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[Ready]How to instill good study habits in your child

Hilary Gan is a professional SAT tutor and a contributing writer for Varsity Tutors. She holds an MFA in creative writing from the University of Arizona.

Strong study habits are referred to as just that — habits — due to the fact that they require regular practice in a standard routine.

Girl studying

Studying should be a frequent occurrence and not something your child needs to relearn on each occasion. Sometimes, habits are also known as skills because they take effort to develop and they improve with practice. Given these facts, the first step to instilling stellar study habits is simple: begin! The single most challenging hurdle to studying is getting started, so encourage your child to schedule time to study before other activities to avoid procrastination.

How to study

Help your children to be honest with themselves about their strengths and weaknesses. Kids may be reluctant to admit their challenges, but let them know they are doing themselves a disfavor by pretending to know all the material.

When your child completes a section in a textbook or finishes a work sheet, ask him to summarize it for you. If he isn't able to, he must go back and review it. Reinforce that the goal is to understand and retain the material, not merely to go through the motions. Yes, it is simple to skim a section, check it off a list and move on, but if your child did not actively read the section, then that work was pointless. Question whether your child requires additional practice — then encourage it. Help your child locate more sample problems or even write his own. Perhaps your child would benefit from a different explanation, which you can find through various online resources.

Different stages of study happen before reviewing for a test or quiz. Careful note-taking in class and during reading can help your child recall information more easily. Remind your child to take legible, coherent and useful notes since he or she will eventually need to go back and refer to them later. Drawing pictures with notes may be helpful to children who are visual learners. Arrows and color-coding are also useful visual aids.

Where to study

Help your child choose a study location with limited distractions. It's important to impart to your child that her focus needs to remain on reviewing material instead of sharing her attention with other things like the television, squabbling with a sibling or texting. Before beginning work, she should get in the habit of removing anything that may be distracting and anticipating interruptions. For example, she should keep a sweater close by in case of a chill and have a snack ready for when hunger sets in. Emphasize that distractions (which are truly excuses) can derail study efforts. Help your child to avoid them as much as possible.

Additionally, help your child select a dedicated study space. Do not allow your child to study on his bed — beds are for sleeping, and if your child is tricked into thinking that his bed is a place to focus on school and all the tasks he has yet to do, it endangers his sleep schedule and can lead to insomnia or poor sleep. For similar reasons, do not allow your child to study at the kitchen table since that can subconsciously tie school anxiety to food. Encourage your child to take breaks and physically leave the study area. Break mode and study mode are completely separate entities, and placing them in different areas can assist in the goal of instilling good study habits.

Carolyn Rahaman is a professional ISEE/SSAT tutor and contributing writer for Varsity Tutors. She holds a Bachelor of Arts degree in physics from the University of Chicago and a Master's degree in learning sciences from Northwestern University.

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