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No shortcuts to good education

January 26, 2012
The Daily News

For many area students, the second semester of the school year is about to begin.

This is a time for students to renew their dedication for learning.

If parents want their child to succeed in school, there are no shortcuts.

Parents must be willing to spend time and get involved. This is especially important when it comes to homework.

To help parents and students, education experts offer the following tips:

- Learn how to find information. What's really important is not just memorizing information but knowing how to find it and what to do with it. Focus on the process of learning, not just the content.

- Access the Internet. Whether at home, school or the library, computer skills and the Internet have become important tools for learning. But it's essential to find safe, educational sites, rather than allowing children to randomly access information using search engines that don't filter out inappropriate sites. When parents and children work together, homework can be fun and researching safe.

- Be a good role model. Create a positive climate where your child chooses to do homework. The best way to accomplish this is to do your own work at the same time. Model the behavior you want to see in your child, share your hobbies, talk about current events, let your child see you reading and learning.

- Find out how your child learns. Each child is different. Instead of saying, "My child's four and should now be doing this," think, "At four, what has my child already shown interest in? What is my child good at?"

- Positive reinforcement. An important motivating factor for children is positive reinforcement, but some praise works better than others. Try to avoid "put down" praise, like "You really worked hard on your math - it would be even better if all the answers were correct." Also, saying "You really made a great effort," generally is more effective than "You're so smart." Reinforcing children's efforts tells them their hard work pays off giving them a sense of control and mastery that boosts self-esteem.

- Organize your space. One idea to help make homework automatic is to set up a family "Don't Leave Home Without It" table for all items that go to school.

- Get supplies. Have your child's study area as well stocked as an office. Get supplies that make your child feel special and well-organized. If possible, buy copies of the books your child is using in school. This helps children remember their work better since they can write in the books and highlight key concepts.

- Set priorities and time limits. Help your child establish prioritized work habits. For example, spend 30 minutes on one subject and then go on to the next, allocating specific time frames for each. Often it's best to save the most enjoyable homework for last.

- Pace your work. Teach your children to pace themselves by prioritizing assignments. Children usually can't do this before age 10.

- Take breaks. Young children need a five minute break every 15 minutes; 7- to 11-year-olds may need a break every 30 minutes, 11-year-olds and up may need a break every 30 to 45 minutes.

- Get enough sleep. A rested mind is a sharper mind. Eight to 10 hours of sleep a night will aid both attention span and concentration.

- Choose a quiet, comfortable place for study where basic supplies, such as computer, or paper, sharpened pencils, erasers, scissors, dictionary, etc., are handy. Turn off the television, cell phone and any loud music.

- Use a calendar or planner to keep track of daily assignments.

- Don't procrastinate. Begin working on assignments the same day they are given, even if it's just to break the assignment into steps and set deadline dates for each task.

- Read every day; elementary students should begin with a minimum of 15 minutes.

- Eat healthy meals and snacks. Just as with adequate sleep, nutrition can influence performance.



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