Parents of high school students often ask how they can best help their son or daughter develop better homework habits. Developing good homework habits is particularly important for students entering high school, because college is right around the corner. So how do you ensure your teen develops good homework habits? The answer is quite straightforward: Structure, guidance and support.
- Structure is providing a physical space in the house where your teen can study. It should be free of distractions, such as the family interrupting with comings and goings and any electronic device unless required to complete a project or assignment. Structure also comprises the characteristics of the study environment. Many teens claim that they can study with the television blaring while texting and checking Facebook. It’s true that teens have become quite adept at shifting between tasks in rapid succession, creating the illusion of multi-tasking. The reality is that the brain can only attend to one thing at a time. Multitasking is an illusion.
Listening to music, however, can be a boon to studying for some students.
- Guidance equates to parental expectations that teens will set aside a time each evening, follow a routine and actually study whether an assignment is complete before the end of the study session or after several sessions. Guidance also includes helping your teen prioritize — putting study time at the top of the list — making sure the family’s or their own activities don’t compete with study time.
- Students need support to stay the course. Support means more than encouragement. It also means that you might need to get tough. Our teens have too many activities competing for their time and may be unable to see what’s important and what’s not. So it could be up to you to decide what to drop and what to keep. There are only so many hours in a day, and teens need their sleep.
Notice that I don’t ever recommend that parents help with the assignment or homework. It’s important to remember that parents are in the business of parenting, not the business of education. In a short amount of time, your daughter or son will be expected to make these important decisions about studying on their own.
Now is the time to instill these valuable habits by structuring a daily study time, guiding and supporting your high school student.
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Dr. Paul Hanna, a former elementary and high school teacher and principal, is assistant professor of education at Columbia College. “Our mission is to turn out the best teachers we can,” he says. ”You’re not just pouring knowledge into that kid, you’re pouring knowledge into the family, because that child is part of a family and a community.” For more on Hanna, go to http://www.ccis.edu/files/Affinity/Affinity_Summer2011.pdf, p. 18-19.