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By Drew Sarmiere - November 1, 2019
Supporting Your Student Academically
All parents want to be able to effectively support their children in their learning and education, but it’s not necessarily easy - especially as students move into middle school and high school and the content becomes more and more challenging. Here are some tips for parents to help them provide effective academic support at home.
Maintain a positive discourse surrounding school and learning from an early age. It’s important that parents refrain from making negative comments about school and learning. It may be tempting to say something negative about a teacher with whom you’re not very happy, or about homework assignments that you find frustrating or lacking in value, but you should not do so. It’s ok to have a discussion about these feelings, but it should always be with a positive spin that, overall, school and learning is very important and students should try their best regardless of their feelings about a teacher or assignment.
Set a schedule. Children thrive in environments that have structure. There should be times that are designated for homework and studying. Importantly, as students get older, it’s imperative that they come to understand that Sunday is a school night and, therefore, time must be dedicated towards schoolwork. What happens (or doesn’t happen) on Sundays can make or break a school week.
Model appropriate behavior. If children see their parents watching television all night, they will feel like they should be allowed to do so as well. It’s ok for parents to watch TV and relax, but it your child is struggling with schoolwork and, rather than offering support/help, you relax and watch TV, your child will become resentful of this.
On the flip side of the above point, don’t rescue your kids or do their schoolwork for them. The work they produce should be their own, and it’s ok for them to find difficult assignments challenging. There’s a difference between helping and rescuing.
Provide a quality study environment. Students should have a workspace dedicated to schoolwork. Ideally, this should be a desk, but the kitchen table or some other space allowing them to sit and do their work will suffice. You should avoid allowing your student to study and do homework on his/her bed.
Reduce distractions. This one is HUGE. Take the phone away. There is no need for a phone to complete homework. Monitor computer use. Computers can essentially function as phones these days and are a huge distraction. Don’t trust your child when he/she tells you he/she “needs” the computer to do homework. Most schoolwork can be completed without a computer, or at least with minimal use.
Avoid letting your student go to “study groups” or “study” at the nearby Starbucks or library. The vast majority of adolescents cannot handle that kind of freedom and much of the time is spent socializing rather than studying.
Read to your child and encourage reading and curiosity. When your children are younger, it’s important to read with them and encourage reading. As they grow older, continue to encourage reading for pleasure and help them find books/topics that they find interesting and will read about (especially over the summer when they have more free time).
Don’t fight with your child. It takes two to get into an argument. Set your expectations and calmly enforce them. Don’t bet baited into an argument about school and studying.
Minimize judgement. Rather than react to a bad grade with judgement, spend time talking, judgement free, with you child about why the poor grade happened and how he/she can improve. Children inherently want to succeed, but this is eroded by judgement and negativity.
Don’t overschedule. Children are human beings like the rest of us and they have limits too. Parents often have a lot of control over their childrens’ schedules and can easily put too much on their childrens’ plates. Make sure your child has balance in his/her life. There must be time for play as well.
Be consistent and follow up with consequences. This also is huge. Your child will quickly learn whether your intended consequences have any meaning or not and he/she will use that against you. If you set an expectation with consequences, you’d better follow through.
Trust but verify. It’s typically not sufficient to simply ask your child if school work has been completed. You must actually look over the schoolwork to be sure it’s both completed AND completed well. This is a great opportunity to provide constructive criticism and help your child improve his/her academic skills.
Model appropriate attitude and behavior toward school. This has already been stated but it’s worth stating again because it’s so important. If you both SAY and SHOW that school and learning has value, your child will pick up on that and very likely adopt a similar philosophy. If you do not, the opposite will likely happen.
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