How You Can Help Your Child Improve in School

How You Can Help Your Child Improve in School

Get Organized, Do Better

No, this isn’t a pitch for hiring tutors. It’s not a list of recommended study aids. Or books, tapes, videos, or other programs you can buy that will help your child in school. One of the simplest ways you can give your child a boost that will help him or her in school as well as for the rest of their lives is to give them the gift of organization.

That’s it. You can do those other things as well, but they won’t work or be as effective if your child’s desk, backpack, bedroom, home, and life are a disorganized mess. Because chances are that if your child’s environment is chaotic, so is their brain.

Where to Start

Start small. Does your child’s backpack for school have pockets, dividers, pouches, etc. or is it just one big open bag they throw everything into? Get color-coded folders and pouches and other containers that fit inside the backpack to help them keep things sorted. Have one folder that is just for papers they’re supposed to bring home for you to see and/or sign. Have a folder for each subject so they can easily sort their work, whether it’s completed assignments or works in progress. Of course they need other supplies; pens, pencils, erasers, sharpener, highlighter, calculator, compass, ruler, etc. Whatever your student needs to carry from classroom to classroom or from school to home, help them get it organized and work with them to keep it that way.

If your child’s assignments, classroom work, notes from the teacher, etc. are online, then take a few minutes every day to go over those things together.

Most kids can effectively use a daily planner by 4th or 5th grade. And even though today everything is online, electronic, and virtual, teach your child how to write down assignments, due dates, reminders, etc. It’s actually handier than having to look it up, plus the act of writing things down helps sear it into memory.

Being Organized as a Lifestyle

There’s a certain amount of casual clutter or disorganization that just happens in the daily flow of life’s activities, and that’s understandable. But studies have shown that living amongst clutter is stressful, and can cause anxiety and impair the ability to concentrate. Once the backpack or bookbag is sorted, work with your child to get their closet, dresser, desk, bedroom, toys, sports equipment, and other belongings sorted and organized, and teach them how to keep up with it so it’s not a huge chore once a month, but a daily habit that only takes a few minutes. This will help contribute to their inner calm, which in turn helps them focus and concentrate.

Unbusy Their Schedule

Families are on the go. In addition to school for them and work for you, there’s meals, shopping, errands, sports, extracurricular activities, church or worship, social activities, pets to care for, and the list goes on. It’s up to you to take a step back and look at your own family’s dynamics and see if there are ways you can fit in blocks of down time for your child. If there is more than one adult in the family, can one of you do some of the errands while the other stays home, giving the kids a break from being on the go? Will meal prep once a week be a viable timesaver for you that can lessen the daily burden? Will prepared meal delivery services fit into the budget so meals are super easy?

Look for ways to clear some time every day that is unstructured and unscheduled. It will help your child and also help you.

Unplug the Electronics

Kids spend too much time online, plugged in, overstimulated. Apparently the average kid between 8 and 18 spends six to seven hours a day in front of a screen. For their sanity, safety, and success, put limits on screen time. Build a library of actual books, magazines, journals, comic books, travel guides, cookbooks, catalogs, hobby books, etc. And help them get up off the couch and do something active every day. Weather permitting, spending some time outdoors each day is ideal. Walk the dog, water the flowers, pick weeds, ride a bike, skateboard, go for a walk, but just find something to do that gets your child outside and moving.

These are all things that contribute to your child’s overall mental health, which in turn is going to help them get the most out of school. Making these activities part of their daily routine is going to help your child feel focused, confident and proactive. Turning these activities into habits helps set up your child for a lifetime of success.

How Paper and Pencil Can Help Your Child Study More Effectively

How Paper and Pencil Can Help Your Child Study More Effectively

Help improve memory and retention simply by writing things down

You already know how much time your child spends using electronics. It’s easy to depend on automated calendars, reminders, appointments, and notes. But did you know that the simple act of writing these things down on paper helps to reinforce them and make them easier to remember?

It seems easier and faster to type things into a laptop or tablet, or even a phone, but various studies have shown that when we write things down, something actually happens in our brains that reinforces what we’ve written, and we retain the information much better.

There was a side-by-side study done earlier this year using fMRI neuroimaging to identify specific brain activation differences when we use paper notebooks versus mobile digital devices. Interestingly, the participants who filled in a paper calendar did it more quickly than those who used a tablet or a smartphone. In addition, the accuracy was much higher in the group who wrote notes down manually.

One hour later, participants were asked a series of detailed questions related to the personal calendars they had created and their brains were imaged during this process. There was significantly more robust brain activation and better memory recall in the group who wrote things down on paper. The conclusion? ”Use paper notebooks for information we need to learn or memorize.”

Get your child a day planner

A simple day planner book with a calendar section and a notes section can help your child enter due dates for assignments and projects, reminders about class schedules and extracurricular activities, and any appointments they may have. To make it even more useful, they can include birthdays, holidays, vacation dates, and more. The act of writing these things down will help them remember, but it also produces a handy reference where everything they have going on in their lives can be viewed at a glance, in one place. It also becomes a great way to check things off of a to-do list and refer back to past events and accomplishments. What was I doing on March 13th this year? Oh, there it is on my calendar.

Are there apps that can help you do those things? Of course! And that’s the problem. It could require multiple apps, making it harder to find the thing you’re looking for, and science has already shown that you’ll remember it better if you write it down. Is your child already making notes and writing down assignments using pencil and paper? Great! A day planner will help keep all of that information organized and easy to access.

Letting your child choose the planner and pencil or pen they want to use with it helps them to be invested in the new process. Tip: using a pencil makes it easier to edit and update. Helping them get started, and offering suggestions and support will help it become a successful transition.

Dependence on electronic devices

If you need any more reason to encourage your child to learn to use handwritten calendars, planners, and notes, consider this information from Johns Hopkins All Children’s Hospital: “We have become increasingly dependent on our devices, and now, more than ever, we are using our devices to communicate, get information and remain in contact 24/7. This lends itself to feeling anxious or stressed when we don’t have that source close by at all times.”

One of the negative outcomes of the pandemic has been the hugely increased amount of time children spend on video games, social media, and electronic devices in general. Many parents had to relax their rules about how much screen time their kids could have because suddenly everything was online, the kids couldn’t go to school and couldn’t get together with friends. Data shows that children’s screen time has doubled this year as compared to the year prior.

Returning to in-person school will be an important factor in weaning kids off of their addiction to electronic devices. Providing them the memory-enhancing tools of pencil and paper to incorporate into their daily habits will help retrain their brains and create a lifelong tool that will improve their lives.