The school year is upon us, and you might be in one of these situations — your child has just started high school and hasn’t found firm footing in Year 7 yet, your child has just entered Year 11 or 12 and they need support during their HSC, OR your child is doing okay, but needs an extra push to succeed in school.
Whatever, your situation, if you’re looking for tips on how to support your child through the school year, you’ve come to the right place!
Here are 5 proven steps you can use to help your child make this year their best school year yet!
Step #1: Get your child to teach you
“My parents also supported me by asking me to talk about what I had been studying. Although I did not always like to talk about school, especially after a long day, I found that verbally formulating and explaining what I had learned to be very beneficial in that it exposed gaps in knowledge, I became more interested in and stimulated by the subject and naturally sought out answers, which helped my overall understanding.”
– Con (99.40 ATAR)
Teaching others is one of the most effective ways to learn and memorise content and information. This is something we’ve known for centuries, the ancient Roman philosopher Seneca recognising the power of teaching, “While we teach, we learn” and this has been confirmed in modern studies.
A great way you can therefore help your child make this year their best school year yet is to get them to teach you the key concepts they’ve learnt at school each day.
How can you encourage your child to teach you what they’ve learnt each day?
As Con admitted, he often didn’t feel like talking about school, and this may be something you’ve undoubtedly experienced when you’ve asked your child ‘How was school today?’ and received the obligatory grunt.
So it needs to be a gradual process to get your child to open up — here’s our suggested prompt questions to help you achieve this!
Prompt Questions You Can Use
- Start with just asking them what topics they are studying for their subjects — start one subject at a time.
- As they explain the topics and you become familiar with them, slowly begin asking ‘clarifying questions’ like “So, what is that topic about?”
- Tell me more about the topic?
- How does that work?
- What’s the hardest part of the topic?
- What’s the important/key point you need to know for it?
- How is it usually examined?
What these questions enable you to do is to slowly get your child to open up and ‘teach’ you the content for the subject as well as making them reflect on the material and what they have learnt that week in class.
Their answers will also reflect to you and to them their level of understanding, enabling you to facilitate a discussion on whether their study is on track to enable them to achieve their goals.
Dinner Time Strategy
A great time to do this is over dinner each night with the family — it’s a great way to facilitate a family dialogue and the whole family can get involved. Additionally, it’s something that happens every day, so it easily becomes a daily routine that doesn’t take any additional time out of your already busy day!
Driving Time Strategy
Additionally a great time to do this is also in the car when you’re driving your children around. Firstly, it takes advantage of ‘dead-time’ and doesn’t take any additional time out of the day. Secondly, your children are captive audience until the end of the car ride!
Step #2: Encourage your child to work a week ahead of school
Over the last 8 years we’ve conducted extensive research with Australia’s top 2% of students in an effort to understand the keys to excelling academically at school.
Along the way, we identified a really simple study strategy that top performing students consistently used to great effect to help them excel at school.
Top students consistently worked 1 week ahead of what was being covered in school.
This means instead of working on this week’s work, writing this week’s notes, and doing this week’s reading, you’re doing next week’s work, writing and reading.
Working one week ahead of what’s being covered in school enables your child to:
- Develop a better understanding as you’re teaching yourself
- Remember more as you’re getting more repetition of the content
- Ask better questions in class to clarify your understanding
- Have more time when exams come to study for the exams
This strategy isn’t just for students who want to top the class — it’s a strategy any student can use to improve their results at school!
How can you encourage your child to implement this strategy?
Support your child by encouraging them to allocate 1 hour a week for 1 subject where they work on material/content to be covered in the next week.
In this hour, encourage your child to:
- For Maths and Science, encourage them to try the next chapter/topic before it’s been started
- For English, encourage them to read the next text in advance or to start working on writing their essay before their class has started on it
- For Humanities encourage them to write study notes for the next chapter/topic to be covered
Even if it’s only for 1 hour each week and even if your child doesn’t full understand the material they’ve covered in that 1 hour, it will still reap benefits in terms of helping them develop a stronger understanding over the course of the school year!
Step #3: Always be encouraging and create open dialogues with your child
“I can safely say that a most significant factor which influenced and motivated me throughout high school and my secondary studies has been the overwhelming support I have received from my parents. They would always try to ease my anxiety or stress by constantly encouraging me and simply telling to just achieve my best, and not to focus so much on comparing myself/my marks to those of my classmates.”
– Natalie (97.05 ATAR)
While this might be obvious advice — it’s one that can easily be forgotten in moments of stress and frustration, particularly if as a parent you can see that your child is not reaching all of their potential!
For example, let’s just say you feel that your son or daughter is struggling a little with motivation and has potentially been watching a little too much TV, spending a little too much time on Facebook, and has perhaps been going out with friends fairly regularly and you feel it may have an impact on their upcoming assessments.
How would you respond?
The easy (and perhaps automatic response) when you see them watching TV after school is to ask, “Why aren’t you studying? You have assessments coming up. You really should hit the books!”
Usually the response is along the lines of a grunt, or a potentially defensive response claiming study is up to date (even though you know it’s most likely not!).
If your automatic response was to lead with the ‘Why are you not studying’ line — our suggestion is to try a different approach and instead frame your response in a way that engages a dialogue with your child.
Try the following instead to create a positive, encouraging dialogue with your child:
- Ask them how they are going in their preparation for their assessments
- Remind them of their goals by asking them what their goals are — this way they are accountable to themselves and not you
- Ask them if they need to be doing anything differently to achieve these goals (so you’re getting them to self-reflect — see below for more on this strategy)
- Use this dialogue to help them identify what they could do differently so they have ownership over the action
- Encourage them that their results reflect their work — it’s in their hands
- Finish by encouraging them simply to do their best
In this way, rather than shutting down dialogue, you can play a role in teaching your child how to develop the personal management skills they require, you can help them stay accountable and responsible to their goals and focus on the positive!
The key though is in creating an open dialogue, where you child feels comfortable talking to you — and letting you know if things are going to plan/as well as they would like. If you make them feel responsible to you (and not to themselves) they won’t open up, or be honest about how they are really going.
Step #4: Help your child self-reflect on their results
“My parents were consistent in their encouragement of my hard work and application to my studies. When I was successful and achieved my goals, my parents recognised my success and encouraged me to improve further. At times when I fell short of my goals, my parents helped me to identify areas where I needed improvement and then offered assistance and support to make the necessary changes.”
– Claudia (98.6 ATAR)
At a basic level reviewing reports and results your child receives regularly is a great tool for you to keep them accountable to their goals.
Unfortunately too often however (particularly if the results aren’t great) the conversation ends up going along the lines of “What happened?” or “How come you only got…” which shuts down any open and meaningful conversation.
From working with students over the last 8 years I have seen many occasions when, due to a fear of an adverse reaction from parents, students have simply hidden their assessment and test results (or in cases, actually modified them) from their parents!
Reviewing reports and school results however can and should be a positive experience that results in growth for your child if it’s conducted in a manner that facilitates a discussion with them about their progress and enables them to self-reflect on their progress and whether they are moving towards their goals, and what they can do differently.
How to conduct positive conversations about your child’s academic results
First and foremost, resist the urge (at all costs) to say something along the lines of “What happened?” or “How come you only got…”.
Instead, you can support your child by asking the following questions when they get their academic results:
- How do you feel about how you went in this test/report?
- Why do you feel this way?
- How does this compare to your goals?
- What do you think you did in the lead up to the assessment/exam that worked well?
- What do you think you can improve/change for your next assessment/exam?
What this enables you to do is have a really positive, constructive conversation with your child that helps them identify what they need to do differently (so they don’t feel like they are getting lectured), have ownership over the actions that emerge, and feel comfortable being honest with you about how they are progressing and what help they need.
Step #5: Support your child with 1 on 1 tutoring & mentoring
In 1984 educational psychologist Benjamin Bloom published research on 1 on 1 tutoring and mentoring and the impact it has on student improvement and results.
What Bloom found was that “the average tutored student using 1 on 1 tutoring and mentorship with a mastery focus scored above 98% of the students in the control class — a traditional classroom environment.”
To put it another way 90% of the students with 1 on 1 tutoring attained the level of achievement reached by only the highest 20% of the traditional control classroom approach!
Pretty incredible right?
This means that 1 on 1 tutoring and mentoring has the capacity to significantly help your child improve their results at school this year.
At Art of Smart Education we provide award winning 1 on 1 tutoring and mentoring in the comfort of your home — our team of expert tutors work with you to identify your child’s needs across the curriculum and key study, exam and life skills, and develop a tailored plan to help your child achieve their goals and reach their potential.
To find out more and get started with an inspirational tutor and mentor get in touch today!
Give us a ring on 1300 267 888, email us at [email protected] or check us out on Facebook!
Rowan Kunz is the founder of Art of Smart Education, an award-winning provider of 1 on 1 tutoring and mentoring. Rowan has spent the last 8 years conducting research with thousands of Australia’s top students who scored ATAR’s of over 98 and is the author of Secrets of HSC Success Revealed. Rowan has 10 years experience in tutoring and delivers workshops across Australia on excelling academically at school. Rowan’s videos on YouTube have been watched more than 1,000,000+ times.