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Guiding Your Child towards Academic Excellence
Guiding Your Child towards Academic Excellence
Anyone who has been through formal education knows how important grades can seem when you are at school. The smartest kids in class are generally considered most likely to succeed, and often suffer from their schoolmates’ jealousy. While in the outside world grades are not the be-all and end-all for long term success, they do open a lot of doors, so a child who doesn’t do his best in school is limiting his options afterwards. Good grades will earn your child scholarships, entrance to good universities and study programs, and good jobs with a relatively secure and stable source of income. The knowledge he gains along the way should not be underestimated either, and no one can take that from him. As the old adage goes, knowledge is power.
Most importantly, when children work consistently at school, they learn to be disciplined, persistent and hardworking, vital skills in the world of employment. If they learn to excel in school, it will most likely be a habit to always excel in everything they try. They learn not to stand mediocrity, to expect nothing but the best from themselves, whether in business, parenting, hobbies or housework. Their radar is always on the lookout for mediocrity, and they’re more likely to correct themselves. With all these benefits in mind, it is necessary for every parent to make sure that their child achieves the best grades possible through proper, persistent learning, rather than ‘cramming’ for exams or important assignments. Here are some things you can teach your child to help him improve his study habits and grades.
Take Care of the Basics
Teach your child to take care of his health. This involves eating healthy food, exercising and getting adequate sleep. Children need a minimum of eight hours a day to perform optimally both in school and elsewhere. When your child has enough sleep, he is better able to concentrate in class and therefore learn all he can from his teachers. I remember a phase in high school where I would study until 11 p.m and wake up at 4 a.m, getting only four hours of sleep per day. I didn’t quite doze off in class but I definitely couldn’t concentrate well. At night when I would go back to review the day’s work, the material would all seem new to me. Since I thought I was working hard, I continued with the trend. One day, our Chemistry teacher pointed out that reading until late in the night and waking up too early was counter-productive. Her words got my attention and made me finally decide to try sleeping for at least seven hours per day. My concentration in class improved drastically and therefore when reviewing the day’s work, I was able to absorb much more, remembering the material from earlier. To increase your child’s concentration in class, set a particular bed time for him and be firm about the decision.
Teach your child to eat healthy food and let them know why it is important to do so. Since you won’t be with him when he is in school, it is important for him to know that when he eats healthy food, he will be healthy and therefore better able to focus on all his classes. If he’s active, he needs carbohydrates and limited sugar, to keep his mind and body active throughout the day, rather than succumbing to lethargy in the early morning or afternoon.
Show your child how ‘all work and no play makes Jack a dull boy’. Playing for younger children is necessary as it acts as exercise. For older kids, insist that they engage in at least one activity that makes them use physical energy, whether that involves being part of a sports team in school or jogging on their own or taking walks several days a week. It is up to them, but they should be physically active.
My teachers used to tell me that failing to plan is planning to fail. I used to find those lectures boring, but after being repeated several times, I started planning and the positive changes were immense. For younger children, you have to help them plan. Help them plan to finish their homework before getting engaged in any other activities such as playing with friends or playing video games. For older children, teach them to plan their weeks ahead. For example, help them set aside specific hours per day dedicated solely for studying. Those hours should also be allotted to subjects equally for the subjects the child likes and the ones he doesn’t like so much. This way, he will be able to spend some time on each subject at least once a week, therefore increasing his chances of excelling in all of them.
Studying in a cluttered area can be confusing, so teach your child to keep his study area neat. He should also be organized in the way he arranges his books, files and lockers. The amount of time wasted in searching for a book in a disorganized area is much more than the amount of time used organizing the area in the first place. Labeling helps too, especially when filing. The child can label files according to subjects and also have a section in the folder for homework.
I remember my brother calling my attention to the importance of reviewing things on a regular basis. I was still in high school and he was in college at the time. He told me that it was easier to remember things long term if I reviewed a day’s work in the evening. I tried following his example where I would go through things I had been taught during the day at night. I would just be skimming because the things the teacher had taught were still fresh in my mind, and sure enough it worked. I used the method in college as well, so I didn’t have to spend sleepless nights a few days before the exam cramming unfamiliar material. Teach your child to go through his work at least three times before an exam, and do so at regular intervals. By the third time, the material will have been stored in his long term memory.
Forming study groups helps students learn from each other. The group should consist of three to four students, because a group larger than that ceases to serve its purpose. In larger groups, some students will dominate while others will go unheard, whereas in smaller groups, everyone is able to contribute. The students in the groups must also have common interests to avoid those who only want to chat instead of study. Also, advise your child to choose some group members who are better than him so that he can learn from them.
Sometimes it can seem daunting to ask a lot of questions in front of your peers, but if your child is confident, then it is a great way to get clarification on a topic. The teacher is there to help the students learn, so it makes sense to use that resource. It is likely that other students will be interested in the answers, even if they don’t show it. If your child is less confident, remind them that teachers always relish helping interested and engaged students, and they should find other opportunities to talk to them, for example, at the end of class.
Asking questions lets your child’s teacher make a clarification on something that is not clear. There is no point in waiting until later to look up the question in a textbook when the teacher is perfectly able to make the clarification. Asking questions from peers who are better in a subject is also a wise move and it helps a student grasp material in a better manner.
Distraction-Free Study Area
When it comes to studying, it is better for your child to focus on one task at a time and avoid multi tasking. Teach him to keep his study area free from distractions such as noise from his radio and TV. If he is not able to study without distractions at home, he can try studying in a public library near home provided it is safe to go there. Some students are better able to study when there is music in the background, or they are able to embed knowledge better when they are active and doing, and taking frequent breaks to do something physical helps them to concentrate in between. These aren’t necessarily distractions, as every person learns differently. Identify which ways your child learns best and facilitate that environment – this will help you and them to learn without wasting time or getting frustrated. Taking breaks is helpful for all students, as it helps them relax and prepares them for another session of deep concentration.
Attend All Classes
Failing to attend classes and not paying attention in class are as bad as each other. In both cases, the student is expected to learn new material without having the benefit of what came before. There is a reason why teachers and classrooms still exist: it is easier for students to learn in human company, with a human facilitator – the teacher is in class to make the student’s work easier. Insist that your child attends all classes; it is the reason you are paying his school fees. Studying from textbooks and videos is a poor substitute for human interaction – even remote students get teacher-time through radio, phone and Skype. Make attending all classes a must in your house, particularly for your more independent teens, and set strict consequences if your child fails to do so.
It might not be easy for your child to adopt all these strategies at once. If he has been performing poorly for a while, he can gradually incorporate these strategies into his routine. With time, it will be a habit of his to be organized and he will be better able to plan his week. Work with him and don’t tire of reminding him why he needs to excel in class, excellence in this case being that he does his very best. He may not score straight ‘A’s but when he has given his studies his very best, he will have gained far more than a few facts.
About the Author
G. Runo is an educator, a writer, a mother of two young children and a guardian of five teenagers. She has been a teacher and a curriculum developer for four years. She’s a passionate storyteller who enjoys sharing her parenting and education wisdom with other parents. Follow her on Twitter @grarun20.
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