Helping Your Child Study Better

When your child comes home from school, and you ask, "Do you have any homework?" invariably the answer always blasts forth from little lungs, "NO!" Kind of like the answer parents always receive for the "What did you do today?" question. "Nothing," sweetly exits.

As a teacher, however, I can assure you that (most likely) your child is receiving homework, probably is expected to study some each evening, and participates in an assortment of well-planned lessons during the day. Contrary to the wishful thinking of K–12 students worldwide, we teachers do assign homework and do so to reinforce concepts learned during class.

According to the U.S. Department of Education, of those students who do the best on homework, studying, and tests, the majority come from homes where parents take an active, supportive role in their children's academic success. Again, as a teacher, I didn't need a study to tell me that parental involvement produces students who work harder to excel. I see the results every day in my classroom. You are probably reading this because you are one of those concerned and involved parents. Good for you! Now, pull up a desk and find out some of the smartest ways to help your son or daughter study better.

  • 1st–3rd graders—20 minutes
  • 4th–6th graders—20–40 minutes
  • 7th–9th graders—up to 2 hours


First Contact with the Teacher    to top

Office 2000 sports a "smarter," intelligent interface that automatically conforms to the way you work. At least that's what Microsoft wants everyone to think. Initially, menus and toolbars display only the most commonly used options. A double-headed arrow at the bottom of the menu or the right side of the toolbar lets you view the rest of the available commands. As you select menu commands and click buttons, Office automatically bumps up the command or button to a higher level on the menu or toolbar.

In short, Office hides most options and constantly reshuffles the deck. And this is supposed to be an improvement? I have a hard enough time finding the option I need in the first place—why would I want it hidden and in constant motion?

Even if your child regards his or her teacher as something from another planet—a homework-driven alien who stays up each night calculating how to make life more miserable for students—the first contact remains essential in order for you to stay abreast of your child's academics. So grab your space gear and make the call. Introduce yourself...then ask several questions like:

  • How much homework should I expect my child to have each night? How much time should my child devote to studying each evening?
  • What will you cover this year? What sort of unit projects should I expect my child to work on at home during the year?

Also...

  • Ask the teacher to keep you apprised of your student's performance—especially if your child experiences difficulties. You'll want to know immediately of any problems, so you can begin more intensive help (like a tutor)—not later when the school comes to you to discuss something like holding your child back a year.
  • Express any concerns you may have surrounding your child—academic or otherwise. For instance, if you suspect a learning disability, tell the teacher. Or if your child has undergone a traumatic experience, like a divorce or a death in the family, tell the teacher. When a teacher learns the nuances of each child, he or she is then better prepared to modify instruction to better provide a positive environment for your child. A child who feels good about school will feel good about homework and studying, resulting in better grades.

    Homework Hotline
    Now, even teachers operate in our technological world. Your child's instructor probably has e-mail and voicemail—both excellent ways to make contact quickly over issues about your child. Find out what communication mode your child's teacher prefers and use it!


The Big Hand and the Little Hand    to top

Once you're armed with the answers to the questions you asked the teacher, you can better develop a study schedule. In short, set a specific time each night for your child to devote to studying and homework. Take into consideration extracurricular activities and your own work schedule and find a time when those components won't interfere in study time. Stick to the homework schedule EVERY SCHOOL DAY.


A Clean, Well-Lighted Place    to top

After setting a time, find a place conducive to studying for your child. Preferably, your child's study area should be free from noise and traffic and also comfortable and well lit. Organize the area and provide plenty of supplies: pens, pencils, paper, glue sticks, markers, anything your child may need to complete projects and tasks. Keep a dictionary nearby, too. Let your child help decorate and organize the area. By doing so, you give "ownership" to him or her and again make the learning experience more positive.


Be Near Me    to top

Stay nearby while your child works. Younger children especially want Mom or Dad next to them while doing homework. By staying close, you offer your child security and show your child you really do care about his or her success in school. Moreover, children often require help with their homework and depend upon you to give that help. Whether your child needs you to quiz him for a test or further illuminate the intricacies of long division, hang out in the same room or close by.


Check It Out    to top

Once your child finishes studying, check for comprehension by quickly going over the material. Again, help your child learn by quizzing him. Make a game out of quizzing or involve the whole family for added fun. Beyond helping your child earn a great grade on a test, you'll also spend quality time together. With assignments, look over the work for accuracy and completion. If you find that a worksheet isn't completed, redirect your child back to the homework and help her finish.

    Parental Detention
    Never do your children's work for them. You'll cheat your own kids out of an education and set them up for failure later. Instead, support them and guide them toward the right answers.


A Standing Ovation    to top

Finally, praise your child for his or her hard work. Point out something done well on an assignment, or go out for ice cream when a test comes back with an A. By praising, you once again show your child how much you care. You raise you child's self-esteem, which, in turn, directly correlates to academic success.

    Parental Detention
    When your children study, don't exhibit a double standard. Turn off the television. Don't boot up one of your computer games. Instead, show the kids by example the importance of an education. Read a book or work on paperwork at the same time your child works. Your nonverbal message will ring loudly and clearly to the kids.


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