By Ruth Ninajanty. Originally published in The Jakarta Post’s Education Tabloid, October 2017.
After spending most of her day at school, fifth grader Yosefin is definitely tired when she arrives home. She leaves home at 6:30 a.m. and returns at 5 p.m. This year, her mother Hidiawati decided against enrolling her in any extracurricular activities so she can return home earlier and have more time to study.
“I always try to be flexible when it comes to study time at home. I leave it up to her to manage her own time in the afternoon. I’m worried that with that much of a burden studying, she will have less time to play and gather with the rest of the family,” Hidiawati, a working mom, said. “But when there is home- work, she usually does it around 7 p.m.”
Hety Kus Endang, a preschool teacher in East Jakarta, also leaves it to her third grader when it comes to study time. Her daughter returns home from school at noon. She participates in athletic extracurricular activities after school and takes Quran reading lessons in the late afternoon. Hety always keeps her daughter company when she studies because she believes that it’s best for children, especially younger children, to study at home with their parents. “I think in general parents are more aware of their children’s capabilities and interests.
Children also tend to be more comfortable with their parents, compared to their teachers, in expressing their feelings about a subject,” she explained. While parents are leaning toward comfort, Art Markman, a psychology professor at the University of Texas at Austin who is also the author of Smart Thinking, the secret to successful study at home is creating a distraction-free environment. The digital era has raised today’s children into very different people than their parents. Younger kids are exposed to gadgets and elementary school children are on social media.
While that technology might be beneficial at times, it’s definitely a distraction during study time. “From early on, children have developed the habit of checking these sources several times hourly. It takes time to shift attention from homework to some other source of information and additional time to shift attention back. Not only does that constant shifting influence the amount of time it takes to get work done, it also affects the quality of the study itself,” writes Markman on his Edutopia blog page.
Hety agrees, saying that her challenge is a cell phone. Another mom, Emilia Sari, said she turned off her cell phone and TV at home to provide a supportive environment for her daughter, a third grader at Strada Wiyatasaya elementary school, because unlike Hety, she’s unable to accompany her daughter when she studies.
“I have a baby at home, so my daughter is already independent when it comes to doing her homework and whatever subject she has to study for the next day. However, when she’s done, my husband or I check the work and do a review with her,” she shared, adding that when it comes to gadgets, her family has a TV-watching schedule on weekdays. Another important matter parents often overlook in creating a good study environment is providing a consistent spot, with all the tools readily available.
“That means children’s work space should be set up so that they do not need to search every day for pencils, erasers or calculators,” Art explains. Searching for tools is another distraction that can affect a child’s focus. However, a consistent spot doesn’t always mean a single corner or an assigned desk at home. It can also be on the dining table or a shared space in the living room. It just has to be a table where children can sit down and do their homework. “The body’s habit when lying down is to relax and sleep. It is not helpful for a child to have to fight that tendency when studying,” Markman said.
Fighting small matters, such as an empty stomach, are also what both Emilia and Hety try to avoid. “I make sure she has enough dinner, not too little and not too much because she shouldn’t be hungry but shouldn’t be to full either. It will make her sleepy,” said Emilia. Parents to older children like Hidiawati are struggling with managing moods.
“It’s a challenge to study when the child arrives home tired both mentally and physically. If we force them to study then we end up arguing. So I always try to liven up the atmosphere by talking as a friend to her so she can share her concerns,” she shared.
In the end, it’s about knowing your children well. “Younger kids tend to go for rewards, while the older ones are more realistic. We can rationalize more with them on why they should study,” Hety explained. “But it definitely de-pends on each child, as they are unique. So, get to know your child.”