It’s coming up for exam time again. Of course different countries and schools all do things slightly differently, perhaps your exam season started a little earlier and is already well underway, but from now until summer it’s time for revision, stress, cramming and everything else that the season brings with it.
Of course many object to the amount of exams our children are taking and the age at which they’re taking them, but that doesn’t change the fact that they’re coming up fast and that they can potentially affect the options available to our kids further down the education system.
The parental exam challenge
Which leaves us with a challenge: how can we encourage our kids to take the exams seriously enough to prepare well for them without making exams the centre of their lives or even the center of their education? For some parents the problem of exam time is in the stress it creates in the kids (and therefore in us!) and the inclination of kids to abandon their regular activities to focus on their revision. For other parents the key challenge of the season is almost the reverse; getting the kids to study at all and to take their exam preparation with some degree of seriousness.
Whichever position you’re in, here are a few ideas to try and help out. I’m sure you’ve got plenty more ideas of your own though, please do tell us about them in the comments below. I’ve divided my solutions into two categories ‘staying grounded’ and ‘preparing for exams’, but of course balance is key and if you find your kids have started going too far in one direction it might be time try something from the other list.
Don’t stop everything else for the sake of exams – If your kids have extra curricular activities and groups every day, you might well want to put one or two on pause for the exam season to create specific study time. Make sure they’re not just doing exam prep though. Keep some of the extracurricular stuff going to keep exams from being a disruptive force that takes away their social life and active outdoor time.
Make sure study sessions come with appropriate breaks – Encourage your kids to do their revision in regular size chunks and to do something else in between. That doesn’t just mean a toilet break! Have them go outside, take them somewhere away from the house, get them to join in with a family activity that will act as a genuine break.
Ensure they’re still getting enough exercise – Related to taking breaks is making sure that they stay physically active. On top of it’s usual health benefits, exercise is a great stress buster and gives some time to process what they’ve been reading.
Keep them from staying up unusually late – For some of us this is always a challenge, exams or not, but at this time of year it can be especially important. Trying to study when tired is often counterproductive and as with exercise, the brain doesn’t stop working during sleep but processes what’s been learned so far.
Encourage joint study sessions – Having a friend over to study together can help to stay on top of the work but also helps keep your child from isolating themselves with study and provides someone to laugh and relax with as well.
Preparing for exams
Create a study space – For some children and teens it’s much easier to focus on work when they have a set place that they go to for it. Ideally this place should be quiet, in a public but not busy part of the house and free from distractions.
Create a routine – It often helps to have a fixed routine. Our kids have to do homework straight away when they come home (maybe after a snack or drink) and only then move on to other activities. Other families I know have a specific homework time eg. 6pm, when everything else stops and it’s time to focus. The same sorts of routine building patterns are easily applied to revision time.
Make a study plan – Together with your child or teen, decide what revision they’re going to do for that day so that it’s clear how much exactly they need to do. You may even want to make a plan for the week or all the way to the exam to make progress more easily measurable. Many schools will encourage children to do something like this for themselves, but if you know your child struggles to organise their time well, you may want to step in and make a plan with them for their home study time.
Remove distractions – It doesn’t take much to distract a kid who’s set on skiving off, but there are a few things that definitely need to be off limits. Television can’t be a temptation and other screens are generally also a negative influence, especially if there are games involved. Of course here on the Kidslox blog I’m going to suggest using Kidslox to make device use during revision time completely unavailable. If an internet browser is needed for work this can be allowed in Kidslox while blocking games, messenger apps and other non-study related apps.
Use rewards – You know what works best with your kids, but whether it’s something sweet, a penalty shoot out with dad or 20 minutes of game time on their tablet, incentives can help to push through and finish an otherwise daunting task.