Our poor kids just have too much on their plates. It is not uncommon for me to hear of kids aged 9 – 11 years old who are in the pool at 6am training before school. Then it’s a full morning of school followed by ballet, art, homework, dinner, bath and bed. Where is the downtime?
Now if you have a child who is very strong academically and on the sports field, you might find this way of life works fine for your family. However, many kids and parents are struggling to keep up.
The two things that tend to fall away when the pressure hits are the fun and the basic grounding for effective studying. Homework and studying are often done in the back of the car while waiting for a sibling to finish sport or it is done late at night when everyone is exhausted.
The earlier kids get into the habit of studying effectively, the better. Once the bad habits are learned, it is so hard to turn back. Many children drag themselves to their books and half read a bunch of boring stuff and they consider that to be “studying”. They convince themselves that they cannot study if they do not have music playing or if they are not lying comfortably on the bed! These are really not great ways to study.
Have a plan
The first part of getting it right is in the planning ahead. Parents – you really need to help out here. You should have the full term timetable of subjects, test, sport events, outings, assignments etc. from the school. If you don’t have it, ask the school for this information. Then help your child to add all the personal diary dates to the schedule e.g. family birthdays, weekends away, friends’ parties etc.
Once you have all the info, you can plan out a schedule for each term of everything and you will see that there is not a lot of time left for studying. Divide the subjects up and allocate free slots to studying. (Ensure that there are free slots allocated to fun stuff too)
Get your child to colour code the schedule i.e. sport in yellow, tests in red, holidays in blue etc. When the whole thing is complete, it makes it easy to look at the big picture and mentally prepare for what’s ahead. If you see a block of red (i.e. tests) looming, you know that the family has to knuckle down and hit the books BUT the great part is that often just after the block of tests will be a holiday, a party or a fun outing to look forward to.
When you can see the big picture and also the smaller chunks, it enables you to prepare properly and half the studying battle is won.
Tips for studying
Once you are certain that your child has planned ahead sufficiently and is aware of all the deadlines, commitments and requirements over the next school term, you can begin to look at HOW they are studying.
- There are some obvious no-nos like studying with the TV on or studying in a crowded and busy place. Despite the teenagers’ insistence that the TV/iPod etc. makes them concentrate better, it DOES NOT.
- Research has shown that they need to be in a quiet, well-ventilated, uncluttered space - preferably at a desk with a white or blank wall in front of them.
- It is important to divide subjects up into specific time frames so that they do not get bored or overloaded with one subject. Depending on the age, children should study for 30 – 55 minutes followed by a 5 minute break. During the break, they should leave the room, stretch, have a drink and get some fresh air before going back to the study area.
- Once the subject for studying has been chosen, have a look at how it can be made more story-like. Think of the movies that they watch and how much of the information they retain when stories are told with colour and variation.
- Subjects like history & geography are perfect examples. The child should have a blank paper and coloured pens and create a brief timeline story out of the subject. Get the general story right first and then later, add specifics like dates and numbers.
- Certain subjects like maths require PRACTICE, PRACTICE, PRACTICE! Doing calculations over and over until it becomes 2nd nature is the only way to ensure that the information is retained. Remember it is not only about these exams but about having sufficient retention to be able to move up a year and carry on with more complex work.
- Studying languages is somewhere in the middle. There are instances where stories can be created and in other cases, there is just plain old fashioned Rote learning required.
What tips / tricks do you and your children have to share with others to help anyone who is struggling?