Without setting aside regular times each day to get homework, project work, and test prep done on time, it's just too easy to procrastinate and not get the job done. Many students study only haphazardly, in fits and starts and at odd times, often waiting till "crunch time" to frantically complete work in a mad rush just before deadlines pass. Quality suffers as stress and pressure increase, and as a consequence, grades diminish (to say nothing of students' enjoyment of the learning process).
By contrast, forming the habit of "clocking in" and "clocking out" at particular times in a well-planned daily study schedule helps ensure that homework and projects will be completed consistently and on time, and will meet or exceed acceptable standards of quality. Eliminating the feeling of "overwhelm" that comes from being chronically late is just one of the many benefits associated with adhering to a strict daily study routine. In addition, maintaining regular study hours often makes it possible to get important long-term work done early, allowing extra time to improve quality and polish the final product.
As soon as children are given homework on a regular basis parents should provide them with a daily study schedule to follow to make sure they're able to get their school work done as soon as possible after coming home from school. After a suitable break to unwind after a long day at school, three consecutive periods of study should begin, roughly equal in length, with a short break in between: "Homework Time," "Project Time," and "Extra Time."
Homework Time is for completing short-term assignments due the next day (i.e. homework), with the most important or difficult assignments done first. Project Time is for long-range assignments, projects, or papers generally due more than one day in advance (including upcoming tests and quizzes). Extra Time is to complete any work not finished during the first two daily study periods, or to review or polish work already completed.
Each period should be of a reasonable fixed length (e.g. one hour for high school students, 45 minutes for middle school students, and proportionally less for younger children). Students should habitually "switch gears" at the end of the allotted time and move on to the next period of study (even if work remains from the previous period), but not before. On particularly light days, it's permissible to finish the first two periods early, if all work has been accomplished, but not the last; Extra Time should always last the full time allotted, if only to do extra review, focused reading, skills practice, or similar study. If sports or other after school activities prevent commencing the study schedule just after the school day ends, it should begin as soon as possible after these other activities have concluded.
Here's a sample schedule for a high school student who gets home at 3:30 P.M., with no after school activities during the week:
Homework Time: 4-5pm; Project Time: 5-6pm; Dinner and relaxation: 6-7pm; Extra Study Time: 8-9pm.
Additional time as needed to keep academic skills, assignments, and projects on track (i.e. ahead of schedule), and to be prepared for upcoming tests and quizzes.
Making a habit of working on both homework and long-term projects and/or upcoming tests and quizzes each and every day makes it difficult for too much unfinished work to pile up. Nevertheless, pile-ups can occur, and should be dealt with as quickly as possible over the weekend to prevent them from dragging on or growing worse. Likewise, it's a very good idea to occasionally use free time on weekends to get out in front of especially difficult or complex projects before they can turn into problems; investing extra hours to get ahead in this way is like "saving money in the bank," and is an extremely profitable and wise use of one's time.
It really is by far the best approach, if possible, for children to make a habit of completing all school work each day right after getting home from school. Nothing should be allowed to interfere with a student's work during study periods (no phone calls, television, music, internet, etc.). But under NO circumstances should a student's study schedule be allowed to interfere with adequate sleep; all study periods MUST be completed before bedtime, preferably well before (nothing ruins health and wrecks academic performance like sleep deprivation).
Committing to a regular study schedule is a sacrifice – but a far less painful and much more profitable one than defaulting to the helter-skelter "study when I feel like it" method adopted by so many unfortunate young people. Parents interested in the academic progress and happiness of their children should insist they follow a daily study schedule to maximize the probability of their success in school.
Copyright © 2006-present: Christopher R. Borland. All rights reserved.