It’s August! The days are starting to get shorter, though there are still plenty of sunlight hours. Summer is coming to an end, which means one big thing for a lot of people: the start of school.
Whether your kid is heading off to school or you are, life changes quite a bit once school starts. One major change is that everyone’s focus switches from summer fun to academics.
To make sure you or your kid excels at school, make sure to keep the following in mind.
Sleep is important for all parts of life, so it’s only natural it’s at the top of the list when it comes to learning. In fact, studies have shown that during sleep, our brains consolidate, or strengthen, memories. What is learning if not committing facts and skills to memory?
Furthermore, sleep is linked to high performance in school. Studies show that everyone — kids, high school students, and college students — who gets better sleep get better grades.
To maximize sleep potential, aim for 8 hours, or more for the young ones. Also, make sure to get you or your kids into bed around the same time each night — sleep schedule is just as important as the amount of sleep you get.
To be ready by the time school starts up, you may want to start establishing a sleep routine at least a week in advance. Try to maintain the routine on weekends too — it’ll make Monday morning a little easier to handle.
It takes energy to stay focused during the day, especially if you have to sit through lectures.
You may be tempted to grab an energy drink to get you through the day, but there are better options. Follow good eating habits; protein, whole grains, and fruits and veggies fill you up and give you energy. And make sure to drink lots of water.
Additionally, coffee will help you stay alert, but don’t overdo it or you’ll feel jittery and distracted. If you need a sugar boost, choose fruit and berries for natural sugar. Processed sugar, the kind you see in energy drinks and vending machine snacks, have much more sugar than fruit and berries and also lack other nutrients like fiber.
Dark chocolate and nuts make a good snack, with antioxidants and minimal sugar and fats. Avoid empty snacks like chips and candy.
While learning is primarily a brain exercise, physical activity can help. Anyone who has participated in a lengthy study session will say that it is exhausting for the brain. Sometimes you just need to get up, stretch, and take a walk to clear your head. But that walk is good for more than mental health.
Physical activity can help the brain work. Scientifically, exercise boosts the learning processes in the brain. In tests with mice, those that exercised more learned faster.
Specifically, regular aerobic exercise stimulated the part of the brain in charge of learning and memory. Resistance training and strength exercises did not do the same. Though the study boasts of the potential of the findings in staving off dementia, they can help with all kinds of learning.
Additionally, exercise can improve sleep and reduce stress, both of which will help in your learning endeavors.
It may feel like an exercise routine takes time away from studies, but it’ll help in the long run, both with memory and stress levels.
You or your kids likely have strict class times, but outside of that, you can plan your time. For example, you can schedule homework for right after school. You can fit some study time in between classes — whatever works for your schedule.
Contrary to the popular advice of creating a routine and sticking to it, research has shown that changing the location, time, and materials used to study can boost your learning capabilities. Dr. Bjork, the head researcher, explains that when you study, your brain associates the material with your surroundings. Just like some sensations are linked to memories, studied material is linked to the environment.
If you vary the environment in which you study, your brain makes several associations with the study material, making it easier to recall the information in varying locations — like the classroom on exam day.
Studies have also shown that spacing out study sessions is more effective than procrastinating and cramming. Researchers speculate that after some time away from the material, your brain has to relearn parts of it before it can learn new things. That act of relearning solidifies the knowledge so you remember it for longer.
Plan school work accordingly, making sure to vary your work locations and set time aside for sleep, exercise, and relaxation.
Everyone needs time to wind down and relax, especially in a busy schedule.
It’s good for mental health and physical wellness. But it can be hard to relax when you’re stressed about school.
Break up study sessions and other time-intensive projects. We’ve already established that splitting up study sessions into smaller sessions is more effective than cramming the same number of hours together in a single session. The next step is to plan those sessions so you don’t leave them to the last minute.
If you’re a parent, discourage procrastination. In addition to what was said before, it causes undue stress and lowers performance. It could also add to behavior issues in and out of the classroom.
If you need some ideas for downtime, here are some things you can do that don’t involve learning:
- Dates. Play dates or just gatherings with friends will help to relax and disconnect from the stresses of school.
- Clubs. Joining fun clubs is a great way to schedule non-academic time; just make sure you enjoy going to them so they don’t become another obligation.
- Solo activities. Go see a movie alone, go for a solo hike, or meditate in a quiet place.
Relaxation time could also be as simple as just never doing school work after dinner. That may also help with the wind-down process leading to bedtime.
Good habits start with work, so if you can, start early. You’ll see a difference in no time.