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Make Study Time a Family Affair: Tips for bringing you and kids together for academic success

You’ve only got so much time in the day. If you’re keeping up with work, online courses and kids, you’re likely hard-pressed to find a few extra minutes. But if you plan well, you can get time with the kids and schoolwork done – for all of you. 

“It could potentially be a family bonding and growth experience,” said John Grohol, psychologist and founder of “There’s certainly nothing wrong with parents sitting down and studying what they need to study at the same time the kids are. They’re ensuring their kids are doing their homework and taking their studying seriously.”

The challenge can be managing multiple people at different ages, levels and subjects. But if you approach it from the standpoint of teaching time management, prioritizing academic success and spending time together, you can establish a healthy family tradition, Grohol said.

The first step is schedule a specific block for family study time, Grohol said.

“I think in terms of time management, you build it into your day like a daily habit,” he said. “Just like you have a dinner time, you have a study time.”

Pick a setting that will enhance focus and concentration, Grohol said. Computers, smart phones and TV are often distractions, depending on what kind of projects you’re working on; be sure you only have the technology you need at hand.

“Putting all that away or picking a space in the house that’s largely devoid of those kinds of distractions … the dining room is great only because it doesn’t have a TV, it doesn’t have a computer unless you bring it in,” he said.

Be realistic in the amount of time you budget and plan breaks. Keep in mind the ages and attention spans you’re bringing together and set goals together, he said. Have each person define his or her goals so you can hold each other accountable.

“The parent isn’t going to define it unless it’s a very young child,” Grohol said. “Saying ‘We’re going to do this together … and you’re going to be the boss of me and you’re going to hold me to it.’ You can really make it a fun kind of interaction every day versus this chore you have to do.”

Once you’ve each reached your stated goal (read two chapters, finish two work sheets, etc.), give yourselves a little reward.

“You can say, ‘We’ll take a break when we’ve all finished the material that we have decided we need to finish in the first half,’” Grohol said.

Even if you’re on completely different academic paths, there are certain study tips that usually work well for everyone, Grohol said.

“Learning how to outline an idea, a chapter, your notes -- a lot of people find outlining to be helpful,” he said. “It’s easier for our memories to process information if we break it down into chunks than trying to memorize a paragraph word-for-word.”

Having a family member quiz you over what you’re studying is another good way to engage the rest of the group and maximize your time, Grohol said. Plus, many of us tend to cheat a little when we quiz ourselves, he said.

“A family member can quiz you and hold you to it,” Grohol said. “It’s actually much closer to what you’re going to get when you have to take the quiz, take the test. That can be very helpful and cross all kinds of skill levels.”

Teach your kids how to create memory games and mnemonic devices. Together you can create sentences, words or phrases using words that are more memorable than what you’re trying to learn. For example, a common mnemonic for the notes in treble clef (EGBDF) is the sentence “Every good boy does fine.”

In your goal of bringing everyone together for strong study skills, be flexible, Grohol said. If older teens or other family members do better studying alone, respect that.

“Don’t force it,” he said. “They’re trying to become their own people and learning what that means and trying to take responsibility for their actions. This may be one area they feel strongly they do best on their own.”

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