How to Turn School into a Family Activity
By Sarah Blais – Feb. 3, 2014
It’s hard to turn your kids away when they want to play with you while you have a big test to study for.
Although you’re busy with school, they are too; it’s a major part of both you and your children’s lives. When you support and encourage each other, you’ll grow closer together. They can’t help you write your 30-page thesis, but there’s other fun ways to involved in each other’s education.
Do your homework together
Does your child get easily distracted and like to wander when it’s time to do homework? In fact, do you find yourself procrastinating on intimidating assignments? If you don’t have time to sit your kids down and watch them do all their homework, you can kill two birds with one stone by doing schoolwork together. Try plan your homework schedule around times when you’re all together, like after you get out of work and on your days off. You’ll be able to keep them focused and be right there to answer homework questions. Plus, when everyone else is quiet and working around you, you’ll feel motivated to do the same..
Enlist their help with creative projects
Classes for creative degrees or general studies will assign fun projects like creating poster boards, filming a sketch, or writing a hypothetical situation. Your kids know first-hand about these types of assignments because they get them all the time, especially in elementary school. Children love being assigned “jobs” to feel helpful – depending on their age, you can let them color the poster board and letters, allow them to hold the camera, or come up with character names for a story. Knowing that even grown-ups sometimes need help will make your kids less afraid to ask questions in class and to you.
If you know you’ll both be working on a lot of creative projects this semester, you can also make a “craft corner” in your house. Designate a shelf for project supplies, and go out shopping together for the items you use most frequently. You can organize the shelf with poster boards, pipe cleaners, markers, clay, stickers, construction paper, and pinking shears. Now you don’t have to hit Walmart every time a new project comes up.
Teach them organization
Especially while they’re young, kids are still learning how to properly manage time, materials, and responsibilities. Of course, as the adult, you’ve become a pro at this. Some children naturally have the ability to manage themselves at a young age, but for many, it’s a skill that has to be taught. You can show them what you do to keep your ducks in a row: let them flip through your planner and look at your schoolwork filing system.
In the process, you can introduce them to other ways of organization that could work better for them. While one of your kids could prefer to use an online calendar to keep track of dates, your others may want to keep every relevant school item in one giant binder. You can experiment with new methods until you find what works.
Help each other study
It gets boring looking over the same material and quizzing yourself alone. Your children probably feels the same way. Even if your kids don’t know molecular biology, there are ways they can help you ace your tests… and vice-versa.
One of the easiest study methods is flashcards. Write terms or questions on one side, and definitions or answers on the other. Use different colored cards or pens to separate subjects and sections. There are also templates online that let you fill in a Jeopardy board with your own questions and answers, making study time a competitive game.
Create one big calendar
Keeping track of everybody’s assignments, projects, tests, and after-school activities can be overwhelming. Buy a big calendar dry erase board to fit the whole family’s commitments. Add your non-academic spouse’s plans and events, too. Put it in a place where everyone will always see it, like on the fridge or next to the front door. You can also instill a new rule: if it’s not on the calendar, it doesn’t exist. That will encourage your kids to make sure assignments get done on time, help break down big projects into smaller steps, and go to you with schedule changes.
Celebrate accomplishments together
Nailed your presentation? Awesome! Your kids got higher than a B in math for the first time? Super! Positive reinforcement does more for kids’ learning, and it will make you feel better too. Everyone’s academic achievements should shine in your home. Put all good work on the fridge… even your A+ physics lab report. All your hard work holds a special place in your house where everyone can see it.
If you and your kids make a deal every semester to reward good grade, get in on the fun yourself. Do you take your kids to Chuck E Cheese’s if they make the honor roll? Bring your family out for supper at your favorite restaurant if you make the honor roll.
By turning education into a family endeavor, you’ll plant good habits that will last even after you complete school. They’ll see through you how important education is when you get that big promotion or pursue your dream job after getting your degree, and be inspired to follow in your footsteps.
Sarah Blais is an education writer based in New York City. She has a Bachelor’s in Journalism and Mass Communication in from the Walter Cronkite School of Journalism at Arizona State.