It takes a combination of skills — organization, time management, prioritization, concentration, and motivation — to achieve academic success. Here are some tips to help get your child on the right track.
Talk to your child
To find out which of these skills your child has and which they can develop further, start a simple conversation that focuses on your child’s goals. Ask your child about their favorite subjects, classes they dread, and whether they’re satisfied with their latest progress report.
Listen for clues
Incorporate your own observations with your child’s self-assessment. Is your child overwhelmed by assignments? Your child may have trouble organizing time. Does your child have difficulty completing work? They may get distracted too easily. Is your child simply not interested in school? They may need help getting motivated.
Identify problem areas.
Start here to help your child identify which of the five skill areas are trouble spots.
Whether it’s keeping track of research materials or remembering to bring home a lunch box, children need to be organized to succeed in school. For many students, academic challenges are related more to a lack of organization than to a lack of intellectual ability.
Tips to help your child get organized:
• Make a checklist of things your child needs to bring to and from school every day. Put a copy by the door at home and one in their backpack. Try to check with your child each day to see if they remember the items on the list. A visual list is especially helpful for kids in elementary school.
• Find out how your child keeps track of homework and how they organize their notebooks. Then work together to develop a system your child will want to use. Most kids (and adults, btw) benefit from making lists and/or using a planner.
• Shop with your child for tools that will help them stay organized, such as binders, folders, and/or a planner.
Learning to schedule enough time to complete an assignment may be difficult for your student. Even when students have a week to do a project, many won’t start until the night before it’s due. Learning to organize time into productive blocks takes practice and experience.
Tips to help your child manage time:
• Track assignments on a weekly or monthly calendar. Work backward from the due date of larger assignments and break them into nightly tasks.
• Help your child record how much time they spend on homework each week so they can figure out how to divide this time into manageable chunks.
• Together, designate a time for nightly homework and help your child stick to this schedule.
• If evenings aren’t enough, help your child find other times for schoolwork, such as early mornings, study halls, or weekends.
Sometimes children fall behind in school and fail to hand in assignments because they simply don’t know where to begin. Prioritizing tasks is a skill your child will need throughout life, so it’s never too soon to get started.
Tips to help your child prioritize:
• Ask your child to write down all the things they need to do, including non-school-related activities.
• Ask your child to label each task from 1 to 3, with 1 being the most important.
• Ask about each task, so that you understand your child’s priorities. If your child labels all social activities as 1, then you know where their attention is focused.
• Help your child change some of the labels to better prioritize for academic success. Then suggest they rewrite the list so all the 1s are at the top.
• Check in frequently to see how the list is evolving and how your child is prioritizing new tasks.
Whether your child is practicing second-grade spelling words or studying for a tenth grade trigonometry test, it’s important that kids works on schoolwork in an area with limited distractions and interruptions.
Tips to help your child concentrate:
• Turn off access to email and games when your child works on the computer.
• Declare the phone and TV off-limits during homework time.
• Find space that fits the assignment. If your child is working on a science project, they may need lots of space; if they’re studying for a Spanish test, they will need a well-lit desk and a space where they can practice speaking and/or reading aloud.
• Help your children concentrate during homework time by separating them from their siblings.
Most children say they want to do well in school, yet many still fail to complete the level of work necessary to succeed academically. The reason is often motivation. Tapping into your child’s interests is a great way to get them geared to do well in school.
Tips to help motivate your child:
• Link school lessons to your child’s life. If they’re learning percentages, ask your child to figure out the price of a discounted item next time you shop.
• Link your child’s interests to academics. If your child is passionate about music, give them books about musicians and show how music and foreign languages are connected.
• Give your child control and choices. With guidance, let them determine their study hours, organizing system, and school project topics.
• Encourage your child to share their expertise. Regularly ask your child about what they’re learning in school.
• Congratulate your child, encourage them, and celebrate all successes.
Often what holds children back from trying is the fear of failure or the memory of a time they didn’t do well. You can help break this cycle by celebrating your child’s successes, no matter how small, and by giving them opportunities to succeed academically.