Parents are indispensable to their child’s education (and not just because someone’s got to pay for tuition). As your child’s first and best teacher, you have a direct impact on his learning process even if other teachers take over from you.
You’re fully aware that his chances of making it through school, and eventually into a university depend on developing his studying skills early in life. This especially holds true as your child gets older and becomes less inclined to look to you for guidance. With that in mind, here are a few suggestions for how you can help him become a better student:
1) Be regular.
Set regular homework and study periods at home. Let your child plan out his study schedule together with you, allowing him to make time for non-school activities like sports or playing with friends. Make sure he understands that homework and study time gets top priority. Do your best to work this schedule into your own.
Regular study periods are a good way of making sure that preparing for tests or exams never becomes a last-minute cramming session. A schedule can also help your child see how he’s using his time—too much time spent on a certain class, for instance, might mean that he needs extra help from a tutor.
2) Be organized.
Give your child a dedicated place to study with enough space for books, papers, school supplies, and a home dictionary. It’s also a good idea to let her decorate his study area so that she owns it, and to let her figure out how she can keep it neat and organized.
Being organized also extends to notes, reviewers, papers, and so on. Whether she uses folders, envelopes or binders, help your child devise a system for keeping everything in place—and easy to find when needed. Homework to be submitted can go into one folder, for instance, or reviewers can go into another. Encourage your child to keep a planner which includes her regular study and homework period.
3) Be strict, but sweet.
Mobile phones, TV, video games—all OFF during homework time. He can use the phone to call or text you, though, if you can’t be there during his study period (in fact, this should be a rule). Rules like these have to be set for study and homework time, including the understanding that studying isn’t the same as just doing homework or rereading. If you show him that you are truly interested in their learning, he will be, too.
But resist the temptation to pressure, or to nag your child, even though it’s tempting to, sometimes. Rather, help him to see the importance of doing well in his studies for himself. Show him causes and effects—when you study well, you get great grades. And allow him to blow off some steam once in a while. If he’s nervous before exams, let him talk about it. Develop a positive attitude toward studying that he can pick up from you.
4) Be flexible.
What works for one student (or used to work for you) doesn’t necessarily work for your child. Take note of what works best (and what doesn’t) for her—like the time of day, or how long the study period is. First graders can’t usually focus for more than 15 minutes at a time, while high school students can last for over an hour. Let younger students take small breaks (which could be rewards for finishing a certain amount of work) and gradually increase the length in between breaks as they get older.
Remember, too, that students also have different learning and test-taking styles. Does your child study better with visual aids, for example, or does she struggle with essay questions? Make sure that she practices applying the concepts she’s studying, especially for math, and especially when studying for tests. You can help by making practice questions or flash cards for her, or guiding her during problem solving.
5) Be there.
Train your child to be responsible and independent, but at the same time, be there for him during study and homework time as much as possible. Younger children especially appreciate it when you are nearby because it shows them you care and ready to help when needed. Be a good example by not watching TV or playing games yourself while they’re working, and be sure to keep tabs on their progress.
Keeping tabs shouldn’t just stop at “Did you do your homework?” Actually check your child’s homework and ask about how he goes about his studies. Watch carefully for signs that he is having a hard time. Talk to his teachers and let them get in touch with you about to his grades. If his grades could be better, ask your child what you can do to help. But remember to praise, not just great grades, but all his efforts as a student.