There are several strategies that parents can follow at home to help the child in becoming more independent during studying.
Helping children in self-study: The right approach
Some children can be organised on their own, while others need help with self-organisation. There are several strategies that parents can follow at home to help the child in becoming more independent during studying.
Organising the study room
An important aspect is the study room used by the child. Ideally, it should be a separate room, e.g. the bedroom, and not a common area such as the kitchen or living room.
Remove unnecessary objects from the room that hamper the child’s concentration while studying or in any other activity he needs to perform. Organise the child's room in such a way that he can easily find the objects, making sure along with that they are not distracting.
For example, gather toys in large storage boxes where they are easily accessible but not directly visible to the child.
The desk and chair are very important. It is advisable that they are not too close to the window and that the child has his back to the room. Organise the desk in such a way that only the items necessary for lessons are available. The seat should be firm, and without wheels.
Additionally, you should remove from the room all stimuli that disturb the child's concentration. Removing brightly-coloured lighting and noise (e.g. television) aids concentration. However, when there is complete silence, it is much easier to get distracted. Therefore, try playing some relaxing music in the background without lyrics (music for reading, classical music, etc.) at a low volume.
Having organised the room environment, we now move on to the steps the child can follow when he or she wants to read. These steps will gradually become consistent and eventually a routine.
Step 1: Check the lesson plan and gather the books and notebooks needed for the next day.
Step 2: Assemble the books and notebooks on the left side of the desk. Usually, the easiest lessons go to the bottom, and the difficult ones on the top. So, start with the hardest ones and as the study progresses and the energy of the child drops, the exercises will get comparatively easier. The sorting method of this kind is done according to the child's cognitive needs and capabilities.
Step 3: Complete an exercise and place the notebook on the right side of the desk. This is followed by moving on to the next lesson.
Step 4: Check that the child has completed all the required exercises, arranged his bag with necessary books, notebooks, etc., and made the desk tidy.
While the above procedures are initially carried out with the help of someone, gradually the child should be able to perform them independently.
Sometimes visual stimulation helps, so the child can make a written list of the homework he has to finish, starting of course, with the most difficult ones.
If you make a written list, place it at the center of the desk visible to the child (e.g., taped to the wall). When each exercise is completed, the child crosses it off. This will give him a sense of progress and accomplishment and motivate him further to continue.
If this process proves to be slow and the child procrastinates unnecessarily, use an hourglass (with several minutes) or a stopwatch. This way he will know how many minutes of break have been exactly allotted.
Short breaks during studying are very important to make the learning process more streamlined. Just like any human being, a child can’t maintain constant attention to a demanding brain activity like reading/writing.
For example, let him go to the kitchen to eat or have a drink. Give him an anti-stress ball to push with his hands for a while or encourage him to perform push-ups by gripping the arms of the chair and exerting force to lift himself (with 10-20 repetitions). Sharing a joke or a few of the day’s news can be effective as well.
Caution: The break, however, should be manageable by the parent so that the child doesn't get carried away and give up studying altogether. It’s for you to decide how many and how often these breaks should be, depending on your child's needs or the difficulty of the lesson.
From the Synopsis Team
Angelina Chatzaki, Occupational Therapist
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