Tag Archives: studying

The Five W’s

September 18, 2014 by

Good study habits are just that…habits. Using a structured approach to homework builds strong study habits, ones that set the stage for your child’s academic success. Let’s look at The Five W’s of homework—the Who, What, When, Where, and Why of how to have your kids start the school year with a solid plan for learning.


  • Good homework strategies start in the classroom. Know your children’s teachers and their expectations.
  • Having your child study with a friend runs the risk of turning book time into social time, but quizzing each other in a “study buddy” environment can be particularly effective in the days leading up to tests.


  • Help your kids understand how to sort homework tasks by level of difficulty and have them tackle tougher assignments first.
  • If fatigue becomes an issue later in a study session, the remaining, easier work will seem like a breeze by comparison.  


  • Establish a set time for homework. This is perhaps the single most important benchmark of good study habits.
  • Don’t expect kids to be able to do homework the minute they walk in the door after school. This is a time of day when they need to decompress, and there is nothing like a little much-needed physical activity at this time of day to recharge young minds.


  • Set up a designated study area other than your child’s bedroom that has good lighting and comfortable furniture.
  • Make sure the study area is stocked with whatever materials are required for the task at hand…pencils, paper, laptop, scissors, etc.


  • When parents take a supportive, active role in homework, kids are more successful in their academic efforts.

Read the point above three more times. Then clip it and tape it on your vanity mirror. After that, visit a tattoo parlor and have those same words executed in ink on your…oh, never mind. You get the idea…   


Making Tracks

February 1, 2014 by

The frostbitten months carry additional and sometimes frustrating challenges when taking my two preschool-age grandsons for the weekend. The problem is that there seems to be an inverse relationship between the temperature and the CFQ.

The what?

That would be the Cabin Fever Quotient, that restless, bouncing-off-the-walls void created when you run out of indoor activities capable of entertaining the little ones. But Saturdays are a snap if you possess an intrepid spirit and a decent pair of boots.

One of our fave winter outings is to go critter tracking in expeditions that offer a fascinating peek into the sometime-secret winter habits of area wildlife. Start by doing a web search on the subject of “animal track identification” and you’ll find gobs of online field guides and other useful resources, several of them in easily printable, carry-along formats. It’s also fun and informative to gather the children in front of the computer to watch any of the zillions of YouTube videos available on the topic in preparation for your woodland trek.

A fresh, unblemished snowfall is the perfect palette for such wilderness adventures. Virtually every interruption in the pristine blanket at your feet—yes, droppings, too—holds a mystery waiting to be unlocked by young, inquisitive minds. Forgot to print out that field guide we discussed earlier? Smartphone web search to the rescue. While you’re at it, take close-up photos and have the kids start their own wildlife journals to match prints (and poop) to the animals that left them. Pocket a small measuring tape to have the children record the dimensions of the markings and make note of where they were found. Do those raccoon prints lead to or from water? Do those squirrel tracks disappear at the base of a mighty oak?

Sprawling spaces like Fontenelle Forest, Hummel Park, and area state parks offer a staggering array of snowy finds, but even the more expansive of city parks will reveal evidence of almost everything short of deer.

Take along a thermos of hot chocolate and find a log to carve out some quiet time during your treasure hunt. Especially because the snow acts as an acoustic muffler, there is nothing quite so serene—even spiritual—as the dead silence of a winter’s morn. Be quieter still and you increase the odds of encounters with all manner of creatures.

The awe-inspiring majesty of nature never hibernates. Introduce your grandkids to the wintry landscape, and soon there will grow in them a deeper reverence for the natural world and their special place in it.

Grades, and Then Some…

September 24, 2013 by
Photography by Bill Sitzmann

It took me a really long time to get organized. Not this morning or this week—I mean since high school.

I was one of those irritating kids who pretty much winged it through my early grades. I never had to study. Maybe running through spelling words a time or two before a test, but really, hardcore, sit-down-and-learn-this studying wasn’t my thing. And since my grades were always good, no red flags for my parents.

Until high school.

I started taking French and honors classes. There may be a few subjects you can “wing,” if you just pay attention in class, but I’m here to tell you that, for most people, foreign language is not one of them. Neither is The Odyssey.

So, at the age of 14, I was finally introduced to the concept of “studying” and being fully prepared for class. It was an eye-opener. And truth be told, it took me a while to catch on. I tried really hard to be organized like my friend Judy, who always had her notes in order, her assignment book filled in with little checkmarks by the completed items. She graduated second in our class of 384. My efforts always seemed short-lived.

It’s not that I was a bad student. I managed to graduate in the top 10 percent of the class, but I just wasn’t as successful as I could have been if I had started high school with some established study skills.

High-school Spanish teacher Theresa Jensen says the biggest challenges for kids who don’t know how to study isn’t their natural ability. It’s generally organization and planning: “They tend to wait until the last minute when it’s really too late to internalize anything. Then, when they finally focus, they don’t know what to do. They’ll passively look over their spotty notes or the book. They’ll try to quickly memorize vocabulary or rules, but learning a language [or any subject] is so much more than just memorizing words.”

Jensen says she can tell which students are studiers and which aren’t. “The studiers pull out old vocabulary lists; they take notes without being told. They write things down in an assignment notebook and sometimes bring in their homemade flashcards. I can [also] tell which kids have logged onto our class study website and which haven’t.” And she says the most obvious indicator is who performs well in class and how prepared they are.

So as school is steaming full speed ahead, what can you do to help your student be a “Judy” and not a “Bev?”

The number one suggestion is to teach organizational skills early on. Also don’t use good grades as the only indicator of your child’s progress in school. Elementary teachers generally hand out assignment books or sheets, and parents are asked to sign them so the teacher knows that the child is getting his work done. Make your child responsible for bringing the assignment book to you to sign (rather than you asking for it); and as you do, ask your child to tell you more about their work. Even in early grades, encourage your kids to take responsibility for writing down their assignments and checking them off as they are completed.

“Good study skills start with simply being organized,” says Jensen. “I’ve seen high school students over the years who end up in special study halls because they are failing three classes. Why? Not because they can’t learn, but because they are so unorganized. They don’t even know where to start. They lose assignments and papers and don’t know where to find the answer. They don’t know what the teacher expects of them.”

Harder still for those students who have always had an easy time getting excellent grades and suddenly begin bringing home 2s, 3s, and even 4s (a.k.a. Bs, Cs, and Ds). Confused parents may be quick to blame their teenager for slacking off when, in reality, the student is doing exactly what they have always done. It just doesn’t work anymore.

The best advice? Start your child early with a regular, established study time and place that works for your family. Encourage and teach consistent organizational skills. Even helping little ones learn to put toys and clothes away in the right places counts.

Older students can make sure they are using their assignment book consistently. Having teachers check the book weekly and make notes for a while can help clarify and demystify expectations. The student should have one place for keeping important papers, and set aside specific time for study several times a week, even if there’s no assignment due the next day. If these things aren’t helping, it’s probably time for the student to let the teacher know he’s struggling and get the teacher’s recommendations.

Sending your student to college with solid studying and organizational skills is a powerful gift. And it’s far more efficient to strengthen weak study skills before you start paying per credit hour.

For more suggestions on helping develop study skills visit greatschools.org or childdevelopmentinfo.org.

Create the Perfect Study Room

August 16, 2013 by

It’s already hard enough to get kids to study when they’re at home. After all, they’ve just spent several hours at school, and all they want to do now is relax in front of the TV or play outside with their friends. But homework always comes first.

Most kids do their homework in their bedrooms, on the living room couch, or at the kitchen table. Yeah, that’s a bad idea. Their beds remind them of sleep; the couch reminds of them of watching TV (if they’re not already); and the kitchen table reminds them of eating. These locations are recipes for distraction. What they need is a designated study space in their home.

Have an extra room in the basement or a guest room that hasn’t been used in months? Turn it into a study room for your kids! A place where they can go that can help them focus on doing a good job on their homework, as well as finishing it before the next day’s bell, can help them bring home better report cards.

Here are some great tips for creating the perfect study room in your home:

  • Only use furniture that applies to what kids will need for studying—desks, supply bins, bookcases, lamps, a comfortable chair, and maybe even a beanbag chair for reading. Absolutely no TVs!
  • Paint the room with solid colors. Neutrals always work, but primary colors like red, yellow, or blue will keep them in “school mode.”
  • Use décor that continues the theme of studying and learning. A chalkboard or dry erase board would be good, as well as a wall clock. If you want more art as inspiration, find educational posters or search through Pinterest for other great decorating ideas.

Whatever you decide to do with this study room, just remember that the point is to help your kids focus.