Parents can support and encourage their children's successful learning by helping them create a positive study environment. Here are some of the ideas we give to parents of children who have attended SuperCamp, our summer enrichment program for youth and teens. Children spend a lot of time studying at home (we hope!) so why not help them take responsibility for their study space and make it work for them? With just a little effort it can actually be a positive, appealing area where they feel comfortable and motivated.
In all our Quantum Learning teachings we build an awareness of an important concept— we use it at SuperCamp and we use it in our teacher training and in-school programs—and it's also worth remembering when creating a positive study environment at home. Everything Speaks means that everything in the environment sends a message that either enhances or detracts from learning. Think about tidy vs. cluttered chaos, light and airy vs. dim and dark, inviting and functional vs. any old place.
As they say in real estate, location is everything. Find a place that’s quiet and free of distractions—so, if possible, not the family room or the dining room table! The ideal is a defined study area in your child's bedroom.
Make sure home study areas have good lighting (ideally, natural light and a lamp), shelves for reference books and supplies, and a computer, if needed. Obviously, they'll also need a desk or table with space for their study materials as well as a work area that's not cramped. And a comfortable "sit-upright" chair will help them stay alert and focused.
Make sure your kids don’t have to waste valuable study time looking for a pen! Help them stock up on pens, paper, and pencils, and have them all within reach, not just somewhere in their room! Also make sure they have whatever reference material they need.
Some classical music is “brain friendly” and enhances the study environment. Baroque music helps students to focus and to access their most resourceful learning state. The music optimizes the functions of the brain that store and retrieve information. Many (most?!) children will think that their own music is best, but try to convince them to try baroque—they may well notice that it makes their study time easier, and want more! Suggest that they try some Bach, Handel, or Vivaldi while they're studying and save their own music for breaks. If your kids are resistant, a first step might be to suggest that they choose music that does not have words—words interfere with the part of their brain they need to study effectively, even if they're not consciously listening to the words!
Positive signs will remind your child’s subconscious mind of his or her potential to learn. Help your child create an inspiring atmosphere by making some signs—use lots of color (our brains love color!) and the following ideas to get you started:
- I believe in myself
- Everything I do deserves my best effort
- Learning is fun and natural!
- Every challenge offers a gift
- I am unique and valuable
- I am responsible for what I create
- I can learn this!
- Everyone has the resources to be succcessful
Another good idea is to have an achievement area (a bulletin board would work well) for awards, papers with good grades, and lists of accomplishments. A bulletin board would also work well for posting study schedules and reminders of project due dates.
Your show of interest, support, and guidance in helping your child create a positive study environment at home will go a long way toward establishing great homework habits. It’s also a good idea to create and agree on homework guidelines so you can continue to work together toward success. Why not have a special lunch together and set up a plan that will work for both of you? You could also consider a reward for consistently following "the plan."
- Homework time: Sometimes it’s not easy because of extracurricular activities, but try to define a specific time each day that homework will be started.
- Distractions: Fewer distractions equals more productive time. Make a plan with your child about the timing for phone calls, internet “browsing”, and play time.
- Breaks: Breaks are important. Research shows that students remember more of the information learned at “beginnings” and “endings” of study periods. Thus, better retention is experienced when frequent breaks are taken. A ten-minute break after each hour of study time will enhance learning. (For younger children who don't have such long study periods, a five-minute break every half hour will work well.)
- Flexibility: You will both need to agree to be flexible—sometimes homework will have to start a bit later, sometimes a family commitment will mean starting a little earlier, sometimes a break may need to be slightly longer than five or ten minutes. Flexibility keeps you and your child connected!
Chicka Elloy is Programs Director for SuperCamp, a learning and life skills summer camp that runs 7-, 8- and 10-day programs each year at several colleges throughout the United States. More information on SuperCamp is available at www.SuperCamp.com.
This article is reprinted with the permission of SuperCamp, a leading learning and life skills summer camp, and Quantum Learning Network. For more information on the camp and the company, you can visit www.SuperCamp.com and www.QLN.com.
Reprinted with the permission of Learning Forum International.