It's dinnertime and while your child pokes at the peas you cooked, he declares, "I have a test tomorrow in science." You freeze, peas halfway to your mouth, and rack your brain trying to recall everything you know about elementary school science. Not much is coming to you. You fake confidence and tell her, "We'll study after you eat your peas." It's time to come up with a plan.
Studying with your child can be a challenge. This is especially true as over time you both face more tests with harder material. But there are a few studying techniques you can employ to help your kid prepare for tests effectively.
Get your hands dirty.
No, not literally dirty, but one of the best ways for your child to learn how to study is to watch you do it. Special education teacher Linda Weaver, from St. Charles, Illinois, suggests that parents "model how to do it, as it doesn't always come instinctively, by talking out loud about the process of studying."
Sure, it's great to show your child how to create flashcards and how to put together a study guide. But what's even more important is your attitude. Jump into each study session with enthusiasm and focus. If you come to the study session excited about long division, your child is more likely to mimic your positivity.
Turn those mountains into molehills.
Studying for tests, particularly midterm and final exams, is a large task. One of the best ways to study is to divide a large task into smaller, more manageable tasks. The part of our brains that allows us to do this doesn't fully develop until our mid-twenties. This skill is called executive functioning.
What does this mean? It means your child is going to need your help to make studying more manageable. Make a list of all the things you both need to do before the test, and complete them one by one. Your list can include things like making flashcards, reading the textbook, creating a study guide and completing a packet the teacher handed out. If any particular task seems too big, try to make it even smaller.
Create a study space.
Set aside a special spot just for your child to study. It can be anything from a desk in her room to a spot at the kitchen table. When you're creating a study space, keep your child's needs in mind. For kids who need absolute silence, communal spaces in the house are not ideal.
The fact that it's a space for work doesn't mean it needs to be boring. If you have room, let your child decorate! You can add Justin Bieber posters or posters with motivational sayings. If you have a great picture of you and your child together, putting it in his study space may remind him that you're always watching and you care.
In your office, at work or at home, you probably have piles of blank paper, stacks of pens, boxes of paper clips and whatever other office supplies you might need. Your child's space should be the same way. Always have the three P's: paper, pens and pencils. Some children process information, like vocabulary words, better when they are color-coded. If that's your child, it may be helpful to have pens in a variety of colors. Index cards are great for creating flashcards for a test and can work for almost any subject.
Write it down.
You and your child should both know the dates for tests. It may sound simple, but one important study technique is writing down the test date. Get a planner or a calendar (or both!) and note test days in a bright color.
If you have more than one school-age child, get a large calendar to put in the kitchen or living room. This way everyone's extracurricular activities and tests are on display and easy for you and them to see.
Handle those rumbly tummies.
When asked to pick something she could have parents do to help their kids study, the first thing Linda mentioned was nutrition. She encourages parents to help their children by "offering good meal choices with plenty of protein, fresh fruits and vegetables, and water, milk, juices, as appropriate, to replenish and hydrate their brains."
On test day, offer quality choices for breakfast that are high in protein and relatively low in sugar. Kids need the protein to help them think and concentrate for tests.
Know when and who to ask for help.
It's every parent's reality that you can't be in your child's classroom every day, every year. And sometimes the textbook or the teacher's notes aren't going to make sense to either of you at home.
If you find that you and your child are both in over your heads, it may be time to bring in reinforcements. Typically, the teacher would be who you turn to first. You can ask for tips on what you can do at home to help or for additional study materials. If you're not feeling satisfied with the teacher's help, it might be time to find a tutor or academic coach.
You don't need to know how to divide fractions or the scientific explanation behind the seasons to help your child study well. The seven study tips described here will teach your child some valuable lessons. After a while of doing these things regularly with your child, you may be able to loosen the reins over time.