Expert Tips to Help your Child Learn Successfully at Home
Does your child study just about anywhere in your home? Possibly at the kitchen table with the TV on and in earshot of family conversations? Or perhaps lying on their bed, phone in hand, school papers scattered here and there? Maybe it’s time to consider a new study area to promote new study habits?
Parents who work from home or regularly bring work home from their office, often have a home office, a defined area set up to make their working time at home productive and comfortable. When we consider that school is our kids “work” we might be more inclined to give them that same comfortable and productive area for their work at home—their homework.
The best way to create a “home office” for our kids is to involve them in the process. Share the idea of a home office just for them. Let them know you are committed to their success. Work with them to create an area that will work for them. Build their enthusiasm. Get their buy-in. Even ask them—If you could have your ideal study space at home, what would it look like?
You might warn them that they may not be able to have it all, but they can just go for it for now and we’ll see what’s possible. And when you’re having these planning conversations with your child, remember to listen more—talk less, one of my favorite pieces of advice to parents of students we teach.
It’s amazing what we can learn about our children by listening to their needs, or wishes. Your son or daughter may come up with all sorts of ideas, some of which may surprise you. Some children are more visual and would want lots of room to post charts and diagrams of what they’re learning and colored pens and paper for making them.
Others who are more auditory can benefit from a recorder they could use to read and then listen to content, or just to capture their thoughts and play them back. Those with a kinesthetic preference in learning might want a more comfortable chair and room to move around. As you and your child are planning their home office around their preferences, think favorite colors, good lighting, a fun chair, plenty of space to keep resources handy, and a place or container for everything.
Remember, everything speaks. Everything in the environment sends a message that either enhances or detracts from learning. Think about clean and organized vs. cluttered chaos, light and airy vs. dim and dark, inviting and functional vs. any old place. All of these factors speak loud and clear, so it’s best to incorporate the positive messages in your child’s home study environment—make it clean and organized, light and airy, inviting and functional.
Working with your son or daughter to design and equip their “home office” also sends an important message from you—that school and homework is important. And an “office” makes it serious business. In addition to the foregoing, consider the following factors in defining—or redefining—your child’s “home office.” Here are some of the ideas we share in our workshops for parents of children who have attended SuperCamp, our summer enrichment program for youth and teens.
As they say in real estate, location is everything. Find a place that’s quiet and free of distractions—so, if possible, not the family room or the dining room table. It’s hard to focus when surrounded by family activities. Any parents working from a home office will quickly recognize the truth in this statement. The ideal is a defined study area in your child’s bedroom or other quiet place.
Make sure your child’s home study area has good lighting (ideally, natural light and a lamp), shelves for reference books and supplies, and a computer. The optimal desk or table has ample space to spread out projects. And they’ll need a comfortable chair (though not so comfortable that it induces sleep) to help them stay alert and focused. Furniture preferences may differ greatly from one child to another. Some students are very active and cannot sit for long in a straight chair, so may prefer a bucket-style chair with a desk on rollers.
Others who are very focused may prefer a more conventional desk and chair. Here again, listen and learn from your kids.
Make sure your children don’t have to waste valuable study time looking for a pen. Help them stock up on the needs they expressed in your planning with them, and find a way to have everything at their desk, not just somewhere in their room. Bins, shelves, drawers all work well to keep everything they need within reach—and control clutter. Clutter in their study area creates scattered thinking!
Though we might tend to discourage our children from listening to music while studying, music can actually inspire learning. Some classical music is “brain friendly” and enhances learning. Baroque music helps students to focus and to access their most resourceful learning state. This music optimizes the functions of the brain that store and retrieve information. Talk to your son or daughter about these benefits and get them to try a bit of baroque—they may well notice that it makes their study time easier, and want more. Bach, Handel, Pachelbel, or Vivaldi are great for while they’re studying, and they can save their own music for breaks. If your kids are resistant to classical and insisting on their own music, suggest that they choose music that does not have words.
Talk to them about the fact that words interfere with the part of their brain they need to study effectively, and even instrumental versions of music with words they’re familiar with can make it difficult to focus.
Positive signs or posters will prepare your child’s subconscious mind for learning and remind them of their potential in all areas of their life. Help your child create an inspiring atmosphere by making some signs—use lots of color (our brains love color!) and the following ideas to get you started:
I BELIEVE IN MYSELF
EVERYTHING I DO DESERVES MY BEST EFFORT
LEARNING IS FUN AND NATURAL!
EVERY CHALLENGE OFFERS A GIFT
I AM UNIQUE AND VALUABLE
I AM RESPONSIBLE FOR WHAT I CREATE
I CAN LEARN THIS!
EVERYONE HAS THE RESOURCES TO BE SUCCESSFUL
Another good idea is to have an achievement area (a bulletin board would work well) for awards, papers with good grades, and lists of accomplishments. A bulletin board also works well for posting study schedules and reminders of project deadlines.
Your involvement and support is a vital element in helping your son or daughter excel. Your show of interest and guidance in creating a positive home study environment where they feel comfortable and motivated not only strengthens your rapport with your child, but goes a long way toward establishing effective study habits and positive outcomes at school.
Bobbi DePorter is president of Quantum Learning Network, a leading education company producing SuperCamp summer enrichment programs now with 70,000 graduates and programs in 14 countries; and Quantum Learning Education, with schoolwide programs for teachers, administrators, students and parents. She has positively impacted over 100,000 teachers. Through these programs and the 8 Keys of Excellence movement, she has impacted more than twenty million young people over the last 30+ years.
Bobbi is also president of Learning Forum International, a non-profit organization that delivers 8 Keys of Excellence character programs to families and schools and provides teacher-training and SuperCamp scholarships. Along with Stedman Graham, Bobbi co-founded CAYS Community Alliance for Youth Success, a volunteer collaborative giving youth a voice for change.
She is the author of over a dozen books including Excellence in Teaching and Learning: The Quantum Learning System,The Seven Biggest Teen Problems and How to Turn Them into Strengths, Quantum Teaching, Quantum Success and The 8 Keys of Excellence.