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How Can I Do My Homework Without Getting Distracted

Q: Students often have trouble keeping all their notes and handouts organized. Do you have tips for kids of all ages when it comes to studying and completing homework?

A: In my house, we keep to a strict routine. After school, everyone comes in after school we spread out their agendas and make a list of what tasks need to be completed for the week. Due dates are written on the family calendar and homework is prioritized based on due dates and importance. We complete homework prior to moving on to free time. With all three kids doing their homework together, they encourage and help each other complete their task.

Q: Sometimes homework and studying can just be plain boring to children. What are some ways students can make studying fun or rewarding at the end so that it’s worthwhile?

A: Find practical ways to incorporate their studies into real life (i.e., teach fractions with baking cookies, etc). My kids love electronics, so the way we encourage them is to find apps that help them complete their studies on a tablet. One example is spelling test preparation. We use an app that allows us to input his current spelling list. Then he plays the games (fill in the blanks, unscramble etc.) all week to get him used to the words. Then he does the practice exam to prep him for his test.

We work on [learning] together. My kids and I love spending time together. I find they work better on their assignments when I am beside them. I get them to take an active role in explaining the assignment and how they got to their answer to me.

  • Use a calendar and plan ahead

  • Q: Sometimes students leave studying, homework, or projects to the last minute and can become overwhelmed when they start to pile up. Do you have any tips or words of advice for children and/or parents in making their workload more manageable?

    A: We lead a very busy life with sports, clubs, etc. Leaving homework or projects to the last minute can spell disaster, so we try to avoid it from the outset. What we have found works for our family is to have a big family calendar with all of our obligations written on it, including due dates of projects. We use a different colour for each person in the family which makes it easy to read quickly. Then, as parents we sit down with our kids and look at the big project and break it into more manageable bite sized pieces. It allows us to figure in our other time constraints and put more time towards the schoolwork on a night or weekend where we are less busy, and less time on a night that has other obligations and could cause stress or a late night. The other big benefit of this has been the reduction in harried trips to the store for supplies we don’t have on hand. By planning it out ahead of time we are able to get the items we need before we actually need them.

    Another tip I would suggest and one that has worked well for our family is to have scheduled homework time every day. This means that the kids are already prepared that they are going to sit down and do some work but it also gets us ahead at times. For example, if my kids don’t have any homework, we’ll do a worksheet on math, spelling, or another subject that they are working on at school. The internet has so many resources available to print for free. What this does is reinforce what they’re learning in the classroom and reduce the amount of “cramming” time they need before a test. As a parent I’ve found it invaluable because it has highlighted for me areas that my kids are strong in but more importantly, areas where they are struggling a little. This has allowed us to find extra help through the teacher, ourselves or an outside learning centre.

    — Susannah Findlay from Creative Mama On A Dime

  • Split the work up in sections

  • Q: During long homework or studying sessions it’s hard for students to maintain focus and stay productive. In your experience, what are some ways that parents can keep their children motivated and focused when they start to lose interest in their schoolwork?

    A: Staying focused is really hard for kids, especially when they are studying for a test or have a big assignment. Just the thought of it often makes them the wiggliest kid you’ve ever seen. If we have managed to spread the assignment out over a couple of days, we try to chat about the topic casually in the car or at dinner to get them thinking about it when they’re not feeling stressed and pressured. This often allows them time to really analyze and reflect so that when it is time to sit down and do the work, they have already got their thoughts in order.

    We also have found that breaking up the work into smaller chunks throughout the evening is very helpful. We sit down after school and do a section then let the kids go off and play. This gives them a concrete “finish line” which for many kids is necessary. It also re-energizes them and allows them to burn off energy. We slot in another short work session before dinner and then dinner becomes another break, another chance for your child to stretch their legs, laugh, talk, etc. A third chunk after the dinner dishes are done usually does the trick and gets the kids in bed on time with their work done.

    A big tip for helping your kids get through the stress of a big assignment or studying is setting them up for success. This means providing them with a space that is clear of clutter, has the materials they need for their project, is away from a television, radio or tablet and even siblings who are playing. These are all distractions and can cause procrastination, frustration and tears (yours or theirs). While we are all busy and it can seem like we’re in a huge rush all the time, taking 5 minutes to sit with your child as they’re starting their work and making sure they’re on track can save hours later. Check in periodically. Ask questions to make sure they’re comprehending and try to be as positive, calm and level as you can because they will draw from your energy.

    — Susannah Findlay from Creative Mama On A Dime

    Help Your Child Succeed With These Distracted Studying Tips

    Developing the right study skills and finding the perfect study routine takes some trial and error, but in the end it’s worth it. Distracted-free studying will allow your child to achieve his or her academic goals more easily and with less stress.

    If your child needs help with studying or with improving his or her study skills, Oxford Learning can help. Our study skills program helps kids develop strong time management, organization, note taking, study strategies and more. Contact us today!

    Whether you're a freshman noob, a gray-haired grad student, or even a long-term member of the professional elite, you most likely have trouble focusing on your tasks at times. Modern tech is lovely, but it's also a nonstop parade of distractions that can tear down the resolve of the strongest wills. Here are some tricks to help you overcome electronic distractions as you study or work.

    • Wear headphones. This is especially true if you have to work around other people, but even if you're on your own, this helps you focus (as long as you have the right music playing, of course). Not only are people less likely to bug you with trivia, you should find that your sense of space narrows to a small shell around you and keeps your attention focused on whatever is right in front of you. Even white noise can help if music is in itself a distraction for you! 
    • Turn off anything you don't need. Be ruthless! Unless you have a family member at the hospital or someone who needs a ride from the airport, you can turn off your phone. Same goes for e-mail, instant-messaging apps, Facebook, and anything else that might ping you. Even if you ignore it, the signals are shaking up your attention. If you can turn off your Net connection entirely (for studying or some writing tasks, for example), so much the better. 
    • Monitor your time-wasters.RescueTime is a great, free service that will keep track of the sites and apps you use over time, then tell you about it in excruciating, possibly embarrassing detail. (Don't worry, your information is all kept strictly confidential.) This can be enlightening, as you might not realize how much or how little time you spent on any given distraction. Some may be harmless! 
    • Block distracting sites. If you need the Net for research or communication with study buddies, you can still keep yourself from wandering over to Reddit or that one Tumblr with pictures of animals wearing socks. LeechBlock is a Firefox add-on that lets you set up sites to block and times to block them. StayFocusd is a Chrome extension that does much the same thing. You may feel weird spending time setting it up, but you are almost certain to save time in the long run. 
    • Use multiple machines or desktops. Not all of us can afford multiple computers, but if you have some extra cash, buying an inexpensive computer (maybe running Ubuntu Linux for extra savings) that is dedicated to work can pay off. Load it only with the apps you need to get your work done, then take it somewhere nice and quiet for work. A cheaper, but less effective, trick is to use multiple desktops. Macs have Mission Control built in, and Windows users can use the free Dexpot app to run multiple desktops. 
    • Use multiple accounts. Another great, cheap trick is to log out of your computer, then log back in as a guest. You won't have nearly as many distracting bells and whistles, and it's so easy that pretty much anyone can do it. Of course, you'll need to keep yourself from just logging back in every few minutes, but inertia is the best friend of willpower. 
    • Set up a reward system. This is somewhat advanced and requires extra willpower, but is also completely tech-independent. Set up a system that lets you goof off (or plow through e-mail, or tag your music files, or whatever) for 10 minutes following an hour of uninterrupted work. Of course, you may need to vary the times somewhat to suit your needs, but try not to let your work period fall much under a half-hour or so, especially if you're working on a large, complex project. If you try it and still find yourself checking Twitter every few minutes, this one isn't for you, so scroll back up the list until you find something that works. 

    Some combination of these should help you channel your inner monk and get that big project done on time. Good luck!

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