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Why excellent study habits should be imparted as early as possible.

August 21, 2013

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Between the ages of 5 and 18, when a child starts kindergarten and finishes 12th grade, their main concern should be school and their studies. In fact, many parents compare school to a job and tell their children that, since it’s the only job that they have, they should put in as much effort to do it as well as they possibly can.

If you subscribe to this theory then it only makes sense that, in order to be successful at their ‘job’, your children be taught the best way to perform it.

Just like a doctor should know the most accurate way to diagnose their patient, a carpenter the most precise way to build a house and a florist the most beautiful way to arrange flowers, a child needs to know the most successful way to learn their school subjects. With this in mind it only makes sense that acquiring and using excellent study habits be the goal of any child (and their parents).

The sad fact however is that most students are never taught how to be excellent students. Yes, we are taught the basics of how to read, how to write and all of the other subjects that are necessary to move from one grade to the next but, as far as exactly how to study, when to study, where to study (and good study habits in general), these vital and valuable skills are simply left to chance.

Let’s take the analogy of the carpenter as an example. The average person would quickly learn that the frame of a house is made with wood, that wood can be fastened together with nails and that, once fastened, this wood and nails can form the frame of the house. The fact is however that, unless a person is shown specifically how to attach the wood and nails together, building the frame of a house would be nearly impossible even with the best wood, nails and a good hammer unless the carpenter was shown how to do it correctly.

The same can be said for a student.  Teaching them their ABCs, how to add and subtract and all of the other basics is a great start but, unless they are taught how to study new material as it’s presented, the frame of their education is going to be weak and unstable.

That’s why, even from their earliest school days, every student should be shown not only the basic building blocks of education but, more importantly, how to actually sit down and digest that information on a daily, regular basis.

Practice makes perfect and, if you’d like a student to be as close to perfect as possible, they need to be shown how to study at the start of their school career and regularly thereafter. Here are a couple key points to consider when practicing ones studies:

  • Routine: Routines are very effective, especially with younger children. Homework time should start the same time every day regardless of how much homework came home. It may be at a set time, or correspond to an event like the end of dinner. The more routine it is, the less negotiable it is, and thus less ‘discussion’ is involved.
  • Location: No Distractions! The TV needs to be off, cellphones ditto, and computers should be quietly out of reach. We usually suggest the kitchen table. Kids usually discover that homework goes faster, and is “easier” when done at the kitchen table with the TV off.
  • Organization: Keeping things organized is easy when they’re young, and that’s OK. But, as kids get older they NEED to increase the amount of energy spent keeping things organized. The single folder that takes homework back and forth to school for an elementary student becomes a binder in middle school and should become multiple binders for high school students. Organization will help prevent missing and late homework and, believe it or not, help kids keep the information organized in their head. Organizing their binders can be a tactile reinforcement method to help students keep the concepts organized in their mind. Though shuffling papers alone won’t help junior get ready for his exam.

In the end, studying is to education as using a hammer and nails is to carpentry; the more it’s done, the better the result.

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