Study Habits

Homework can be a great source of stress in anyone’s home life. Whether there is too much or it is too hard. Some children love doing extra and others can’t get back into their work when they get home. Forming good study habits and skills isn’t just about how much time we set aside for homework, there are a lot of factors that go into creating a good or effective study habits. Studying requires your child to focus on a particular topic for a period of time. How can we improve your child’s focus? Let’s start with the body. HAT is a great acronym to have in mind. It is hard to focus when you are experiencing any of the three attributes of HAT, hungry, attitude, or tired.

Hungry – when our bodies are hungry it is hard to think of anything but our stomachs and what there is to eat. We want to start our children off with a great breakfast that is full of energy. Likewise, after school they could also be hungry and not ready to jump into homework. What foods are right? It may depend on your child and what his/her body is saying. Of course, as a rule of thumb, sugary snacks and drinks will wind them up and make them crash pretty hard. Read your labels, sugar is hiding in a lot of our snacks. Fruit and veggie trays are always a good choice. Foods that are rich in protein are also great. 

Attitudes – how is your child’s attitude? Are they happy or sad? Do they have something on their mind that is distracting them from focusing on their studies? Ask some questions to see if they want to talk about their day first. You may also need to check their attitude about the particular subject they are studying. I knew a child that didn’t really want to study in areas that he didn’t see any value. I think that can be true for all of us. Sometimes it helps if you draw some lines as to how each subject helps them. Maybe even how you used that subject in your work. There are times it is very difficult to show how certain topics may apply. Some subjects might be helping you exercise your brain to think in different ways.  We exercised muscles in our bodies we don’t normally use, but when we need them, we are glad we have them ready to go!

Speaking of exercising muscles, our attitudes can change if we get out and move our bodies. Let your children have time to go out and play and work off that top layer of stress, excitement, nervous energy, etc. Studies have shown that exercise can improve your child’s mental capacity. Activity boosts memory and thinking skills. 

“The study by a team from the University of Granada in Spain found that children who are physically fit have a greater volume of grey matter in the brain’s frontal and temporal regions and the calcarine cortex, all of which are important for executive function (the mental skills that help us get things done), as well as learning, motor skills and visual processing.”

Tired – Sleep and rest is a very important part to our mental ability to focus. If we are sleep deprived it is hard to focus on anything. Make sure you establish great sleep patterns and habits for your children. Maybe a nap or quiet time after school is what your child will need to get through the evening more successful. Limit your child’s screen time. Looking at screens can make your child’s eyes tired and hinder their focus time for studying. According to a blog by Pediatric Ophthalmologist, Dr. Bhola,  “Excessive screen time can also lead to “Computer Vision Syndrome” which is a combination of headaches, eye strain, fatigue, blurry vision for distance, and excessive dry eyes.”

Consider the appropriate time for your child to do their work, it may not be the same for everyone. Pick the right time for your child. Make sure and limit distractions and pick a homework spot. Find a homework place that is most conducive to your child’s study habits. Encourage them and help them when needed. 

When all else fails, bribe them! Just kidding. One way to encourage and reward your child’s study habits is to pay them an allowance for studying. We often think about paying for chores around the house, but what about study habits. While this blog is not on chores, chores can be thought of as what you do to help the family. Getting paid for chores can set a precedent that everything you do is a “billable hour.” Many parents pay for good grades on report cards, however some children need help along the way to get to that good grade. Try rewarding the study habit that gets to the good grade. Reward for reading books. A child that reads will always do better in school. 

Getting Organized

Getting back into a school routine can be challenging. Sometimes it feels like the year takes off and the school calendar starts managing your family. Before you know it, there are open houses, homecomings, teacher conferences, Halloween costumes, school projects, and then it is time for Christmas parties. How awesome would it be to start this year off intentionally? Let’s get organized and ready to be present to every moment of your child’s school year. 

Everyday preparation. There are some things to do every day to make sure the day starts and ends well. Planning lunches and clothes can be a great start to getting the mundane, everyday decisions out of the way. Start with a conversation about the foods your child will have for lunch, then make a list and make sure to have plenty of those items available. If it makes sense to organize those items on the weekend, make it a fun family activity to put lunch items together, if not do this every evening. Then have a conversation about clothes, what’s appropriate and what’s not. Are all those clothes clean for the week? Layout clothes the night before so there doesn’t have to be a discussion in the morning. Make sure and check the school calendar for upcoming spirit weeks or special dress up days at school.

Pull out the calendar and have a family planning meeting. Have a family calendar that incorporates all the relevant school activities, church activities, family activities, sporting activities, etc. Are there scheduling conflicts? Are their decisions that need to be made about those conflicts or is it something that you are willing to divide and conquer. Make sure you also schedule at home times as well. All families need rest and time to just unwind and be at home.This is a great time to practice your communication skills and being considerate of others’ schedules. One person’s schedule isn’t more important than the others.

Set goals for your school year. We all know that the school year can fly by and we ask ourselves what happened in that year. One way to be intentional about your school year is to set goals. Set goals for your family about places you want to go, habits you want to incorporate, and accomplishments you would like to see achieved. It is important to teach our children to set goals. While there are natural goals built into a school calendar, those are largely determined by the teacher or a school system. There is a value in showing your children that setting personal goals demonstrate leadership. Sometimes the system goals may be lower than what you can personally accomplish. Teach and demonstrate setting goals that are challenging. 

Review what an effective goal looks like. We like to use the word SMART to show smart goals. SMART goals are Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant and Timely. Let’s look at someone saying, I want to run a race. Is this a smart goal?

Specific – What do you want to achieve? The more specific you are the better the goal. 

Measureable – Can your goal be measured? Can you identify exactly what your goal is?

Attainable – Is the goal actually able to be reached? If you want to run a marathon next week and have never ran more than a mile at one time. That is not an attainable goal. 

Relevant – Is the goal relevant to you? If I wanted to an Olympic runner from Germany, but didn’t live in Europe, then this is not relevant to me.

Timely – Is the timeline established and is it realistic.

Back to our goal of wanting to run a race? Does it fit the SMART goal? No, not really. What if we change it to I want to run a local, spring 5k that is 6 months away? I’ve been walking for a few years and now I want to challenge myself to a run.

All of these tools will help you have an intentional school year. Let’s get out ahead of our year and be intentional about setting the year that you want to have instead of allowing it to manage you. Enjoy these precious years with your children, they go by so fast. Be intentional and present to every moment you can! You got this!