Teaching a child good study habits will not only make homework time easier, it will also help him earn better grades. Study skills are a foundational skill for school success, and what they learn in lower grades will serve them well for years to come.
Before diving into homework, work with your child to figure out what works best for him. Instead of trying to dictate what time your child should do his homework or what environment he works best in, work as a team to figure it out. When a child is part of developing a plan or coming up with a solution to a problem, he’s much more likely to follow through. Also, every person, whether it’s adult or child, has different needs. What works great for you may not work at all for your child. By letting him take the lead in creating good study habits, you’ll make sure they fit his needs.
Get on a schedule. Some kids do better when they have a short break between getting home from school and doing their homework. Other kids do better when they tackle homework after dinner. And others work best in cycles of 30 minutes of homework followed by 30 minutes of play time. The set-up doesn’t matter nearly as much as having a consistent schedule that fits your child’s temperament and attention span. Try different approaches and see which ones fits his needs best. Give each approach at least one full week before deciding to move onto something different. Your child’s homework schedule will probably change according to his after school activities, but you can incorporate what you know into the updated schedule (e.g. he works best after a snack, he has a hard time with TV transitions so it’s best to do homework before TV time, etc.). As your child gets older, he’ll know what time management approach works best for him and he’ll understand the importance of carving out time to focus on homework, studying, and projects.
Create a learning environment. Teaching your child how to create an environment that supports him in doing homework and studying is a key study skill. Although some kids are unbothered by a cluttered area, most children and adults do their best work when their work space is clean and organized. For children with ADD or ADHD, having an organized work area is essential. Noise is also an important part of a learning environment. Having the TV on is never a good idea. Some kids need absolute silence and others work well with music in the background. Before even sitting down, make sure to have all the necessary supplies on hand so your child doesn’t have to stop what he’s doing to go find an eraser or grab more paper. Phones and social media sites should be off limits during homework time. Texts, IMs, Tweets, and other updates create a constant flow of distractions and can derail even the best student. Teaching your child what type of environment works best for him will allow him to recreate that environment wherever he goes. As he gets older and his schedule gets more demanding, he’ll be able to effectively study at a friend’s house, at the school library, or any other place he’s at between activities.
Set up an organizational system. Being organized and having a study plan and a time table are essential in developing good study habits. Most schools require or suggest a spiral daily calendar so your child can write down his homework assignments each day. Make sure this calendar is handy when he sits down to do his homework so he can see each assignment, item by item.
Projects due at a later date usually require additional time and effort so sit down with your child and develop a plan to get it done. Help your child break the project into smaller, more manageable steps and create a timeline to get everything done. Have a larger calendar where you can record each step along with final project due dates, test dates, and other activities related to the child’s schedule. That way you’ll know if a softball game conflicts with a weekend writing session.
Find a convenient place to keep all handouts. Sheets listing weekly spelling words, study guides for upcoming tests, project outlines, and other important paperwork can go on a bulletin board or inside a binder or a file folder. The system that works best for you and your child depends on your home’s space, how much paperwork you have, and your personal preferences. Make sure that as your child gets older, he takes on more and more responsibility for emptying his backpack and putting papers in the agreed upon area.
Homework and study time don’t have to be a nightly battle. With some creative planning, you and your child can work together to create a schedule, space, and system that works for you both.
P.S. This post was proposed to me for publication by Martina Keyhell. I'm therefore publishing it by her invitation and under her permission. See also the link below fore more information: