Wednesday, September 30, 2015

Simple Ideas to Organize Your Student And DeStress Your Evenings! Part 2

“Mom! Dad!  Help me!  I’ve got a test tomorrow and I don’t know what to do!  I can’t find my review notes and I don’t  know how to get started!”

“Hmmmm, You've been home for 3 hours and you haven’t been studying.  This is a familiar pattern.  Let's see what we can do for this test and then discuss what we can do differently next time.”
Sound familiar? One of the best gifts to help our kids develop is that of homework and study habits that help them do their best in school.  In this second of a two-part series, let’s look at a few more ideas for doing just that:
Design a Few Simple Rules and Expectations – Watch the flow of a typical evening to identify “bumpy” areas that could benefit from a rule. When a few rules are in place and consistently enforced, you and your child will find the evenings less stressful. Examples of good rules might be “Your homework isn’t finished until it is loaded in the backpack" and “Homework gets done before the electronics go on”.
Organize backpacks, homework and clothes the night before –To prevent weekday morning chaos, which can result in a child forgetting his or her homework or lunch, have your student pull together what she or he needs for the school day the night before.  You might help your young child design a school day checklist and then use the checklist to make sure they have what they need the night before. Encourage your child to lay out the outfit they want to wear the next day before going to bed, as well. This will save both of you a lot of time in the morning.
Designate an area for each student’s school items - A cubby or area with a basket could hold books, graded papers, a backpack and any other school-related items. Everything can go back in the cubby at the end of the homework period. Now your student knows right where to look to find his or her school things the next morning!
Designate a Homework and Study Area –This area should preferably be at a table, be well-lit, and away from possible distractions. Having a designated spot for completing homework and studying will keep your child on task and will help ensure that school materials stay together.
Declutter –It’s a good idea to help your child file loose papers in their proper locations once a week.  You might have them go through their rooms and homework areas and recycle papers they don’t need anymore. For older students, encourage them to declutter their laptops or desktop computers by deleting documents or downloads that they don’t need to keep.
These tips can help in smoothing the flow of weekday evenings. As your student matures into the Tween and Teen years, encourage and expect him or her to do this independently. Good task management skills are vital to any busy person and will help your child not only in the growing up years but throughout his or her adult life.

Wednesday, September 16, 2015

Simple Ideas to Organize Your Student And DeStress Your Evenings! Part 1

“Mom – I can’t find my homework and the bus is coming!”  “Dad- The project is due tomorrow and I’m not nearly done!”   Sound familiar? When my youngest was in fourth grade, he had an issue with losing paperwork and missing due dates on assignments. While he was and is a bright young man, he found this frustrating and it impacted his school performance and self-esteem.
Helping your child develop good organizational skills can maximize his or her success in school and better equip your student for middle school, high school, college and beyond.  Here are a few tips that can help your student better track and complete assignments, study for tests and accomplish projects at school and home:

Form Good Habits - Once everyone has relaxed after school, help your student get the ball rolling by reviewing the day and helping create a plan for what needs to be done.
  • Check the Planner and Communications Folder – Sit down with your young student and discuss what school work needs doing for the evening. His or her planner and any communications folders contain assignments and important notes and letters from the teachers. If he or she is not using the planner regularly, encourage its use and discuss how it can help in future years when the assignments will be more frequent and challenging. 
  • Plan the Evening Together – If age-appropriate, work together to set daily and weekly goals for getting the work done, taking into account any family plans. This gives your student a sense of “ownership” for the plan, knowledge of what will happen each evening and a sense of pride when the work is done.
  • Schedule Study Time on Weekends- Sunday nights can sometimes be a stressful time for students and their parents, as kids come to the realization that something is due on Monday, or they weren’t able to study as much as they needed. You can help lessen this stress and arguments by sitting down with your child on Thursday or Friday, ask them what studying or assignments need to be completed before Monday and Tuesday and pencil in time over the weekend for them to study and do homework.
Ask Good Questions – When planning, studying or working on homework, ask your student great questions that will help him or her think of a solution to an issue and to encourage independent thinking. If, for example, your student tends to misplace completed assignments, you might ask, “What one or two places can you think of to safely keep this assignment?” In this case, your student might suggest a folder, binder or backpack.

Break down big assignments into smaller pieces – Try asking, “How could you break down this assignment or project into smaller, achievable steps?”  Teach your son or daughter to identify small steps to achieve larger projects or to study for an exam and plan to complete a step or two a day. Not only does this prevent the stress that procrastination so often creates, but also increases the quality of the work your child turns in and helps her or him to be well prepared for tests and exams.  
Helping your children develop good organizational and task management skills is critical in ensuring success in school and in their future careers. As your children get older, they will need less help planning, organizing and achieving their studies.   In next week’s blog post, we will look at a few more ideas for helping your student develop better study habits.

Wednesday, September 2, 2015

6 Easy Ways to Support Your Child's Learning and School Success

Parents play an important role in championing their children to do their best in school.  A vital way to show your kids how important you feel a good education involves building a connection with your children’s teachers.  

Let’s look at several tips on partnering with and supporting your child’s teacher and maintaining open lines of communication:
  • Attend Back-To-School Night. An article on shares, “Kids do better in school when parents are involved in their academic lives. Attending back-to-school night at the start of the school year is a great way to get to know your child's teacher and his or her expectations.” Attending back-to-school night will also help you find out what your child will be learning during the school year. 
  •  Reach out and introduce yourself to your child’s teacher(s). This may be possible during the Back to School night or may work better at another time.  You can share a little about what you admire about your son or daughter. You might also share what you know engages your child or sparks his or her interest.  You might also ask for ideas on how you can support your child’s learning and academic success at home. 
  • Invite input if the teacher is concerned.   Teachers really care about the children they teach.  They are in a unique position to regularly observe your children and any struggles they may have.  Some parents have trouble hearing constructive input from others, which can cause teachers to hesitate to reach out to you about issues your child is facing.  Invite your child’s teacher to inform you of any concerns they may have with your child’s learning or behavior.
  • Prepare for and participate in the Parent-Teacher Conferences. Parent-Teacher conferences are a good opportunity to strengthen the partnership with your child’s teacher.  Be sure to always arrive on time for the conference and come prepared with questions.  This is a great time to hear of progress your child is making, address any concerns, and seek suggestions for ways to encourage your child to do his or her best.   
  •  Ask if there is anything you can do to help.  Teachers work long hours between the demands of planning and preparing for lessons, teaching classes, creating and grading assignments, papers and exams, plus many administration tasks.  While they may not take you up on it, they would very much appreciate the offer of help – in and out of regular school hours. Even the busiest of parents can find ways to plan a single event, volunteer for an outing, or organize a special project from home. 
  •  Thank them for what they do. Teachers work very hard for their students. Acknowledging the time and effort they have put into helping your child is a great way to maintain a positive relationship with them.
You’d be amazed how much it means to a teacher for a parent to reach out and show they care about their child’s education. In turn it can help your child’s teacher cement a good attitude towards your child and your family.  Starting the year right with the tips above can set the tone for a great school year for teacher, child and parent.