Good study habits for kids? Here's how...

Posted on Thursday, August 20, 2015

The sudden onslaught of homework, studying and projects when our children start primary school is a large source of pain for most parents. We are responsible for helping them to do well academically, but with today's hurried lifestyle, fitting another task into our already-stretched-thin evenings can feel overwhelming.

Unfortunately, there's no way around it. Homework is almost as inevitable as death and taxes. The best thing you can do for you and your child is establish good study habits early habits that foster motivation and independence so that homework isn't a constant battle or a source of unhappiness for both of you.

Support from home is essential in helping children of all abilities to learn, says Kath Kenyon, a private remedial teacher and the owner of Learning Kat Remedial Teaching. Establishing good study habits and a holistic approach to learning from early on will go a long way towards making your child's school career a fulfilling and successful one.

She suggests these seven steps to help your child develop healthy home-learning habits, from their first day of school, (but it's never too late to implement them):

1. Set a routine from the outset
Routine takes the pressure off everyone. The first time that your child gets homework, establish how it's going to be done. If you are at home with them in the afternoons, get them to do their homework right after a snack and a short rest, while they are still in learning mode. If you aren't at home, request that their caregiver gets started with them, and then check their work when you get home. If this is still not possible, do it as your first evening activity together, rather than your last.

It helps to have it out of the way earlier on so that the rest of the day can be enjoyed without anything hanging over both of you. Whatever you do, don't let your children learn to do things in a last-minute panic when the pressure is on and the work won't be up to standard.

2. Create a study space
Don't let your child do their homework on the floor of their room or in front of the TV. Set up a study space either at a desk or at a kitchen or dining room table with no distractions. Make sure that they are comfortable, can see clearly and are able to sit without slouching over their work.

Their brains will soon accept that this is where learning takes place and be ready to focus when they sit down in their space.

3. Don't be a helicopter
While it is very important to be supportive of your children's studying, you have to let them struggle a bit to find their own way. Hovering over them has two drawbacks it prevents them from learning for themselves, and it can actually add pressure because they are burdened with your focus and expectations. Be available and try to help them constructively rather than telling them how and giving the answers.

4. Use rewards to motivate them
Give them something to look forward to once they've completed their work for the evening. This is not to suggest that they get a sweet or a gift for every column of addition that they get right, but rather to give them something enjoyable to look forward to once they're done.

For instance, they can earn their television time by completing their homework well and on time. We like to encourage parents to reward their children with time spent with rather than money spent on their children.

5. Display an interest in their learning and make it fun
Don't make a chore out of homework. Ask your children about what they are doing, tell them interesting facts about things that they are learning and be impressed with the knowledge that they've gained. Talk about your own experiences of learning the same information, and research interesting topics further with them.

Incorporate learning into everyday activities baking, for instance, is a great way to bed down mathematical concepts. The key thing here is to merge their school and home lives and their interests with their studies.

6. Help them to understand planning
If they have a longer-term project, help them to break it down into smaller chunks with scheduled milestones along the way. A wall calendar is a great way to mark off time and you can add in after-school activities and other appointments to teach them how to integrate life and work.

7. Limit their screen time and get them outdoors
Little minds are far more receptive to learning if little bodies aren't restless and desperate for movement. Our children are probably already bound by a curriculum that expects too much focus from them, so make sure that they spend time in outdoor play to counter that. They should play at least one organised sport every week, and get outdoors to climb trees or walk the dog every afternoon.

And they shouldn't have more than one hour of screen time (any screen!) a day.

Invest in their futures
We put a great deal of effort into finding the best schools for our children and providing them with access to the right learning materials and activities. But often the thing that is hardest to get right is our own part in this process. Do your best to be respectful of school work, interested in what your children are learning, and supportive of their journey by establishing learning habits that will help them to flourish without your involvement.

This is the best investment in their future that you can make.  

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