As the father of 5 children, I have certainly learned a few things about parenting—especially when it comes to homework time. The most important take-away I’ve gleaned over the years is that it is never too early to teach good study and homework habits. Developing these skills in the elementary years lays the groundwork for success in middle school, high school, and eventually college. I’ve tested and tried just about everything with my kids—all of whom are now adults—over the past couple decades, and want to share my top 5 study tips for elementary students in this 2-part blog series.
1. Be involved (but not too involved!) Family involvement and support is critical to student success. As parents, we need to show our children how important studying is, and how to efficiently complete schoolwork outside the classroom. That being said, too much “support” can create dependency. We’ve all done our child’s homework once or twice, but making this a regular occurrence will undoubtedly have adverse affects. Be involved by providing patient, constructive guidance that will help them establish long-term practices while learning to become self-sufficient.
2. Keep a schedule. Generate a master, “month-at-a-glance” calendar at home (dry-erase whiteboards work well). When my kids were in elementary school, we sat down together and filled-in known events first, like tests and project due-dates. From there, we reserved small time blocks for daily homework, working on big projects, or studying for a quiz. Scheduling frequent (2-3 times/week), short blocks (~10-15 minutes, depending on workload) for studying and completing larger projects is an excellent way to teach your child time management, and avoid “cramming” for tests or procrastinating. This also helps ease the stress of test- and presentation-days, as your child will feel prepared and comfortable with the material. Once my kids got accustomed to using the calendar, I gave them more responsibility by letting them fill-in the calendar without my help. Once finished, I double-checked to ensure they included all the important dates and allocated sufficient time for daily homework, exam review, project work, etc.
3. Break it up. I know you’ve heard it before, but taking a break is really important for young kids during study time. Multiple studies suggest that students reach optimal performance and concentration levels during the first 20 minutes following a break, so keep breaks frequent but brief! I found that 3-5 minutes of rest for every 10-20 minutes of study worked well. Have your student grab a snack, perform a little light exercise or stretches, go outside to fetch the mail, etc.
Stayed tuned for tips 4 & 5 in the next post!
Michael Apstein is an entrepreneur, father of 5, and grandfather of 3. As the CEO of Focus Education, Michael has turned his passion for helping his own children succeed into a company that develops products to help all children succeed. Focus Education’s Ifocus system uses breakthrough adaptive learning technology, embedded in a video game, to make learning to focus, pay attention, and build memory skills fun and effective.