Structure the Home Environment for School Success

by Dr. Patricia M. McCormack, IHM
“Plan your work and work your plan” is a formula for school success.

“Plan your work and work your plan” is a formula for school success.

Said another way, “If you fail to plan, you plan to fail!” To foster student success, integrate the following suggestions into your home environment.

Determine a Consistent School Day Schedule

• Homework: Maintain time, place, and expectations for daily homework even when your child reports that there is no homework. In the absence of an assignment use the time for review or enrichment.
• Bedtime: Be consistent with curfew and bedtime rituals (bath, packing school clothes/materials, night prayer). Establish a quieting down time 20-30 minutes before sleep time. Eliminate TV, computer, and electronic media from the bedroom or, at least, turn off all equipment.
• Chores: Chores give a sense of belonging and ownership for the family. Assign or draw age-appropriate tasks that help family life.
• Mealtime: As frequently as possible sit down at the family table for dinner. Provide balanced nutritious meals. Restrict sugar intake and fast food. If possible, prepare lunches before bedtime so as to free time in the morning.
• Electronic media: On school days limit recreational access to TV, internet, texting, and electronic games.

Avoid Unnecessary Stress
When a long-term project is assigned, talk about it, search the topic in an encyclopedia and/or the internet, and make a date to go to the library. Let your child determine topics, projects, and methods. Set deadlines for individual parts. Provide transportation and assume costs but make it a child-responsibility to determine and gather the necessary materials. By grade six, if your child fails to plan ahead on a long-range project, permit him/her to take the consequence of being unprepared.

Practice time management. Set realistic goals and use a timer as a periodic “on task” reminder. With young children play “beat the clock.” If a child becomes blocked by frustration, switch subjects or reverse mealtime or bath time with study time. Make a list or a task chart. As early as possible have the child create the list and submit it for input.

Prevent Overload
Balance each day with school, play/relaxation, homework, and time for family, chores, extracurricular interests, prayer, quiet, and personal hygiene. At present, being a student is the primary vocation-obligation of a child. Sports, dance, martial arts, and other interests are secondary. Sufficient sleep is essential to successful performance.

Create Boundaries
Model the practice “You are responsible for getting your work done, but allow time for us to help if you need help.” If your child does not complete or hand in an assignment, allow him/her to accept the consequence the teacher determines. Do not write excuse notes for work not completed. The same applies to forgotten books, supplies, lunches, permission slips, projects, or gym clothes. Avoid the temptation to rescue your child from the unpleasant, natural consequences of irresponsibility. Avoid serving as a personal secretary!

Source: Today’s Catholic Teacher, April/May 2015