(BPT) - Helping children with their homework requires more than an understanding of the subject matter, whether it's algebra or world literature. To help children succeed throughout the school year, it's important for parents to nurture positive study habits and organizational skills, and provide kids with a home environment that fosters concentration.
"Whether your kids are just learning to read, write and spell, or they are studying for the SATs, we parents have an opportunity to help instill work and study habits that will stick with our children for life," says education and parenting expert Dr. Michele Borba, who is the bestselling author of 22 parenting books and a frequent TODAY show contributor.
Borba offers parents some easy tips to help children of all ages develop skills that will help them reach their academic goals:
* Give them space - Create a dedicated space for homework and study. This underscores the importance of homework to kids. If you don't have room for a homework desk, consider keeping all homework and study tools in a bin or box that children can take out and use every day. Keep all essentials in one place to help avoid time wasted looking for the dictionary, ruler, calculator or other tool.
* Create a routine - Choose a time that works best for your child to do homework, then stick to that time every day. A set and predictable schedule helps minimize homework battles. "Work before play" can motivate kids to get their homework done, but if your child plays sports or has other after-school commitments, doing homework after dinner may be the best option.
* Give them smart tools and study aids - Just as your mechanic can't fix your car without the right tools, it's hard for kids to do homework without the proper tools. Choose tools like the new Post-it Study collection (www.Post-it.com), which is designed to help students stay organized and use time efficiently. For example, Post-it Study Message Flags are restickable flags that feature helpful reminders like "Study," "To Do" and "On Test" that help kids highlight material that needs additional attention. Note Tabs, Page Markers, Flags and other products in this collection by Post-it Brand stick securely to papers, notebooks, textbooks and more - yet remove cleanly - to help kids organize information during homework and study time.
* Avoid distractions - Establish a technology-free zone for homework and studying. Turn off TVs, ban text messaging and ensure kids are using their PC for research, rather than Facebook. This measure may seem obvious to you, but remember - kids are so tied to tech these days that they may be surprised to find out they can more efficiently use their time without the distractions of technology.
* Map out assignments - Help children plot homework on a schedule so they have simple reminders of daily, weekly or long-term assignments. Include other engagements like sports or music lessons to help kids have a clearer picture of their own schedules. This can help build basic time management skills, like working on a long-term project every day over time, or avoiding a late-night cramming session for a big test.
* Lessons in planning and prioritizing - Teach kids to make lists of what they need to do each night in order of priority. As your child accomplishes each item, have him cross it off the list. For children who had difficulty staying on task, breaking large projects into smaller, more manageable tasks can help. Encourage kids to do the hardest homework first to help relieve the pressure of a long to-do list.
* Emphasize the effort - Stressing perseverance and effort in a task helps children work longer and harder, because they recognize their success is based on how hard they work. Instead of asking "What score did you get?" ask "How hard are you working?"
* Effective study habits - Spreading out study sessions and practice testing were the two most-effective learning tactics, according to a recent report by the Association for Psychological Science. Both techniques involve strong time management skills. Help children think of study sessions or pieces of a larger project as daily to-dos, and just as important as the homework assignment that may be due tomorrow.
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