11 Easy Ways for Parents to Support Their Children’s Studies
As a parent, you’re naturally going to be concerned that your children receive the best possible education.
When you’re handing over responsibility for that education to their school, it can sometimes feel as though there’s not much you can do to help your children excel in their studies. However, as we’re going to show you in this article, there’s plenty you can be doing to support them from the sidelines with varying degrees of involvement needed from you. While they might not always appreciate your involvement right now, you’ll be reassured that you’re doing everything you can for them, and they will thank you for it one day!
1. Ask them if there’s anything they’re struggling with – and do something about it
One of the easiest ways to support your children’s studies is simply to show concern for how they’re getting on, and ask them if there are any topics in particular that they’re struggling with. While it can be difficult not to seem interfering, just letting them know that you’re there to help if they need you should be enough to let them know that you’re supportive. If they do come to you and tell you that they’re struggling with a particular topic, then you can spring into action to give them some help. If it’s beyond your own capabilities, you might suggest other options, such as a few private lessons to help them get up to speed, or a new textbook that might explain the problem more clearly. If it’s apparent that the problem is going to be more long-term, rather than just difficulties with one particular topic, you might want to consider hiring a private tutor to help your child achieve better results in this subject. Private tutors are also useful if your child has been ill and missed a period of school, or if other personal issues have affected their academic performance.
2. Encourage them to read more
Reading widely is a characteristic of all the most successful students, and it’s something that parents can easily encourage from a young age. Taking your children to the library to get their own library cards, having plenty of books available in your own home, and buying attractive volumes to give as presents for birthdays and Christmas are all simple ways to instil a love of reading in your children, whatever age they are. If you wanted to be even more proactive about it, you could suggest that they join a book club (this would help with their literature studies by developing literary criticism skills), or even form your own mini-book club, in which you and your children all read a book each month and set aside time to sit and discuss it together. You could also subscribe to a newspaper, if you don’t already, and encourage your children to read one or two articles a day to keep them up to date with what’s going on in the world.
3. Enforce a period of quiet in the house
With younger siblings tearing noisily around the house, it can be difficult for older children to concentrate on their homework. To alleviate this problem, you could enforce a period of quiet time in the house at set times of the day, during which younger children are quietly occupied and the older ones have the peace and quiet they need to get on with their private study, distraction-free.
4. Invest in additional education
You’ve doubtless already invested a lot of time, effort and possibly money in securing the best possible education for your child, but if you still feel you could be doing more, have you thought about investing in additional educational opportunities for your children, such as sending them to evening classes, or a summer school? While it’s important that they have some time to rest and relax, there are plenty of opportunities out there to help occupy them when they’re not at school at the same time as supporting their main school studies. For example, they could learn an additional language by taking evening classes or lessons with a private tutor, or you could keep them occupied over the summer by sending them on a summer school. If you send them to us, they could be broadening their horizons, preparing for university, working towards being a leader of the future or improving their English (if it’s not their native language). All these courses are designed to give your children an academic boost, equipping them with new knowledge and skills and helping them make new friends at the same time.
5. Stay in touch with their teachers
As a parent, it’s important to take a close interest in your child’s school, reading the newsletters and communicating with their teachers. As well as attending parents’ evenings, you could engage in a continuing dialogue with their teachers to find out what support they think your child would benefit from you giving them. From their teachers, you’ll be able to ascertain which areas your child might need additional help from you in, and what form that help might take. You could also join your child’s school Parent Teacher Association (PTA), which will keep you in touch with what’s going on in the school and get you involved in fundraising for extra facilities, events and activities from which your child will ultimately benefit. If you wanted to get involved further still, you could become a school governor. These are volunteers whose job it is to make decisions about every aspect of running the school, from building repairs to setting codes of conduct and establishing rules for discipline. It’s a rewarding role, and as a parent, you’d have the satisfaction of knowing that you’re directly involved in helping to make your child’s school as good as it can be for them.
6. Devise fun ways to test them
Whatever age you are, continually testing what you’ve learned is a useful way to consolidate your new knowledge and make sure it’s properly sunk in. But that testing doesn’t have to take place in the form of a stressful exam: it can be made more fun! As a parent, you can help support your child’s studies by following what they’re learning and setting fun tests at regular intervals to help make sure they’ve learnt it properly. For example, you could set a weekly quiz based on what they’ve learnt that week, with a prize (perhaps some extra pocket money as a good incentive to make sure they do well!) if they get a certain percentage right. If you don’t have time to do a quiz, you could instead try encouraging them to learn by using index cards to summarise topics on. They then give you the index cards and you ask them to explain the concept off the top of their head, while you read what’s on the card. You can prompt them to see if they remember anything they’ve left out that was on the card, and you could still award a prize if they get it mostly right. This is a great way of being more involved in your child’s learning, as you’re encouraging them to use the knowledge they’ve learned, which will help them learn it more deeply and make them more easily able to recollect that knowledge in an exam or the classroom.
7. Watch documentaries with them
Most children love watching television, but waste too much time watching television shows that don’t do anything to help their education. You may already be doing what you can to limit the time they spend in front of the television, but you can make the time they do spend watching it more productive and beneficial by watching documentaries together as a family. Horizon on BBC2 is a good one to watch to support your children’s science subjects, while nature documentaries are excellent for biology, and weather documentaries are great for geography. If there aren’t any interesting programmes on when you want to sit down and watch a documentary together, you can find plenty of options on catch-up sites such as BBC iPlayer. Failing that, the news is also a good programme to watch with them, as this teaches them about the issues and conflicts happening today. Just make sure that you’re on hand to explain anything they don’t understand, and reassure them if there’s a story that worries them.
8. Encourage dinner table debate
The dinner table is an excellent place for the whole family to gather at the end of the day and discuss what the children have learnt at school that day. Kick off the discussion by asking them what they’ve been studying that day, and perhaps ask them to explain things to you. You could get a bit of a debate going by asking them what they think about the subject, and by challenging those opinions. Not only does this show them that you’re taking an interest in how their day has been; it also develops their skills in academic discussion and debate, which will be really useful for university and beyond. You don’t just have to talk about what they’ve studied that day; you could also talk about current affairs – what’s in the news and the issues surrounding it – or about the documentary you watched last night.
9. Take them on educational trips
A change of scene does everyone good, not least your children, who may well be suffering from information overload if they’re at a particularly demanding stage in their education. It’s said that a change is as good as a rest, so if you want to get your kids away from their desks for a bit, why not continue the education away from school and your home by taking them on an educational trip? Museums make for an enjoyable day out whilst still supporting your children’s learning – whether or not they’re directly related to what they happen to be studying at school, because a good general knowledge stands your children in good stead for life. Other educational trips you could do with your children include archaeological sites, interesting talks, a walk in the countryside to identify geological features, and so on. Get the most out of these trips by asking them to write a brief essay or report of what they’ve seen once you get home.
10. Reward them for good results
Acknowledging your children’s successes is an important part of motivating them and supporting them, so you could implement a reward system for when they bring home top grades or excellent feedback. You don’t have to spend lots of money on incentives. A little bit of extra pocket money is an obvious choice, but you could also offer alternative incentives such as a cinema ticket paid for by you, their favourite meal, or credit to spend on music downloads. Just don’t go the other way – removing pocket money for bad grades – because it’s demoralising and likely to have the opposite effect to the one you intend.
11. Help them relax
Time off from studying is also important, and this is another easy way in which you can help support your children’s studies. Give them some time off from academic discussions in the home, as they need to switch off sometimes. Enjoy quality time together as a family but also let them spend time with their friends or doing things they enjoy, without making them feel guilty for not studying. Make sure they eat healthily and go to sleep at a reasonable time, too – you might consider preparing packed lunches for your children if you’re concerned that they’re not eating healthily enough at school. Lifestyle has an important role to play in ensuring that children are bright and alert and ready to tackle whatever challenges schoolwork throws at them.
Finally, if you’re wondering whether or not to get involved in your children’s education, take inspiration from the fact that studies have shown that children whose parents get involved in their education tend to achieve better grades, have higher self-esteem and are better behaved at school!