Henry David Thoreau once wrote, “Time is but the stream I go a-fishing in.” Although many of us feel we lack the time we need to get everything done – that there simply aren’t enough hours in the day – Thoreau reminds us of the importance of living at our own pace and learning to use time to our advantage.
As a homework tutor, time management is among the most common concerns voiced by parents and students. Students these days are perhaps busier than ever before: between academics and a barrage of extracurricular commitments, how can your child expect to keep up the juggling act and manage to get enough rest?
This is especially true at the middle school level, which is fraught with new expectations; for many students, this is their first experience with moving between classes, subject-specific teachers, and such a significant workload. At this age, students have to learn how to learn most efficiently. While there are plenty of homework tutors for middle school kids in NYC, Boston, and online ready to help, there are certainly things you can do as a parent to be proactive.
In this post, I outline strategies for developing a proactive approach to time management and study skills. The transition to middle school can be intimidating, but by developing a concrete study schedule, your child will gain greater control over his time and work more confidently through new material. Here’s how to get started:
1) Establish a starting point.
As a homework tutor for middle school kids, when I begin working with new students, this is one of our first exercises. Although relatively simple, I find that it allows students to take stock of how they currently use their time and to identify areas where they might work with greater focus and organization. The aim is twofold: a) to identify competing time commitments, and b) to set concrete priorities moving forward.
On a blank piece of paper, have your child list his commitments. Note how many hours he spends at soccer practice, religious education, music, etc. during the week. For each subject, review a course syllabus to estimate how much homework he receives per night.
2) Develop a schedule.
While it is one thing to create a schedule, a plan is only as useful as its execution. By helping your child to develop a schedule that he can stick to, you will help him to gain control over his time and enable him to work more purposefully through assignments.
A few suggestions for creating an effective schedule:
- TASK-ORIENTED: Help your child develop a realistic schedule by focusing on tasks. In emphasizing what he must accomplish each night – as well as during the week – you’ll help your student to improve his concentration in pursuit of specific, concrete goals.
- CONSISTENT: If possible, carve out a nightly time for the completion of homework; this will establish accountability while enabling your child to internalize a study routine.
- MANAGEABLE: Break it down by subject. Especially at the beginning, create conditions that will allow your child to acclimate to a new schedule. For example, you might suggest that he begin each day with his most daunting subject and work towards those he finds less difficult. Or, he might dedicate a small window to long-term projects, such as lingering tests or presentations. By breaking down large assignments into individual tasks with deadlines over a period of a few days/weeks, such projects will feel more manageable and will be less likely to be left until the last minute.
3) Get Involved. Create conditions for success.
- Buy a PLANNER: Have your student keep a record of homework assignments, impending tests, and due dates. By writing them out, you can be confident that your child is not merely relying on memory, and that he understands the scope and purpose of each assignment before leaving class. Remind him to cross off tasks as he completes them; this affords both a measure of accountability and satisfaction. This blog post about getting organized (written by a homework tutor for middle school students in NYC), is another great resource to explore.
- ELIMINATE DISTRACTIONS: If possible, choose a homework spot that is free from distractions. While studying, try and minimize your child’s use of television and other technology (aside from what is necessary for his assignments). He will learn more –and do so more efficiently – if completely focused on the task at hand.
- Keep SUPPLIES handy: Ensure that your child has the necessary materials to complete his homework, i.e. pens/pencils, paper, calculator, etc. By storing these in an accessible location, you eliminate time wasted looking for supplies on a daily basis.
- Suggest that your student PACK at NIGHT: After completing his homework, have your child pack his backpack before going to bed. It is easy to misplace individual papers, so ensure that he stores his assignments in the proper folders and puts everything away for the morning.
A strong repertoire of study skills is critical to academic success, whether in high school, college, or at the graduate level. By focusing on time management sooner rather than later, your child will develop lifelong habits that will serve him well as he balances competing obligations and encounters new material!