1. Put devices away at study time.
If necessary, make the use of devices a reward for completing the day’s tasks. Since my children are homeschooled, you might think they might have unlimited access to the TV, PC, mobile devices and so on. So, we make it a point NOT to have those devices turned on unnecessarily during school hours.
As we are primarily an English-speaking family, we subscribe to a cable TV channel that teaches Chinese according to MOE’s Chinese syllabus to help the children with their Chinese. This is the only TV they are allowed to watch during “school hours”, and their viewing time is scheduled into our timetable.
My two older children are also allowed to “play” with their mobile devices for two hours every day, but only after they have completed the day’s schoolwork. Once the two hours are up, we’ll charge the phones in the living room, then hide them away until the next day. PC time is also limited to 30 minutes each — also after work.
2. Plan short bursts of study time (30-45 minutes), interspersed with 10-minute breaks.
I use a timer. Children, especially the younger ones, need breaks to get the “wiggles” out of them. I allow them to have a drink or snack, or do whatever they like until the timer rings.
3. Know each child’s learning style.
I have a child who is a kinesthetic learner — he had such difficulty memorising the sequence of the months in a year that I had to make him do it while doing a handstand. Another time, I had to make him do push-ups while memorising something else, or walk in figure-8s.
Another child of mine needs to fiddle with things while learning, so I give her a squishy or stress ball to squeeze.
Some children learn better through playing games, others through flashcards, others by “teaching” the material to someone else, or drawing mind-maps. Take a little time to get to know each child’s individual learning style — it can help save you a lot of frustration in helping the child study.
Children, especially the younger ones, need breaks to get the “wiggles” out of them.
4. Give lots of encouragement for effort.
I reward and praise my children for their efforts rather than for their results. Results are a bonus, the icing on the cake. Too much focus on the results can lead children to fear the test or fear the studying, or be frustrated that their studying did not “pay off” in “good” results; I teach them that the results of tests give us an indication of their strengths and weaknesses and help us to figure out which areas may need more work.
5. Help children set priorities and goals for study time, as well as other areas of their lives.
If children own their personal goals and learn to prioritise their time, this gives them more motivation to work to achieve their goals for their study time and lessens the likelihood that they will give in to unnecessary distractions.
By the way, don’t just teach them to set academic work goals, also encourage them to set financial goals, or skills goals (such as learning to cook a meal for the family)!
Yolande Tye, 48, is mum to Gabriel, 7, Benjamin, 9, and Sarah, 11.