It’s Beginning to Look Like a New School Year

It’s hard to believe that students begin school in just a few days. But, that makes it a good time to review ways to start off on the right foot.

First, whether your child is in elementary, high school, or college, they need plenty of sleep.  Start preparing for those early mornings by waking up a little earlier each day before the new term begins. That also means setting an earlier bedtime each night to ensure 8-10 hours of rest. Turn off all screens and lights beforehand, and put away homework at least an hour or two before bed to help set the tone for sleep.

Next, develop a study plan that includes 30-45 minutes of homework and a 20-minute break. When the student returns after break, they should start work on another subject, even if the first assignment was not completed. Let me repeat.  Move on after an age-appropriate timed study session to a different subject or topic then take another break.  Rinse, lather, repeat. Younger children need no more than approximately 10 minutes per grade level while college students may spend up to an hour working on assignments before a break.

Make it Stick For the science

To put it in non-scientific terms, breaks and sleep allow the brain time to process and connect information so that the new material can make the timely trip to long-term-memory. But that isn’t all. Active memorization should be part of the daily study routine. Not because it supports low-level learning, but because there are concepts in math, science, and language that must be memorized in order to proceed to the next level.

When learning new material, it is helpful to connect it to something the student already knows such as people, stories, places, or things. Other tips that parents can use to help students is to model a growth mindset or that failure should be celebrated as a natural part of the learning process. The lesson learned may be to study differently (or at all), or the lesson may be that the content is too difficult and the student needs a mental break. Which is OK. Very few of us actually hit every academic milestone at the same time. The break may need to be minutes, hours, days, or the rest of the semester depending on the student and school policies.


Eliminate the need to stay up late cramming by spending 15 minutes daily memorizing key concepts beginning the very first day or week of the semester. Don’t wait for the instructor to say what will be on a test. By then, it’s too late. If the student has been steadily memorizing important facts and processes, then a brief refresher will likely replace any reason to cram. 

To combat test anxiety, use strategies to diffuse stress before it naturally occurs by starting with and continuing to monitor positive and healthy behaviors – mindful breathing, a balanced diet, and of course plenty of sleep. Those building blocks can make the difference between success and unnecessary anxiety.

The Kissing Hand by Audrey Penn is a lovely story for youngsters who are anxious about leaving Mom for kindergarten.  When Chester  the raccoon is reluctant to go to kindergarten for the first time, his mother teaches him a secret way to carry her love with him. 

Science has spoken out about the best strategies for learning, and we’re sure any questions you have can be answered at the library. 

Below are just a couple more recommendations.

Happy new school year!  Susan C.

The Learning Habit by Stephanie Donaldson-Pressman – “Homework gets a bad rap these days. Overscheduled kids (and parents) complain that it’s pointless busy work without academic value. The truth is, homework offers our kids the opportunity to learn much more than what will be “on the test”–including essential life skills and learning habits that will help them succeed in the highly competitive job market of tomorrow. These skills include concentration and focus, time management, decision-making, goal-setting, and self-discipline. This practical and parent-friendly book presents a blueprint for navigating the maze of homework, media use, and the stress of everyday routine, getting beyond the daily struggle to harness the true value of homework. Presenting eight critical skills kids need to master, as well as a 21-day challenge for parents and kids, this book combines rigorous research with time-tested hands-on techniques to help kids thrive, academically and beyond”– Provided by publisher.

Make it Stick : The Science of Successful Learning by Brown, Peter C.- Drawing on recent discoveries in cognitive psychology and other disciplines, the authors offer concrete techniques for becoming more productive learners. Memory plays a central role in our ability to carry out complex cognitive tasks, such as applying knowledge to problems never before encountered and drawing inferences from facts already known. New insights into how memory is encoded, consolidated, and later retrieved have led to a better understanding of how we learn. Grappling with the impediments that make learning challenging leads both to more complex mastery and better retention of what was learned. Many common study habits and practice routines turn out to be counterproductive. Underlining and highlighting, rereading, cramming, and single-minded repetition of new skills create the illusion of mastery, but gains fade quickly. More complex and durable learning comes from self-testing, introducing certain difficulties in practice, waiting to re-study new material until a little forgetting has set in, and interleaving the practice of one skill or topic with another. Speaking most urgently to students, teachers, trainers, and athletes, Make It Stick will appeal to all those interested in the challenge of lifelong learning and self-improvement.” — Publisher’s description

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