In order for your child’s study schedule to work well, it needs to fit with his personality and be appropriate for his age. Once you have a basic study schedule set up, a few alterations should suffice to customize the plan to benefit your child’s personal needs and strengths. When customizing this process, take into consideration the following:
Attention Span and Scheduled Breaks
Younger children in the primary grades usually have a maximum attention span of 20 minutes. Working on a specific skill for 10 to 15 minutes and then playing a learning game for another 10 to 15 minutes will keep most young learners interested and on track. For those with shorter attention spans, switch activities more frequently, or try doing 10 minutes of homework in the morning and 10 minutes in the evening. For students in the intermediate grades, anywhere from 15 to 45 minutes on one task is appropriate, depending on the student. Taking a 5 minute break after every 20 minutes of homework will make homework sessions more manageable.
Some students want to get their homework done right away so that they can spend time on other things; others want to procrastinate. The procrastinators may need some external motivation to get started and keep on task, and these students will really benefit from a set study schedule. Try granting 5 to 10-minute of breaks for every 20 minutes of homework completed. Alternatively make a rule that homework must be finished before TV, socializing or computer time can begin. This may be a hard sell at first, but students will get used to the routine and get out of the habit of procrastinating.
Most students need help prioritizing their homework tasks. By helping with this process you will enable your child to learn a very important skill while preparing to complete the work for the day (or week). Ask your child what tests or deadlines he has coming up; then help him decide what needs be done and in which order he would like to complete his work. Also, explore setting task-specific time limits. Working to complete a task within a set time can be challenging, but it may lead to improved focus. Ultimately, most students will be required write tests under time constraints – if not now, at some point in the future. If setting time limits does not work well, then establish a rule that the highest priority homework must be completed first, whether or not it is from a preferred subject.
Optimum Working Times (morning/evening)
Some students are more alert and able to focus on homework in the morning while others are better in the evening after a break from the school day. Some students may want to do homework right after school when the ideas of the day are still fresh. Ask your child what time is preferable but keep in mind that it should be a time when someone (i.e. you, another adult, or an older sibling) is able to offer homework support.
Stay tuned for the final installment on how to customize your child’s study schedule.