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Back to School Tips

A new school year can bring new challenges for parents and students alike with remote instruction, virtual learning, and homeschooling in the mix with in-classroom lessons. No matter how your child will be learning this year, good study habits, time management, and organization skills are important for future academic success. Here are some tips that can help your child develop good learning habits this school year:

Two young boys learning on laptops.

  1. Create a distraction-free study zone.
    Video games, smartphones, and social media can be tempting distractions when studying at home. If possible, designate a room or space in your home as the official "school zone" — studying or homework is the only activity that should be done in this space. Parents who currently work from home can model similar behavior with designated "home office zones." This approach may also be helpful if your child is participating in remote instruction or virtual learning activities — when they're in the zone, they're in learning mode!
  2. Give your child a time frame for homework and studying.
    Does your child tend to procrastinate on homework? Rather than mandating your child immediately sit down and complete an assignment at a specific time, give your child a one- or two-hour window. Your child will benefit from the autonomy to "choose" when to study and will still be responsible for having the assignment finished.
  3. Divide big projects into smaller tasks. Help your student learn how to tackle complex homework assignments early, starting in elementary school. For example, encourage younger children to study 10 minutes every night for a weekly spelling or math test rather than cramming the night before. For older children who are assigned research projects, ask them to share a plan for completing the project. This plan might include marking dates on the family calendar for initial research, writing an outline, and writing the first draft. Ask your child for a status update on the day each component is "due" — helping them learn how to break down big projects into smaller, manageable pieces.
  4. Set a timer to kick-start assignments.
    Does your child struggle to get started on homework, even when they're sitting in their distraction-free study zone? If so, consider setting a 5-minute timer and challenge your child to "race the clock" and complete as much as they can before the timer goes off. For younger children, being challenged to race the clock can be an exciting motivator. Once they build some momentum, they're likely to keep going with the assignment, even when the time expires. For older children, adjust the timer to a 15- or 20-minute countdown — a slightly longer time period that can help them get a few pages into a reading assignment or problem set.
  5. Have your child teach you.
    Research consistently finds that students who actively participate in the learning process have better educational outcomes at all levels, according to the Harvard Gazette. You can help recreate an active learning approach at home by having your child "teach" you the assignment. For example, if your child is learning long division, ask them to explain the process to you and walk you through how to do different problems. Older children who are homeschooled or participating in virtual learning can give you a 30-minute weekly or monthly presentation of what they learned in the time period. Having your child teach you the contents of their lessons activates long-term retention and deeper learning.

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