Good study habits begin with an appropriate time and place for study. Setting a routine time for study is key. Find a time that fits both your schedule and your child's. Study time may need to be flexible in families in which parents aren't home when kids come home from school; however, some general rules can guide you in setting a proper time and place.
DOES YOUR CHILD NEED A SCHEDULE?
How responsible is your child? If he accomplishes homework independently and studies in a timely manner, there's no need for you to specify a time for study. On the other hand, if he hasn't studied enough, you should help him structure his time. The amount of time will vary with their grade and school requirements. Elementary school children should study from 15 minutes to one hour; middle school children need one to two hours; and high school students require between two and three hours each evening.
THE TIMER TECHNIQUE
If your child isn't used to spending time studying, use a timer and hold her to a specified and agreed upon amount of time. If she says she's completed all of her homework far before the allotted time is up, have her use the remainder for review, organizing notes or doing extra reading for future book reports or for pleasure. Remind your kids that the timer and prescriptive study times are only a temporary measure to help them manage their study time independently. For children who love to read, permitting them to do pleasure reading during study time may be counterproductive. Writing or math study could complete their study time. Inform them that when their achievement habits improve, you'll be more flexible and allow them to set their own study schedule.
There should be a break immediately after school for children to have a snack and some physical and social activity. Children often believe they should use that break to watch television. However, television will put them into a passive mode, and they're unlikely to want to stop watching to begin studying. It's better to insist that television follow study and homework. Your children may say, "But I need to relax after school." Assure them that they will get to relax. Exercise is both relaxing and energizing and more appropriate after a day of sitting in school. Certainly, having time to chat or clown around or play is appropriate for after school, but television is not.
In determining the right time for study, keep in mind that kids need something to look forward to after study. If possible, at least part of children's study time should take place before the evening meal, leaving time for play or television after study. If the study time is set late in the evening, study will be less efficient and there won't be time afterwards for play. With only bedtime to follow, kids aren't motivated toward efficiency. Homework or study may also become an excuse to stay up late if it is scheduled just before bedtime. (For some reason unknown to adults, few children enjoy going to sleep!) They often look for ways to stay up as long as adults are awake.
CREATE A STUDY SPOT
Having a designated study place is equally important for helping children learn efficiently. A desk in your child's own room, with a STUDENT AT WORK sign posted on the door, is ideal. Many kids have desks, although they may be cluttered with junk. If kids don't have their own rooms, there are other good alternatives: the kitchen, dining room or basement are reasonable places as long as no one else is in the same room, and the kids are out of listening and viewing range of the TV while they're studying.
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