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Establishing Study Skills – How Parents can Help their Kids

study skillsIt’s 5 pm on Sunday evening and your child confesses that he/she has a math test on Monday morning that he/she hasn’t studied for yet.  Sound familiar? That was certainly our reality back in December, when our girl who’s in grade 3 tells us about this new event and that she’s left her math book at school.  Sigh.

You feel like you’re one step behind as you’re trying to keep up with commitments to after-school activities, social time with friends and family, and studying for tests and homework.  You’re not alone.  A study of Canadian families, carried out by the Canadian Council on Learning (2009), found that more than 60% of the Canadians surveyed agree or strongly agree that homework has often been a source of household stress.

We all know that our brains aren’t made for cramming for 4 hours the night before a big test.  That we need to learn things in bite-size chunks and revisit the same material to ensure we really commit it to memory.   

How can we parents change our child’s learning experience for the better and gain back some family harmony?  I decided to do some research and here are five things parents can do to help their child establish excellent study skills.

1. Get organized for study time

Designate a specific area in your house for study and homework where you have eliminated as many distractions as possible.  Make sure you have all the tools you need to complete the homework, be it pens, pencils, scissors, glue, notepads, paper, or whatever else is needed.

study area2. Manage your study time

Get a calendar and sit down with your child to plan out the week ahead.  Write down all after-school activities, dinners and social occasions.  Then plan into that schedule the time assigned for studying and completing homework assignments.  Help your child to start studying for tests and assignments well in advance.  That way you can break down the work in bite-size chunks.  Also allow for levels of concentration.  A Grade 1 student, for example, is at most able to concentrate for 15 minutes, so work in 5-minute breaks in your planning. 

3. Learning styles

You’ll want to explore how your child learns to determine how they learn best.  I won’t even pretend to know all the learning methods, but as parents we know our children pretty well and can often use common sense to gauge how our children learn best.  Once you know how your child learns best, create a system of studying that suits your child. 

4. Your attitude towards studying matters, as do rewards and praise

Our attitudes towards our environment rub off on our children and it’s no different for studying.  If we consider learning a positive experience and make study-time the highest priority then our children will do too.  Easier said than done – I hear you.  Staying engaged does help. Quiz your child for tests.  Help your child to work through difficult problems by being persistent and then praising them once they’ve worked it out.  Encourage study groups with peers. 

You know your child best, so you know what level of support they need.  However, all children like to receive praise and rewards for a job well done. 

5. Teach your child to study

And last but not least, learning to study does not come naturally.  It’s something that needs to be taught.  When assigning time to completing homework, set aside some time to learn essential study skills, such as:

  • take notes when he/she is reading a chapter,
  • learn to skim materials,
  • learn to study charts and tables,
  • learn to summarize what they’ve learned,
  • learn to make his/her own flashcards,
  • learn to review notes they’ve taken,
  • learn to highlight important information.

Excellent study skills set your children up for success.  They develop a positive attitude about themselves and they feel confident and competent.  They’ll take these skills and apply them through the rest of the lives as they graduate high school, college/university and into their careers as adults.