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Kids do better in school with good place to study

By Dan Rahn
University of Georgia

With all the emphasis on test scores and high performance in school, sometimes it's easy to overlook a truly basic skill: how to study.

"Just as you need space to work when you cook, work on the computer or think, your child needs space for learning," said Don Bower, an Extension Service human development specialist with the University of Georgia College of Family and Consumer Sciences.

"How their study space is arranged, set up and used all affect good study habits," he said.

Even in the early grades, Bower said, your child will benefit from a quiet, well-lighted, comfortable place of his own.

"The best place would be away from the loud noise and heavy traffic of family life," Bower said. "Try to enforce a 'quiet time' or study period so all the students in the family can concentrate."

'But Mom!'

Your kids may try to convince you that they study better with the TV or rock music blaring. Don't buy it. But don't blindly insist on complete silence, either.

"Recent research shows that while many students learn best when it's quiet, others find that some background noise energizes their minds," Bower said. "Soft music may also help cut down on distracting household noise."

More and more students today have portable music players with earphones, he said. Using these can provide background music for the student using them and quiet for those around him.

If your kids don't like the quiet study time, try a week of quiet study followed by a week of study with soft music, he said. Compare the results.

The basics

Every child needs at least a table or desk with a comfortable chair. Arrange the desk so that everything is within reach, Bower said. As your child gets older, he may need more supplies.

Some families use the kitchen or dining room table for homework space, he said. But that area usually includes lots of distractions.

Folders, files and drawers help the child stay organized, he said. They can help him see his progress on big projects, too. Seeing a project take shape can give him pride in his achievement.

If a special study area for each child isn't possible, a table or lapboard might make him more comfortable. Whatever his study space is, good lighting and accessible supplies are still important.

Library

"Building a family study library is a good idea and doesn't have to cost a lot of money," Bower said. The basics should include a good dictionary, U.S. map and world map or globe. If your family has a computer, these resources are likely available on-line.

A good substitute for having your own family library, he said, is to take your student to the public library.

"The public library not only provides a peaceful environment for study," he said, "but it also provides wonderful resources to young learners. Libraries are full of print and on-line reference materials, and librarians can help your child find what he needs."

Your child should have his own library card and learn to use it responsibly, he said.

More

Setting up a study area for your child can make studying easier, Bower said. But it won't solve all of his study problems.

"Help him learn to motivate himself by setting up a study-break or rest-study-reward schedule," he said.

Watch your child as he studies. Ask him to tell you what he's studying and learning. Talk with school counselors and teachers, too, about study skills you can help your child practice at home.

"Remember that children have different study styles," Bower said. "It may take some experimenting to hit on the right combination that will lead to success for your child."

(Dan Rahn is a news editor with the University of Georgia College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences.)

(Dan Rahn is a news editor with the University of Georgia College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences.)

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