This post contains affiliate links. For more information, see our disclosures here.
Teaching our children to study can be challenging! We know we need to help our children develop good study skills, but how exactly do we go about doing that?
Even though I studied a lot when I was in school, I still wasn’t really sure how to teach my children how to study. In fact, my son was in about 8th grade and my younger daughter was in 4th grade before I realized that they might learn and retain information better if I stopped and took the time to actually teach them how to study.
I realized that I had been guilty of encouraging my children to “try harder” when I should have been teaching them to study! I’m sure my children probably often thought, “I’m trying as hard as I can!” Trying hard does not take the place of studying.
So, how do you teach your children to study? Every child will have to take this information and tweak it here and there to make it work for him or her. There are some basic habits, though, that our children need to develop before making these skills more personal.
#1. Teach your child to listen and pay attention during the lesson.
One thing that many students don’t do is to simply listen and pay attention during the lesson. Whether the student is listening to an online class, listening to Mom read a story or lesson, or even listening to himself as he reads his own lesson, he needs to really listen and pay attention to what is being taught or said.
It may be that we need to help our students practice their listening skills by reading short passages to them and then asking questions. Some students may simply need to be reminded occasionally to pay attention until it becomes a habit. It might even be helpful to set a timer to go off at intervals throughout the class period or throughout the day for the purpose of reminding the student to pay attention. Whatever system works well for you and your child(ren), implement it! Try out a few different systems, choose what works best for your child, and put that system in place. This is definitely one of the keys to getting ready to improve study skills!
#2. Make sure your child actually understands the material.
Besides just listening, the student needs to understand the material. I know this seems basic, but many students just want to get through a lesson quickly, so they don’t take the time right then during the lesson to clarify information in their minds. Younger students probably get help from the mom/teacher in this area as the lesson progresses because younger students are often taught by the mom, and she probably makes sure they understand. Middle school and older students, though, must take more responsibility for themselves to make sure they understand before moving on.
#3. Teach your child to skim chapter titles, subtitles, charts and graphs, etc. before reading the chapter.
Another tip that can be very helpful is simply skimming the chapter title, subtitles or section titles in that chapter, charts or graphs used in the lesson, and even the first sentence or two of each paragraph in order to get an idea of the most important information from the lesson. If the student keeps the main idea(s) in his mind, she can more easily recognize information that is pertinent to the lesson and that which is not as important to remember. Part of successful studying is simply narrowing down what’s important to remember and what isn’t.
#4. Make sure your child knows how to take good notes.
Taking good notes is extremely important–especially for older students! Younger students may be given study sheets that have been prepared ahead of time for them, but most older students (middle school and older) are responsible for creating their own study notes. It is very helpful for many students to go through the process of writing down lesson notes and study notes. I’m the kind of learner who has to rewrite things in order to learn them. Even if writing isn’t necessary for your student to learn and remember the information, it is still a wonderful tool! Writing (and reading out loud as he writes) allows the student to see the information (for visual learners), hear the information (for auditory learners), and do something with the information (for kinesthetic learners). I know that many students don’t like to write, but I wouldn’t rule it out because it can be such a wonderful study habit!
#5. Help your child create a study schedule.
Making a study schedule can be helpful. When I was a student and had a test or project or paper coming up, I always put off working on it until the very last possible minute. I could think of a host of “reasons” that I couldn’t study right at that moment. Then, when it came down to the last minute, I finally knew that I had no choice, and I buckled down to study. My children are the same way! I realized this is especially helpful and even necessary for my children. If we make out a study schedule and set aside specific days and times for studying, they are much more likely to study for days (or even weeks) ahead of time instead of waiting too late.
#6. Use practice tests.
Creating and taking a “practice test” was very useful for my son. (He has now graduated from our homeschool.) Not only did creating his own test cause him to have to review the information, but it also required him to write or type the information out. Without even realizing it, he was practicing and studying the information over again while creating his own practice test. Then taking the practice test was yet another opportunity to review the information.
If your child isn’t yet ready to create his or her own practice test, some curriculums come with them, you can create one, or you can help your child learn to create them. If you have an older child who is willing and able to help, you can even have him/her help out by creating practice tests for the younger sibling(s)!
#7. Review information often!
Even if there isn’t a test coming up soon, encourage your student to read over each day’s lesson and the information from previous lessons each day. This is not the same as making a study schedule. This is done every day either after class or at the end of the school day. The student simply reads over her notes and pays close attention to them. She’s not attempting to remember the information, but that will come anyway because she will be seeing the information over and over. Then, when a study session arrives, she may be surprised at how much she already knows!
These are just a few study skills that have worked for my own family. I would love to hear from you about any tips or study skills you can share with us!