Helping Your Child Study

By Joanie Gerken and Anne King

In these days of overcrowded schools, overworked teachers, and poor reading habits due to our TV age, much of the responsibility for our children’s school success and mental growth lies with us, the parents. The average student spends a total of 900 hours a year in the classroom. During this year he spends about 3,285 hours in bed. This leaves 4,575 hours when his parents have the major responsibility for his learning. Still regardless of this time proportion, the home atmosphere can make or break all but the strongest student’s learning patterns. Home is where most of a child’s motivation is set. The livelier the interest he takes in his studies, the more he will learn. Here are a few things we parents can do:

1. Encourage a regular study time. If a child gets in the habit of studying at the same period of time, he or she won’t be as likely to wander off to some diversion until the homework is done.

2. Plan a quiet place for study. The dining or kitchen table is the most frequently used spot, but usually poor lighting and distractions make this arrangement undesirable. If at all possible, plan for a desk in the child’s room, and put it against a wall (not in front of a window). Also provide ample, glare-free illumination because of the danger of eyestrain in growing children.

3. Give your youngster pride of accomplishment. When his report card improves, congratulate him. Your praise, when deserved, can be a tremendous motivational force. If you have a laptop or computer, let him learn to use it. He’ll feel important to be operating such a “grown-up” machine and will thus take more interest in his work.

4. Teach him to concentrate. There’s a time for study and time for TV. In spite of your child’s claims to the contrary, the two don’t really mix.

5. Show your young scholar how to save time. Before sitting down to do homework he should have his pencils sharpened and his books, including his dictionary, right at hand.

6. Don’t help the child too much. By doing his homework for him, you don’t actually help him. He needs to practice and develop the ability to work on his own. Check with his teacher about the amount of help you should give.

7. Never force your child to study. He won’t learn very much by merely holding a book in front of his nose, and force may set up a psychological block against study that may hinder his progress for years.

8. Encourage your student to concentrate on phrases and sentences rather than individual letters. Thinking in terms of sentences will be a great aid to his later skills in expressing himself.

9. Don’t talk down to your child. The most receptive years are between nine and twelve – when the ability to learn new concepts is keenest. It is through words that children learn about life. So use words and terms a little beyond the child’s ordinary vocabulary and then explain and discuss them.

10. Stimulate his interest. Once the child’s natural curiosity is aroused, a single word can open a whole new subject and lead to ever-widening horizons. A wise parent says, “Let’s look it up,” and is willing to help the child explore wherever his interests lead him, from airplanes to snakes. While most families can’t afford large libraries of children’s books, the public library is always there.

11. Don’t let your concern turn to over-zealousness. If you worry too much out loud about your child’s progress, you can upset him and inhibit his learning effectiveness. Keep in mind that children learn at different rates. Your job is to provide opportunity, not to be over protective or anxious.

12. Above all, impress on your offspring the attitude that learning is important. Explain what it will mean to him in the years ahead. If he wants to be an engineer or businessman, point out the usefulness of arithmetic. Maybe he’s set his heart on being a baseball player. Make clear the necessity of preparing for an alternative trade or profession, since a ballplayer’s career is short. In today’s society, more women are contributing to a household’s economy. Everyone needs to have the skills to be independent.

Let your youngster know that learning is his job – not yours or his teacher’s. But let him know you care how well he does his job. By showing genuine affection and interest in his growth and by demonstrating good speaking, reading and dictionary habits of your own, you lead the way for your child to have a well-educated and well-adjusted life.