teacher the next day.
When your kids are younger, you can develop this skill by setting a daily study period each day, ideally at the same time and place. Studying then becomes a regular part of their life, like eating and sleeping. If your kids are older, you may have to be a little bit more forceful—they’ll balk about having to do it—but take a deep breath and lay the rules. Then, remove all distractions. Lock the TV, unplug the phone, confiscate cell phones. Make it clear that this is study time, and you’re serious. Be consistent about it and they’ll eventually realize that it’s not worth fighting about—and the nagging and negotiating will be over.
5. Emphasize learning, not grades.
Kids can get so pressured to get straight A’s that they either refuse to try or become ‘passive’ learners, memorizing everything and spewing out what the teacher wants just to get the perfect score. Others may resort to cheating or plagiarizing from the Internet. ‘I’ll do whatever it takes, just to get a high score.’
The right approach is to focus on learning a skill or a topic, and then praising the progress. For example, praise your child for small victories: ‘Hey, you’re doing fractions must faster now!’ or ‘I see you put a lot of thought in that book report. I loved the insights you had on Huckleberry Finn!’
6. Focus on building skills, not memorizing facts.
Look at grades as symptoms of what your child needs help in, rather than a measurement of his competence. For example, if your child has a C in Science, talk to the teacher to find out the real problem. Is he bored with the topic? Does he have trouble following instructions? Does he need help analyzing data? At the end of his education nobody’s going to care whether he got a B or an A in fifth grade Science, but those skills—being more precise when taking down data, or learning how to make logical conclusions—are important in high school, college, and even in a successful career.
7. Set a good example.
How can you expect your child to love reading when he never sees you hold a book? Or to enjoy homework when you complain about the office every day? What messages do you send to your child about work ethic, pride in a job well done, or curiosity?
Learning styles are very important. Not everyone learns the same way, and it can be frustrating for a child to be forced to learn in a manner that is not natural to him. This is something that parents should really look into, as unfortunately, it doesn't seem to be common knowledge. Oh, and this is something that we can apply to our lives as adults as well. 😉
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Home Mom says
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