How to Grow Independent Kids with Study Time
When children are young, study time is all about building habits of concentration, diligence and time management.
Parents set the stage.
With kids, the way we begin is often the way we continue. Like holiday traditions, you only have to do a thing twice to make it sacrosanct in a child’s mind.
Better to start out on the right path.
Let’s Get Practical
Set the stage for concentration by creating a peaceful environment. Peaceful doesn’t mean total silence – rare in family life. But, turning off the TV, electronics, and music with lyrics will help students focus on the one task set before them.
Experiment with soft, instrumental music in the background, as white noise. If the environment is chaotic – maybe you have a few toddlers running amok – try noise canceling headphones.
I have one child that hums, All. The. Time. And another child going crazy because of it. I didn’t want to spend my free time nagging. Noise canceling headphones solved the problem. Once you own a pair, you’ll find they come in handy in a variety of situations.
Consider your student’s energy cycle, the daily schedule, and family needs. Try out a few different times to find the best study hour(s) and make it part of the daily routine.
Some children will thrive after a snack and a little physical activity.
Teens will tend to do homework later in the evening after their extracurriculars are over.
Late night studying seems counter – intuitive to middle -aged people who get up early and go brain numb after 9 p.m., but I’ve found my teens get a second wind around 8 p.m.
Establishing a consistent study time will curb complaining and resistance. It becomes your families normal.
The brain is 75% water.
Drinking a tall glass of water before study time will clear the mental cobwebs.
Again, take your unique situation into account. Are your students doing their best work in solitude or do they thrive in the family community?
Wherever you set up the study area, a few items are essential:
A flat surface to work on. (Like a desk or table).
Plenty of light. (Dim lighting may not make you go blind, but it does cause eye fatigue and sluggishness.)
Bonus points for a big white board and a music source.
Nothing eats time and derails concentration like lost tools.
If your children have individual study areas, they will each need a set of essentials.
Also, a central spot, stocked with standard school supplies will keep things rolling and prevent last-minute trips to the store.
Organization is just as important when kids leave the house. Here’s an interesting article from the Washington Post on helping your child keep their backpack together.
Study tools for success
Take study to the next level…
Brush up on excellent study habits to get the most impact from time spent.
DK’s ‘Help Your Kids’, is a comprehensive book for elementary-middle school students:
Cal Newport has several excellent study skill guides. This one is for high-school students:
Wiggly children will love sitting on a stability ball. I used one with my active son. Combined with an adjustable table, it worked like a dream to help him concentrate. It amazed me that he could track and bounce at the same time, but it made all the difference.
A worry ball will appeal to some people.
A stick of gum can help – chewing it, of course.
Parents can bring a sense of calm and validate the importance of study time by doing some work of their own. It’s a win-win. The TV is off, everyone can concentrate, and you get some necessary tasks out of the way.
I found it best to separate myself physically. There is a balance to strike here – being available and interested without becoming your child’s personal homework crutch and human Google.
Use waiting time
Significant car time is a reality for many families.
Install an organizer and stock with essential learning supplies. A lot of drill, reading, and discussion can happen on-the-go if we are intentional about redeeming these wasted hours.
Lifeskill: What Study time teachers our children
Learning to break things down
Chunking assignments into bite-size tasks and scheduling long-term projects on the calendar.
Managing your workload is a valuable skill.
Learning to use time wisely
Budgeting time into concentrated increments, (15-50 minute blocks) and prioritizing the most important tasks.
Timers are useful.
Time budgeting is a skill of independence.
Buffer Social published an article called, 5 Unusual Ways to Start Working Smarter, Not Harder, Backed by Science. The article is directed at adults, but the principles apply to children too.
Learning to tap inner motivation
Knowing what you need to do, and doing it, are two different things.
Practice techniques to see what motivates your children.
Do they like to “eat the frog first?” Getting the biggest, baddest task checked off the list.
Do quick wins build their momentum?
Do they enjoy making a game of their work?
Self-motivated learners are self -directed learners.
(Some of the links in this post may be “affiliate links”. This means if you click on the link and purchase an item, I will receive a small commission. That’s what keeps the site up and running. Regardless, I only recommend products and services I use personally and believe will add value.)
The continuum of independence
Helping children get to the point of independence is an 18+ year process. When they are young, they need our aid and oversight.
Each year, as they get older, we gradually hand over the reins.
Developing an organized and intentional study routine will lead to high-school students that excel at school.
What tips do you have a study time routine? If you have a study time-related blog post, I invite you to link to it.