21 January 2010 03:05 PM

Checklist for Academic Success, Part 1

by Dr. Rick

Pilots famously have them.  Surgeons do, too.  So do engineers, technicians, nurses, and most other professionals and service providers.  I’m talking about simple checklists, quick, simple lists of behaviors and duties that remind us of the basics and guide us toward success.  If all those professionals find checklists helpful, why shouldn’t students and their families?


Yes, checklists are general and simple (some say simplistic), but isn’t that exactly their advantage?  They’re meant to be a helpful reminder to those of us who are rushed, busy, spread too thinly, and battling absent-mindedness because of our hectic lives.  If that describes you and your family at times, here’s the Dr. Rick Checklist for Academic Success – a simple, gentle reminder.


It comes in two parts.  Today we’ll do the “At Home” part.  Next time, we’ll do the “At School” part.


At Home:

  1. Be the role model.  Kids watch what we do and learn from us.  Do your best, for example, to be respectful, punctual, to have a respect for learning, and to maintain healthy habits.

  2. Set challenging goals and commit to them.  Set goals together, and show that these goals are important to you.

  3. Provide routines.  Routines give kids structure and help them to feel safe.  Have routines for wake-up, study, meals, play, family fun, and homework times.

  4. Provide organization.  Show how important it is to keep a planner, electronic or paper.  Time management  is an essential skill for kids to learn.

  5. Provide rewards and consequences.  Yes, it’s okay to have age-appropriate rewards when kids reach goals.  Encourage them, support them, and nag them when necessary.  A parent’s prerogative.  .

  6. Encourage academics.  Show how reading, writing, and math play important roles in your adult life.  That way, kids see that these skills are not just “school stuff” but “real life stuff.”  If you disliked these subjects when you were in school, keep that to yourself.  Don’t jinx your child because of your unfortunate past.

  7. Provide a place and time dedicated to study.  When a student has her own place to study, she’s more likely to use it wisely.  Keep noise levels down, turn off screens, insist on neatly prepared assignments and homework and don’t allow multitasking.

  8. Communicate.  Talk with the folks at school occasionally and with your child constantly about school activities and learning.  Keep up-to-date with his progress, know school deadlines for important events like the Science Fair, and attend as many school meetings as you can.

  9. Provide plenty of learning opportunities.  Go to the library as a family, visit free museums and other interesting sites in your community, have plenty of newspapers and magazines – electronic or hard copies – around to encourage reading.  Promote interesting hobbies and learning camps when appropriate.

  10. Get help when necessary.  When you suspect there’s an academic problem, get help early.  There are plenty of ways to do this – teachers who volunteer their time before and after school, for example.  Or, the company I work for, Sylvan Learning, has an excellent 30-year track record.

In our next posting, we’ll discuss ideas you can implement at school.




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