There’s no denying it: getting your child to sit down and focus on learning at home can be a challenge. If you’re not careful, the idea of sitting down to more work turns home learning into ‘just another chore’ in your child’s eyes.
While checking they’re digesting the correct subject-specific content is clearly important, it’s just as essential that parents simultaneously help their child develop effective and efficient study habits. Students need to have the necessary toolkit of skills required in order to thrive, and parents are often the key to ensuring those skills develop and stick.
Encourage children to follow a home learning schedule, with a weekly plan that allows time for both compulsory homework and self-directed study. Time spent on home learning should increase as they get older, from 30-60 minutes a day in school years 7-9 to 90-120 minutes a day in years 10-12.
Home learning is particularly important for students in years 10-12. John Hattie’s study Visible Learning found that homework is beneficial to all students and most significantly to students in higher year groups.
Self-directed study can be a great way to make learning accessible and fun. If your child is studying Shakespeare, for example, why not rent a modern film adaptation of one of his plays? If they’re learning about the creation of the universe, try watching a Stephen Hawking documentary on YouTube, or reading a book by a popular physicist.
It’s also critical to understand that not every child learns the same way, and a range of different techniques should be employed. If you’re unsure, try speaking to your child and their teachers about what might be the best course of action.
Every situation is different – for example, one of my students a few years ago was having great difficulty remembering his Shakespeare quotations. We practiced applying the Elevate ‘Memory Mnemonics’ technique of assigning a story to some of the more troublesome quotations. Whilst the student was initially reluctant, they eventually remembered their quotations with ease.
There’s one point of contention that everyone loves to have an opinion on: music or no music? Many students like to listen to music, and often find it incredibly challenging to work in complete silence.
At Waverley, we’re lucky enough to work with Dr Prue Salter, a study skills guru who regularly speaks to our parents and students about current research in this area. It turns out that most popular music runs at 140 beats per minute, which is quite detrimental to retaining and learning information. Classical baroque music, however, runs at 60 beats per minute and is conducive for storing information in long term memory. This could be a great option for students who can’t study in complete silence.
Try to create a calm, comfortable space to help your child study more effectively – although there’s no denying this can be difficult. Factors such as lack of computer or internet access, unavailability of space, or having a non-English speaking background can put students at a disadvantage. Parents should work together with teachers and their child if they spot a problem, try to iron it out as early as possible.
Ultimately, home learning is all about getting the balance right between hard work and fun exploration. Parents can be critical in helping children achieve that harmony, where home learning is no longer a ‘chore’, but – dare I say it – something children actually look forward to.
About the Author
Lynsey Porter is the Director of Curriculum at Waverley College, an independent, non-selective Catholic day school for boys with over 100 years’ history. waverley.nsw.edu.au