Don’t Let Homework Hassles Ruin Your Appetite

This post comes to us from our amazing partner, Raleigh Tutoring, who has helped more than 1,500 Raleigh-area students of all ages improve their understanding—and their grades.

If you’re a parent of a school-aged child, you’re probably no stranger to homework drama. Some kids balk at having to pause play time to sit down for more school. Others are willing but need lots of help from Mom or Dad. Then there are the kids, usually older, who wait until the last minute to do homework only to find they don’t have the right materials or underestimated how much time they need.

While homework hassles vary according to a child’ s grade, temperament, and school, almost all affect the dinner hour in some way. Helping a kid with long division or running out to Target for posterboard can leave less time to prepare dinner. With older kids and teens, dinner may have to be scheduled around after-school activities and homework, resulting in some not very appetizing early or late meal times.

Here are some parent-tested, teacher-approved tips to help reduce homework-related stress in your home:

Plan ahead: Rejoice if your child is among the many elementary-age students who brings home all or most of their homework in a Monday folder filled with four days of assignments due by the end of the week. This way, if you know Emma has piano on Wednesday and Billy’s scout meeting is Thursday, you can make sure they get the week’s homework done by Tuesday.  Fortify your kids for these extra-long sessions by ensuring that they’ve had a light snack. For those of you with middle and high school kids, most teachers have websites where they post procedures, expectations, assignments, and grades. Bookmark these pages on your home computer, so they are easily accessible for you and your young adult. Teach your child to use a paper or smart calendar to plan ahead.

 

Hover, don’t help: The whole point of homework is to give children the opportunity to independently practice skills they learn in school. The urge to help our kids is strong, but try to resist it. Limit your involvement to answering quick questions about an assignment’s instructions and checking to make sure all the work gets done. If your child has to ask for help to handle the work, don’t step in and do it for them. Teachers need to know if students are not mastering material on their own. If struggling with homework becomes a pattern, check in with your child’s teacher and ask for support.  Homework shouldn’t be so hard that it requires a parent’s constant hand-holding.

 

Encourage routines: Designate a regular homework spot. Depending on your child’s age and level of independence, this could be the kitchen or dining room table, a desk in the family room or even a desk in their room. Working at the same place every afternoon or evening helps reinforce good study habits, as does sitting down to homework at roughly the same time every day. It doesn’t have to be right after school–some kids have extracurriculars or just need time to blow off steam. But unless your kids are in high school, homework should be done well before bedtime to minimize everyone’s stress.

 

Stock up: Nothing disrupts family harmony more than learning at 7 p.m. that you’re all out of glue sticks–and your kid needs one stat. Store school supplies in a cabinet in the homework area or in a portable caddy and go through them once a week–say before you do your weekend shopping–to note which supplies need replenishing. To help you keep track of what your child needs, keep the list their teacher supplied at the beginning of the year in or near your storage space.

Let’s face it: Kids may never find homework fun. But it needn’t be a dinner-spoiler, either.

How to talk to your student about sexual assault

This post comes to us from our amazing partner InterAct of Wake County, an organization that provides support to victims of domestic violence and sexual assault.

April is Sexual Assault Awareness Month. For those of us here at InterAct, this is a busy month for us to connect with the community to support survivors and to stop sexual violence. As a parent, we know that it’s awkward to talk to children about healthy sexuality for a number of reasons. However, it’s vital that you open up that dialogue with your teen to educate them and keep them safe.

But what is sexual assault? According to the Rape, Abuse, and Incest National Network (RAINN), sexual assault is any sexual contact or behavior that occurs without explicit consent of the victim. Some forms include:

rape – unwanted penetration of the victim’s body

attempted rape – unwanted sexual touching or fondling or forcing a victim to perform a sexual act. In speaking about sexual assault, it is important to remember that this is a violent crime. As such, it’s never the fault of the victim.

Woman and girls ages 14-19 are 4x more likely than the general population to be victims of actual or attempted sexual assault. RAINN also found that 82% of victims of sexual assault under 18 are female, while 90% of all victims over 18 are female. Sexual assaults are more common in colleges compared to other violent crimes, such as robbery.

Talking to your children about consent and healthy sexuality, without sounding like you’re condoning behavior you are uncomfortable with, can be a tricky conversation. However, being open and honest with your teen about what is and is not healthy sexual behavior will only serve to protect your child. Below, we have some Dos and Don’ts for talking with your child.

  • DO let your child know you will always be supportive and willing to listen. You want them to come to you if they’re in trouble.
  • DO stay away from rape myths. Rape myths are common, but untrue, stereotypes about rape. Common myths include men cannot be assaulted, women are asking for it because of how they dress or act, women often lie about being sexually assaulted, or rape and sexual assaults are “misunderstandings.” Sexual assaults are violent crimes.
  • DON’T blame the victim. No matter what, a victim of sexual assault is never ‘asking for it.’ No one deserves to be sexually assaulted.
  • DO hold your child accountable for their actions. If you hear victim blaming language, abusive or misogynistic language, or casual jokes about rape and sexual assault from your child, talk to them about it. Turn it into a teachable moment where you can help your child grow.
  • DON’T be vague with your language. Tell your child exactly what you mean. Don’t use euphemisms or indirect language when speaking to your child. Own your words. Tell them exactly what you will and won’t accept. Give them the knowledge to protect themselves and make good choices.

Join us this April to go beyond “no means no” and create a culture of consent. For more information, check out the following resources: RAINN.org, LoveIsRespect.org, BreakTheCycle.org, or ItsOnUS.org.

InterAct is always here as a resource for any victim of domestic or sexual violence. Our hours are M-F from 9-5. We are located at 1012 Oberlin Road, Raleigh NC 27605. We’re available 24/7 by calling 919-828-7740.

Caregiving and Teens

By: InterAct of Wake County

Happy March to all you caregivers out there!

Since you are reading this, we know that you have at least one teenager in your house, and boy, can they be surly. In between watching them roll their eyes at your “dated” jokes and refusing to let you look at their Instagram feed, you can’t help but wonder where your sweet little child went.

Well, that’s totally normal, both for you and your teen. Teens develop quickly and extensively between 12 and 17. Teens become much more independent during this time, and work to establish unique personalities, interests, and ideas. While parents and caregivers remain important sources of support and guidance, teens begin to look towards their peers more and more for social cues. Between the ages of

Between the ages of 12-14 you may see your teen: show more concern about body image, looks, and clothes, display moodiness and irritability, show more interest in and influence from peer group, and express less affection toward parents; sometimes they might seem rude or short-tempered. Teens during this period also become more concerned with their bodies and the changes that occur during puberty. This is the time when teens are most likely to have eating problems and develop eating disorders.

However, there is much you can connect with your teen on! During this time, teens develop a stronger sense of right and wrong, begin to understand and have more complex thoughts, and learn how to fully express their feelings and beliefs. As a parent, being honest and direct when discussing touchy subjects, such as alcohol consumption, sex, and drug use, is key. Encouraging healthy eating, sleeping, and lifestyle habits are important; but keep in mind and take an interest in your teens ideas and opinions. Get to know them as people: what do they like and dislike about school? Who are their friends? Being clear about expectations, but allowing your teen some input in how those expectations are met, will reduce conflict during this developmental stage.

As young teens become full-blown teenagers, they begin to fully develop their own personalities and interests. Most teens have completed puberty at this point, but may still have some issues with body shape and size. Eating disorders are especially common among this age, specifically in teen girls. You may see your teen: Have more interest in dating and intimacy, develop a deep capacity for caring and understanding in friendships and intimate relationships, show more independence, and pull further away from parents while spending more time with friends. I know this sounds bad, but there is often less conflict between parent and child at this stage.

As you see your child growing and maturing, you may see them become more “future-focused.” Teens often develop more serious work habits and show concern for their future, such as college and career plans. They will often be able to give you fully-fleshed out reasons for their choices, specifically about what is “right” and what is “wrong.” However, teens also have a tendency towards periods of sadness and depression. Being supportive and caring when speaking to teens about any behavior changes you notice can help guide teens. As scary as it sounds, asking directly about suicidal thoughts won’t “prompt” your teen to have those thoughts. Rather, it will show that you love and care for your teen’s well being.

As a parent, encourage your teen to get involved in his or her local community. Allow them the freedom to make their own choices, when appropriate. Respect their opinions, get to know their friends, and take an interest in their lives and hobbies. After all, you are their parent and they will always be your baby!

For more information on healthy childhood development and parenting, please refer to the CDC’s Child Development Website and Positive Parenting Tips. All information courtesy of the CDC.

Cultivating Wellness: Tending to the Physical Self

By: The Community Counseling, Education, and Research Clinic (CCERC)

This month, as we welcome spring, we continue our ongoing series on the five components of well-being. This month, we highlight the importance of tending to the physical self (exercise and eating well).

Nutrition and exercise are the two main aspects of the physical self. From a holistic view, we are less concerned with living up to the culture’s ideals of physical strength or beauty, and more interested in honoring our bodies, increasing vitality, and achieving optimal health for better quality of life. Rather than dieting to look thin or bulking up to look muscular, exercise and nutrition for well-being means eating foods that are nourishing, and engaging in activities that feel good, give you energy, and build a sense of appreciation for the body’s innate creativity, strength, and flexibility.

As humans, we are designed to move, yet many of us work in jobs where we sit or stand for long hours and we come home feeling exhausted. It is understandable that many days, we just want to sit down to rest and recover. Getting enough rest and relaxing is key to our overall health, but we also need to counter our modern lifestyle with pleasurable activities and exercise. High intensity exercise is a popular trend these days, but you don’t have to push yourself to extremes in order be fit and energetic. In fact, research like this article in Psychology Today shows that practices like Tai Chi, Qi Gong, yoga, Aikido, and NIA—all slow movement combined with awareness of bodily sensation—can have greater benefits compared to traditional exercise in reducing pain, increasing mobility, and decreasing depression and stress. Dancing improves brain function and reduces the risk of memory loss. Following a diet of whole and healthy meals rather than sugary, processed foods can improve mood and decrease depression, in addition to improving physical health.

Here are a few suggestions to get you started in your journey to wellness in the realm of the physical self. If you’d like to explore this or any of the parts of well-being a little more in depth, give us a call at CCERC or visit our website to set up an appointment.

  • Experiment with different movement. Take the time to explore group fitness or dance classes, online workout videos, or individual exercise like swimming or running, until you find a fitness routine that you enjoy and will feel motivated to keep up with. Locally, there are fitness classes through Parks and Recreation, fun dance-inspired options like Zumba and NIA. Or stay at home and do a free yoga class online at com or choose from one of these many free dance, stretching, or cardio videos.
  • Start your day with stretching. Take 5 minutes right when you get out of bed to slow down, notice your breathing and do some simple stretching. Instead of rushing into the day, pause and check in with your physical self. Make up your own movements or refer to this website for inspiration. Stretching can improve circulation and reduce stress.
  • Try healthy snacking. Find a healthier alternative for one of your favorite “bad” foods. When you crave the junk food option, experiment with substituting with the healthier version. Some ideas for sweet and savory snacks include frozen grapes, celery and peanut butter, Greek yogurt with honey, cinnamon sprinkled on apple, trail mix or nuts, carrots and hummus, baked sweet potato with cinnamon, balsamic vinegar drizzled on mozzarella and cherry tomatoes.
  • Practice Mindful Eating. Sometimes we eat out of boredom, sadness, or habit. This raisin, chip, and chocolate exercise can help us to pay attention to when and why we eat and to notice what our food really tastes like and whether we enjoy what we are eating.

Our Climate, Our Future

By: Alliance for Climate Education

We now offer an online climate education resource, Our Climate Our Future, which brings the dynamic, multimedia content of the ACE Assembly directly into your classroom or organization. Check out a trailer here.

Teachers, organizations, schools and more can check out this to get access to a host of exciting resources including:

  • Climate science, told through animation and aligned with Next Generation Science Standards
  • Stories from young people impacted by climate change from across the country
  • Innovative climate solutions
  • Opportunities for students to take action via trivia, texting and social media
  • Spanish and English subtitles
  • Teacher resources to use during and after Our Climate Our Future: interactive trivia, background reading materials, student worksheet, answer key and discussion guide, additional climate videos, readings and questions on climate science topics such as: ocean acidification, ice cores, El Niño and more

SPECIAL OFFER: Right now get free access to a one-year Our Climate Our Future subscription! To take advantage of this opportunity, choose “1-year” subscription from the menu on the subscription page (you need to create a login first) and on the next page enter “SHOWALLMYSTUDENTS” in the coupon code. You can use this coupon code up until June 1, 2017 to acquire your 1-year subscription.

Questions?

Contact Briana Steele
Senior Program Manager
Alliance for Climate Education
919.589.3176

 

What’s Next? Strategies for College-Bound Juniors and Sophomores

By: Raleigh Tutoring

For college-bound high school seniors, spring is a time of promise. With each college decision that arrives, they come one step closer to choosing where they’ll spend the next four years.

But for sophomores and juniors, the journey is really just beginning. Not only must they think about what colleges they want to apply to, they must also make critical decisions about the SAT, ACT or both. By March, most juniors have already taken either the PSAT, pre-ACT (formerly called PLAN), or both. Many have also taken the ACT, SAT, or both at least once, and wonder whether they should keep trying for a higher score. Still others have not yet gotten started on the testing process. Even sophomores should be thinking ahead: Many will take their first SAT or ACT in the fall of their junior year, and getting a jump on studying ensures they have ample time to get their highest possible score.

Here are some recommendations for parents of juniors and sophomores to help their teens make more informed decisions about the testing process:

1. Performance on the Pre-ACT and PSAT isn’t a great predictor of performance on the actual tests. Let’s face it: College isn’t even on the radar of kids barely into the fall of their sophomore year, which is when these preliminary versions of the ACT and SAT are given. Most go into these tests without ever studying. Plus, even though the math sections of both the pre-ACT and PSAT are designed for the average 10th grader, students who are on a slightly slower math track might struggle to comprehend problems that they’d have no trouble doing the following year.

So an average or even slightly below average score on either test doesn’t mean that a student won’t do very well on the full version of the test after another year of math and maturation. That said, students who score well below or above average can probably read more into their results and act accordingly. For instance, a student with a very low score might need more test prep than an average or high-scorer. Someone with an exceptional score on the PSAT might want to take the PSAT again in his or her junior year, which is when those who score in the 99th percentile become eligible for the National Merit Scholarship program.

2. Finish testing by September. Ideally, your teen should have an ACT/SAT score they’re satisfied with as their senior year begins. The application process is hard enough without testing hanging over their heads. If they got started late in their junior year or if they’re confident they can better a mediocre score, make sure they’re done by late September. Many schools have Oct. 15 application deadlines.

3. Colleges don’t prefer one test over the other. Of course, there are always exceptions, so research admissions criteria so your child isn’t blindsided by a college’s testing requirement. While colleges don’t care which test applicants take, some students have a definite preference for–and aptitude in–one test over the other. Learn about the differences between the two exams; for one thing, the ACT gives students less time to answer each question/problem than the SAT does. For another, the SAT math section includes about 20 problems that students can’t use a calculator to solve, while the ACT permits calculator use for the whole math section. We recommend that after a little trial and error, including practice tests and maybe one attempt at the exam, students pick either the ACT or SAT and stick with it.

4. Superscoring really is super. Most colleges practice superscoring, meaning they consider the highest section score a student achieves over multiple attempts. So if your child takes the SAT twice and makes a 550 on the math section the first time but a 610 the next attempt, they’ll ignore the lower score. Same goes for the ACT. Some students take either the SAT or ACT a third or fourth time just to get one section score higher, studying only for these section(s) because they’re already comfortable with the scores they made on other sections during previous attempts. Note: Most students don’t benefit from taking either test more than three or four times, thanks to the law of diminishing returns. We find that most students make the biggest gains between the first and second attempts on these exams, especially if they didn’t study prior to their first test.

5. The “optional” essay isn’t always optional. The last thing you want for your child is for them to discover that their “dream” school requires the optional SAT or ACT essay, which they decided not to do when they took the test twice as a junior. Now, just when they thought they’d be done with testing, they have to take one again in October of their senior year. Also, a school’s requirements could change from year to year, especially since the current version of the SAT just debuted in March 2016. Get a preliminary list of both aspirational and realistic colleges from your teen, and help them begin the process of collecting admissions requirements–including whether the SAT/ACT is required– for each one.

6. Use the summer to prepare. The summer before junior years is, for many students, an ideal time to begin preparing for the SAT and ACT. Free from hours of homework and other school-year commitments, many teens can devote a week or two to prepping for these tests, whether by taking a camp or class, studying on their own or with a friend using books or online study guides, or receiving individual tutoring. One caveat: Even with intense summer studying, most students will need to review prior to the exam. But at least they’ll be working from a solid foundation.

What Makes the WELL My Valentine

Valentine’s Day is a day reserved for loving gestures to those around us. I’ll be the first to tell you I love holidays on this level, and I waste no time gearing up for them prior to their arrival. However, this year, I find myself yearning to broaden my horizon and think of those outside my immediate circle — people who have made the difference for my family and me.

This year, my dearest Valentine goes out to a program that has made an extraordinary impact in the life of my son and the many other countless parents and students who live in the Wake County area. I’m referring to the Wade Edwards Foundation. Specifically, the Wade Edwards Learning Lab or the WELL as this incredible program is known.

I not only love the WELL, but adore it. The people who work there have dedicated their lives to enriching the students who walk through their doors each day. What this organization does is not just the basic afterschool programs that we often hear about. Sure, a student can receive tutoring and help with homework, even with college applications and entrance exam preparation. However, the WELL extends beyond these offerings. For many, like my son, the WELL is a game changer – a life altering agent that far exceeded anything we expected from an afterschool program.

When my son walked through the doors of the WELL, he was already a great student and excelled academically. We knew he was considering attending a university and contemplating a career in engineering. But, while he had excellent grades and an idea of what he wanted to do beyond high school, he, unfortunately, lacked leadership skills and the self-confidence for a professional career. More comfortable taking a role that would leave him unnoticed by his teachers, he often faded in the background. He rarely spoke up in class, and when he did, it was only because he’d been prompted or in need of a class participation grade.

However, the WELL’s programs changed him within a few months of his participation. My husband and I began to see a stark transformation in his demeanor. Instead of telling us that he was in a project team in class, he would announce that he was the team leader. Our son also began to become more socially engaged and to our surprise began developing new friendships. Not only did he improve his social skills, but he also began peer tutoring, engaging in community service work, and eventually working after school, gaining important life skills and training. Our son was changed, and I am confident that the WELL planted the seeds that gave rise to this new confident child.

I never imagined that life would become so different for our child. Through the WELL’s ambassadorship program and community service opportunities, our son not only cultivated his leadership skills; but realized the value he could offer to those around him. I am probably not alone in my affection for the staff and the generous volunteers that make up the Wade Edwards Foundation’s programs. I’m sure there are parents that are just like me, in awe of the sacrifices each member of the staff makes to enrich the lives of the families and students they touch. And like me, they’re most grateful for a staff that does so well at connecting with children and helping them see their potential.

So as I write this Valentine, I am not just appreciative for the WELL, but I am also indebted to it. The WELL saw the possibilities in my child and while others may have missed what he was capable of becoming, the staff of this organization didn’t. Now, a full scholarship recipient and research assistant at a Big Ten university, my child has a whole new world opened to him. I can say confidently that the WELL had a great deal to do with it. Composed of a staff that genuinely cares, this compassionate organization works not just for children’s academic success but personal success, too.

So today, while many of us will be taking the time to share love with the people in our lives that matter, I find myself wanting to share my appreciation for the WELL and thankful that they offer a safe afterschool program with the capacity to grow today’s youth into confident young leaders.

 

– Carolyn Alvarado

A Different Kind of Valentine’s Love Note

Usually, on Valentine’s Day, I’m thinking of creative ways to show my children how much I love them. Truth be told, I’ll probably find a way to embarrass them with a love note or a Valentine’s Day card tucked into a class notebook.

But this year, I also want to acknowledge a part of our village that enriches my teenagers’ lives every day. They say it takes a village, and I can say that this group has been there for my children in many ways academically. So I want this lovely group of people who are such a critical part of my children’s academic life to know how much we love and appreciate them – the Wade Edwards Learning Lab (WELL).

From tutoring to mentoring, the WELL has been a lifeline for my teens during afterschool hours and during the summer.  It was a pure gift for me to find the WELL when my children were transitioning from middle school to high school.  Everyone was welcoming and willing to help us navigate the complexity that is high school. It was so easy to engage with the staff at the WELL because they made you feel at home and made clear that they have your child’s best interest at heart.

They have given my teenagers the opportunity not only to complete homework in a safe, monitored environment, but to receive tutoring, when needed. And the WELL offers a variety of activites, including community service (WELL Service Warriors), Teen Talk, an open forum on teen issues.  Additionally, the WELL has served as a bridge program from middle school to high school and over the summer for my teens.  They offer various summer classes, including computer programming, and they arrange college tours.  This year, my daughter will represent the WELL at the Triangle Youth Leadership Conference at North Carolina State University.  It is through the mentorship and guidance at the WELL that my teens are striving for opportunities like this.

The WELL is an invaluable asset to my family and I sincerely want the staff that we love them and cannot thank them enough for their continued efforts.  To all of the WELL staff, we love and appreciate you!

– Catina Cain, JD

We’re Taking Action on Climate Change

ACE is excited to announce the launch of a new spring campaign, We Power Forward. We Power Forward is an online platform that allows young people across the country to take climate action and fight for renewable energy. Participants can support the campaign work of ACE Action Fellows in regions across the country both digitally and by attending local actions in person. Read more…

What is We Power Forward?

The We Power Forward campaign, a project of the Alliance for Climate Education (ACE), is a unique way for young people across the country to take climate action and fight for renewable energy. The campaign continues the momentum and excitement of the Get Loud Challenge, which concluded in May 2016 and involved over 130,000 young participants (ages 13-24) in all 50 states taking highly visible, online and offline climate action in a competition framework. We Power Forward continues to engage and empower these incredible young people to step up, speak up, and take action on climate change. The We Power Forward campaign currently does not offer any prize incentives.

How does it work?

#WePowerForward connects young climate leaders across the U.S. and enables them to support each other in climate action. Through our interactive, digital platform participants are able to seamlessly share national climate content on social media and get updates about opportunities to attend local actions in person.

Who is the Alliance for Climate Education?

The Alliance for Climate Education (ACE) is a nonprofit organization founded in 2008. Our mission is to educate young people on the science of climate change and empower them to take action. By inspiring youth to take action with a frame of justice and optimism, we are shifting the national discourse on climate in ways that are proven to affect public opinion and policy. Learn more about our work by visiting acespace.org.
Have questions? Contact us at [email protected].

Science-backed Study Skills Every Student Should Know

For most courses from middle school through college, exam scores determine at least 50 percent of a student’s final grade. So it’s critical that every student knows how to do well on tests. As many parents are frustrated to learn, teachers rarely have the time to teach study skills. Even if they do, they’re likely to emphasize such tried-and-true methods as highlighting texts or rereading class notes—methods, it turns out, that aren’t that effective after all.

Of course, the first step toward helping your child do better on tests is to ensure they’re paying attention in class. You might be shocked to learn how distracting today’s classrooms can be, especially if a school allows cell phones or advocates “flipped” classrooms that emphasize group work and watching instructional videos.

Teachers in these environments don’t have the time or resources to ensure that all 30 students are paying attention, taking notes, writing down testing dates, and turning in class assignments. Also, if your child attends public school, make sure you’re signed up for a Powerschool account so you can monitor their assignments, grades and attendance. If your child isn’t doing well, review their notebooks and planners to find out if they’re writing down due dates and keeping their notes and handouts organized; don’t hesitate to contact the teacher for a conference.

Even if your child is a good student “citizen,” it’s unlikely they know how to study effectively. A recent wave of cognitive research has led to consensus on the handful of strategies that really work. You can empower your child by sharing these five strategies, which scientists have recently proven to be the most effective way to learn and retain information:

Elaborative interrogation, or answering why a fact is true: Students who get into the habit of asking, “why?” while reading a chapter in a textbook, reviewing a handout from their teacher or doing online research will be better able to retain the material than those who simply process information without engaging in self-questioning. “Why” questions seem to work by helping learners integrate new facts with things they already know. An easy way to explain this to your child: Have them pretend they’re babysitting a curious 3-year-old who’s always asking “why” questions. Sure, preschoolers aren’t very likely to ask questions about cell mitosis or the reasons for the War of 1812, but coming up with them anyway will help students make important connections that passive reading doesn’t encourage.

Self-explanation, or explaining what a section of text or an example problem means to you: This strategy is similar to the one above in that it asks students to be active rather than passive consumers of information. According to researchers, self-explanation—taking the time after every few pages of a chapter or when finishing an article to explain what they learned—prompts students to draw conclusions and make connections with what they already know.

Such explanations should go beyond summarizing to reveals gaps in understanding. The more difficult the material or the harder the text, the more beneficial this strategy is. A good way to help students conceptualize this process: Pretend that their teacher will ask them to explain the concept or problem they’re learning to the class.

Practice testing, or testing yourself on the material you’re trying to learn: Taking tests helps students ace tests. There’s no way around it. This is a good thing: Practice tests give students valuable feedback about what they know and what they still must learn, whether it’s algebra 2 or Spanish 2. When you answer a test question, you must actively search your long-term memory,” writes Dr. Winston Sieck in his blog Thinker Academy.

“Doing so creates more and better pathways to the answer. This makes the answer easier to find the next time around. Scientists sometimes call it ‘retrieval practice.’” Many textbooks feature questions in each chapter or unit; encourage your child to do these, especially if the answers are provided. And here’s where flashcards—one of the few tried-and-true methods confirmed as effective by science—come in. Kids who are more digitally inclined can use a free online service called Quizlet to create their own digital “flashcards.” The bottom line: Testing before the test means better results.

Distributed practice, or spreading studying out over several sessions: Students are famous for cramming; think back to your all-nighters in the campus library. But science proves that it’s much more effective to study in small chunks over a period rather than all at once. Cramming is ineffective in many ways; for one thing, our attention spans are limited.

For another, the process of spreading one subject out over several days forces the memory to have to restart at the beginning of each study session, which, as counter-intuitive as it seems, is a good way of strengthening the brain’s ability to retrieve information, scientists say. While there’s no way to really prevent cramming, you can help your child get into the habit of studying a little every night.

Interleaved practice, or mixing different kinds of subjects/problems together when studying: This strategy surprised scientists. They used to believe students should study one thing at a time. Recent research turned that notion on its head. Now, scientists say, studying more than one concept or topic during a single setting helps improve understanding and retention, whether the subject is physics or art history. In one recent study, for example, students were asked to learn the painting styles of 12 different artists by looking at six samples of each artist’s work.

Some participants were shown each artist’s paintings consecutively, while others viewed all 12 in mixed order. When tested later, the students who had seen the paintings in mixed order were better at matching them with the correct artist than those who had studied each artist’s paintings in one group. The reason, it seems, that when students mix things up, they are better able to compare and contrast, which leads to deeper understanding. How to apply this: Encourage your student to not only study a little bit every day, as in the suggestion above, but to study for each class, or within each class, different problems, rather than setting aside specific days for different subjects. This advice is especially applicable to students with A-B schedules, who have core classes on alternating days.

Source: “Improving Students’ Learning with Effective Learning Techniques: Promising Directions from Cognitive and Educational Psychology,” by John Dunlowsky et al. From Psychological Science in the Public Interest, January 2013.