Helping Teens Develop Study Habits

Let’s assume you are reading this as the parent of a 5-year-old. When your child brings home papers from school, express interest and delight in them. Ask about what happened in school. Make sure your child knows his job is his education, and that his experiences each day are just as worthy of discussion as yours are. When children begin to have homework, develop a homework routine. There might be a homework hour for your youngest children in which papers from that day are discussed and any genuine homework is done. When there is no homework, there should be reading or playing educational games of some kind. The key is that the hour is devoted to learning, not television, video games, or playing outside. That way, children are less likely to forget that they have homework because they know the hour will be spent in an educational pursuit of some kind.

They eventually realize its a pretty good time to do homework! This study hour paradigm can continue for years with parents making the time-frame longer as their children get older. But let’s say that your family has not established a study time habit, and you are now faced with a 13 or 14-year old child who really does not know how to study. All is not lost. First, realize that people really do have different learning styles.

Many of us grew up believing that all studying should be done seated at a desk, alone, in a quiet room with good light. This is actually not the case, as hard as that may be to accept. Some people are kinesthetic learners. That is, movement or some physical act truly enhances their learning experience. For these children, sitting in a quiet, well-lit room alone is actually going to impede learning. Others are visual learners. Reading the geography book will be a start, but working with maps and globes may be necessary for them to get it. Still other people are primarily auditory learners. These are the people who do best with books on tape—really! Do yourself and your student a favor and contact your school’s guidance office to see if they can test your child for learning style. No guidance office? Check the local high school or even a local college.

Most educators would be delighted to assist a parent in identifying the best way for their child to learn. If you strike out here, too, go on line. Spend some time researching learning styles and learn about them with your child. In addition to identifying the appropriate learning style, your child is getting the clear message that this whole learning thing is very, very, important.

Once you have identified your child’s learning style, find creative ways to honor it. Even if you and he are well-versed in how he learns best, there may from time to time be assignments which don’t fit well into his learning style. Explain to him that life will be like this, too! He will have a preferred learning style all his life, but he needs to learn to adapt when he has to switch gears. Explain that you, a wonderful chef, have to do your taxes every year. Or that you can create a wonderful garden spot in your yard, but have a heck of a time understanding and reacting to local politics.

Make sure your child understands that learning is life-long, no matter how you do it. And that the skills he learns today are only half of what he needs to be an adult. The other half is learning how to learn, whatever it takes.

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