The beginning of each new school year is a time for both excitement and anxiety. With many students set to return to in-person classes this August for the first time in over a year, levels of excitement and anxiety are bound to be higher than normal for parents, students, and even educators.
Below are some tips to keep your child on track this (and any) school year. The goal isn't to do all of these things! Just focus on the ones you feel would work best for your family. You can always do more once you get in the groove.
Talk About Concerns
In a normal year, children are likely to have some concerns about school. Do they like their teachers? Are they feeling overwhelmed by the workload? How are their relationships with classmates? Factor in ongoing concerns about the pandemic, mask wearing, and other safety protocols, and it’s likely that student angst is at an all-time high. Often, simply talking with children about their concerns is enough to soothe fears and make school a more positive experience.
Build Good Study Habits
Staying on track during the school year requires more than focusing on the wellbeing of your child’s body and mind. Building and engaging in good study habits is vital as well. This includes developing organizational and time management skills, being able to prioritize assignments, planning out projects, doing and submitting homework on time, and being able to deal with distractions. Teaching students study strategies and skills, and how to implement them, is something the coaches and tutors at Spark Tutors excel at.
Stick to a Regular Routine
We all like to think it’s great to be spontaneous and unpredictable, but at heart most people are creatures of habit. In fact, most actually thrive on routine. Students are no different. Work with your child to establish a regular morning routine that covers wake up time, breakfast, and getting to school. For afternoons and evenings, the routine should accommodate things like socialization, after school activities, meals, homework, entertainment, and a regular bedtime. According to the US Department of Health & Human Services Early Childhood Learning and Knowledge Center, “children feel more confident and secure when their daily activities are predictable and familiar” which promotes confidence, lowers stress, and makes them more productive.
Be a Positive Role Model
Like it or not, parents are role models for their children, so if you’re stressed about your child’s grades and homework, then your child will be stressed too. Being a role model means demonstrating healthy behaviors in response to life’s stressors. It also means modeling healthy lifestyle choices, such as eating well, exercising, and getting regular sleep. Strive to provide a stable home environment and remain flexible. Above all else, practice what you preach—your children are watching!
Hold Weekly Check-ins
Talk with your child about every single class weekly as a way to keep track of progress. Ask “How's math going?” or “How's biology going?” or “How's English going?” While your weekly check-in should be about problem-solving, not micromanaging or just checking in on grades, don’t settle for one-word answers like “OK” or “Great.” Prod your child for details. This is also a great way for you to offer assistance. Ask questions such as “How can I support you?” or “What do you need from me?” or “Do you need me to review an essay?” or “Do you want to brainstorm a project?” or “Do you need a tutor?”
Dedicate Space for Homework
Having a space in the home that’s conducive to good schoolwork, someplace that’s quiet, organized, and ergonomic is critical to academic performance. The space should be well lit and provide ample area for your child to spread out and arrange materials for work and study. Spots in the home might include a desk in your child’s room, space in a home office, or space in the kitchen or other nook, so long as it’s distraction free.
Make a Homework Schedule
Setting up and maintaining a schedule that your children can follow helps them stay organized and know what to expect every day, especially with youngsters. For example, 4:00-4:20 pm Math Homework; 4:20-4:40 pm Social studies; and so on. Set a timer to help your child stay on track!
Offer to Help with Homework
Helping your child with homework is an opportunity to bond, impart knowledge, nudge him or her in the right direction, do something fun together, and to assess where your child is at with schoolwork, assignments, and projects. It's okay if your child doesn't want your help, lots of kids want to be independent, and that's okay.
If your child doesn’t need help with homework, that doesn’t mean you can’t still occupy the same work/study space. With a lot of us still working from home, grab your laptop when your child is doing his or her homework for a parent/child work session around the dining room table. It’s a great way to spend time together and to be available should your child have a question or need help staying on track.
Let Your Child Teach You
The next time your child is working on homework or a project, have him or her “teach” you by explaining the assignment and what he or she has learned. Sometimes, swapping traditional student/teacher roles can motivate your child to learn and apply knowledge, especially in classes like history or biology. Plus, it can give parents insight into what their child is learning.
Get Regular Sleep
When students get good, quality sleep it shows up at school. They’re more alert in class and they pay better attention. That means setting a regular bedtime and sticking to it (we know, that’s easier said than done!). Harvard Health recommends children and teens get 10 to 11 hours of sleep each night. Granted, with friends, family, activities, and homework, getting that much sleep every day might be a pipe dream, especially with teenagers. Teens are literally WIRED to go to bed late. While staying up late is normal for them, they shouldn't be staring at a screen all night. Having a "no electronics past 10:00 pm” rule is a great idea. Instead, they can read, journal, listen to music, whatever—just no screens! (There's an amazing book by Matthew Walker, Why We Sleep, that explores this area very well.)
We’re Here to Help
Spark Tutors helps students create the kinds of homework and study habits they need to do well in school. We work regularly with students and their families to get students on track and keep them there so they become engaged, productive learners. Contact Spark Tutors today.