Can you count on one hand the number of times you’ve prompted your child to focus and finish their homework? I don’t have enough fingers or toes to count the times I’ve had to remind them to keep working.
Let’s face it – kids don’t love studying. They’d rather play with their friends or stare at the TV for hours on end. If you remember anything about being their age, you likely remember playing with your friends outside until your mom called you home at dusk.
Then you’d frantically cram for the next day while shoveling dinner in your mouth.
Now that we understand the value of, well, not procrastinating, it’s time to pass some tips on to our kids for how to be more productive and have fun.
1. Give them space.
Giving them their very own study space will accomplish several things at once.
First, it gives them a fun project. Designate a space just for them and let them decorate it how they want, within reason, of course.
If it’s a space where they feel comfortable and at home, they’ll want to use it and they’ll feel more focused and at home. It may take some encouragement to get them to keep the space neat and organized, but if they do, it will make studying so much easier.
Second, it can help remove distractions. If the space is well-lit, equipped with school supplies, and away from the activities in the rest of the house, it’s more conducive to concentrating on important schoolwork.
The space should also be free of electronics like computers and laptops. Perhaps some of their schoolwork is done on the computer, and if that’s the case, help them learn to set boundaries.
They can do the necessary schoolwork on the computer, but then it needs to be put away for the rest. They shouldn’t be multi-tasking. They need to focus on one subject at a time for greater focus.
2. Ask for help.
They’re not going to get every concept in every subject right away. Learning can be challenging, and that’s a good thing. Make sure their study space is somewhere near you so they can ask questions.
This is a two way street. You have to be open to helping them or they’ll learn that asking questions annoys you. On the contrary, they have to be willing to humble themselves and ask for help when they need it.
It will take some time for them to understand you want to help and for you to learn their cues. Most children who are frustrated with something will show it visibly in some way. Step in and ask how they’re doing. This may encourage them to open up about what they don’t understand.
It’s also important to teach your child to ask their teacher for help when they first encounter a challenge, rather than waiting until it’s too late.
However, you should never hold back when bringing up any concerns with their teacher either, especially when it comes to learning disabilities or special needs. Teachers are often more than willing to make accommodations for children who truly need it.
3. Take notes.
Who remembers lecture hall? Listening to the professor drone on and on about something mundane was never fun, but learning to take effective notes so you can retain that information is key.
Your child likely feels the same way about school, so teach them how to take notes so they can study effectively later.
Studies show that writing out notes by hand rather than typing them on a computer helps you retain the information better.
And there are plenty of note-taking tips and active reading strategies out there. Encourage your child to do some research and create a system that works for them.
4. Manage time effectively.
Time management is an effective skill in advanced education and on the jobsite, so it’s something your child should learn now. Have them keep a homework planner where they write down assignments, due dates, and exam dates.
Then you can help them work backwards to prioritize. They can stay on top of long-term assignments by dedicating a little bit of time to it every day, and they can study for tests more effectively by breaking down concepts and having plenty of time to study them.
The planner will help keep them on track with their homework and help them avoid cramming at the last minute. Plus, they’ll feel more in control with a balanced workload that seems more manageable, and they’ll have a lot more self confidence in their ability to complete everything.
Devoting even 10 minutes per day to the subject they struggle with the most will help boost their skills, make it feel less overwhelming, and help them avoid cramming the next time they have a test.
5. Make homework fun.
There are a lot of programs out there that make learning more fun. For younger kids, there are educational programs that encourage reading in a fun, but effective way. The concept is the same for kids of all ages. Find the thing they struggle with, and then make it relatable.
It’s understandable that homework would be the last thing anyone would want to do. But it needs to get done, so showing your kids how it can be fun may help them get over the hump.
For younger kids, it’s easy to associate learning with family activities. If your child is learning about the food pyramid, have them plan healthy family meals for the week. They can serve it up with a healthy dose of what they learned, helping them retain the information better and take pride in what they know.
For older kids, there are tools to help aid them in what you may not know, like coding software or advanced math. These things help your child to understand how these subjects may actually be practical in the real world. It gives them purpose, rather than feeling like they’re studying something useless for nothing.
While kids need to understand that not everything in life is fun, we can also encourage them through the challenging places with tips to keep them on track and focused. There will be times when it’s not fun for you either, but the extra work will pay off in the end.
About the Author
Cristin Howard runs Smart Parent Advice, a site that provides parenting advice for moms and dads. Cristin writes about all of the different ups and downs of parenting, provides solutions to common challenges, and reviews products that parents need to purchase for babies and toddlers.