The Learning Habit: A Groundbreaking Approach to Homework and Parenting that Helps Our Children Succeed in School and Life

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9780399167119: The Learning Habit: A Groundbreaking Approach to Homework and Parenting that Helps Our Children Succeed in School and Life

A groundbreaking approach to building learning habits for life, based on a major new study revealing what works – and what doesn’t

Life is different for kids today. Between standardized testing, the Common Core Curriculum, copious homework assignments, and seemingly endless amounts of “screen time,” it’s hard for kids – and parents – to know what’s most essential. How can parents help their kids succeed – not just do well “on the test” -- but develop the learning habits they’ll need to thrive throughout their lives?

This important and parent-friendly book presents new solutions based on the largest study of family routines ever conducted. The Learning Habit offers a blueprint for navigating the maze of homework, media use, and the everyday stress that families with school-age children face; turning those “stress times” into opportunities to develop the eight critical skills kids will need to succeed in college and in the highly competitive job market of tomorrow – skills including concentration and focus, time management, decision-making, goal-setting, and self-reliance. Along with hands-on advice and compelling real-life case studies, the book includes 21 fun family challenges for parents and kids, bringing together the latest research with simple everyday solutions to help kids thrive, academically and beyond.

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About the Author:

Stephanie Donaldson-Pressman is a psychotherapist, consultant, and internationally recognized author in the field of family therapy. She is the author of The Narcissistic Family, and Clinical Director of New England Center for Pediatric Psychology.

Rebecca Jackson is a writer and neuro-psychological educator whose writing is featured on the GoodParentGoodChild website and Huffington Post Screen Sense.

Dr. Robert M. Pressman is a Board Certified Family Psychologist, a practicing pediatric psychologist, and Director of Research at the New England Center for Pediatric Psychology.

Excerpt. © Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.:

INTRODUCTION

This book is written by three researchers who are also parents. The impetus for our work and our research is our unwavering belief that parenting is our most important job. While being parents provided the motivation for this book, our other jobs provided the material. We are all clinicians who work with children and families.

There is something else about this book that makes it unique: It is based on the largest survey of family routines ever conducted. The Learning Habit Studies were a 3-year project, which involved both traditional paper research studies, interviews, and a groundbreaking online research study that surveyed nearly 50,000 parents in all 50 U.S. states. Conducted in the fall of 2013, the findings are both conclusive and provocative. The recommendations we make are rooted in science, clinical experience, and parent and teacher interviews.

Stephanie Donaldson-Pressman is the clinical director of the New England Center for Pediatric Psychology (NECPP) and a bestselling author; she works with parents and children, both independently and in groups. Rebecca Jackson’s work as a psychometrist involves testing children for learning disabilities, cognitive deficits, and psychological disorders. Because her overstuffed suitcase on wheels is brimming with all kinds of fascinating tests and gadgets, her children refer to her as “the kid detective.” Dr. Robert M. Pressman is the research director of the NECPP. He was the lead researcher for our three collaborative studies, conducted with NECPP, Brown University’s Alpert Medical School, and Children’s National Medical Center; Rhode Island College’s Psychology Department also participated in the first two studies. The findings from these studies provided significant new data about the habits, routines, and challenges of families living in this digital age. As a clinical psychologist, Dr. Pressman also works with children and their families.

We are all trained observers, whose jobs and habits are to write about what we see. This book is the result of not only research studies but hundreds of interviews and thousands of hours of clinical observation.

WHAT’S HAPPENING IN OUR HOUSE?

Over the last few years, we have seen dramatic changes in the educational landscape. Homework, once considered an adjunct to classroom teaching, has become a central piece of the educational process—and an important component of students’ grades. The integration of technology and homework, via online teaching tools and textbooks, has further complicated the process, as the line between educational and recreational media consumption becomes increasingly blurred. More and more “nonessential” school programs are being cut. The very activities that enriched our lives and provided us with opportunities in athletics and the arts are being eliminated. Teachers are being forced to teach to the (mandated) tests rather than challenging their students, stimulating their thinking, or creating pride in simply learning something new. Brightly colored textbooks and teaching manuals filled with illustrations have become digitalized; while this sounds exciting in theory, it often translates into nondescript black-and-white photocopies of the material being used in classrooms and sent home in the form of worksheets—so that all students can participate. Despite the focus on mandated tests, we are graduating children who lack the skills to survive, much less thrive, in college. Once first in the world in college-graduated students, the United States is now 10th.1 Almost half of our students who enter college do not graduate.2 They simply do not have the confidence, study skills, or learning habits necessary to handle the work and challenges independent collegiate living entails.

Technology has also become an ever-present influence on our lives. Our children have the benefit of instant communication and easy access to information. That is a wonderful thing—except when it’s not. What we observe are children who can relate to screens with ease, but have few social or communication skills; kids who can play video games for hours, but can’t read a book for longer than 10 minutes; kids who can text and tweet, but can’t focus on a challenging math problem or make sense of a few paragraphs in a history book. “It’s boring!” they cry. And compared to the instant gratification of video games, texting, and social media, it probably is.

Homework used to take 30 minutes—at most—to create special projects, finish up a few math problems, or prepare for a spelling test. Kids would simply scan the chapters and answer the assigned questions during study hall or before class—fiendishly scribbling before the teacher walked in! Not anymore. Today, homework can take several (stressful) hours a day.3 Digital homework assignments and online research and tutorials are now the norm; yet parents are given little to no guidance on how to help their children integrate these tools into their homework routines for maximum benefit. Love it or hate it, technology-based homework is here to stay.

The focus on test scores has also made achievement the most important thing. As a result, we are producing a nation of kids who are afraid to make mistakes, try new things, and even ask questions in class—because they may be perceived as stupid. If you can’t be an achiever, if you can’t be the best, then it’s better not to try—because you might fail.

ARE WE THE ONLY ONES?

We wanted to find out if what we were seeing was universal. We wanted to study families who have met these challenges and produced children who graduated from college in four years—rather than five or six or never. Why were their kids academically successful? What did they do to give their children such terrific social skills, emotional health, and the confidence that allowed them to communicate so clearly and assertively? We joined forces with other scientists, and conducted three separate learning habit research studies to find out.

In one of the most comprehensive psychosocial research studies of all time on this topic, nearly 50,000 parents from 4,600 cities across the nation took time out of their busy lives to offer us a candid look at their daily habits and routines. Since this study was offered online and participants were guaranteed anonymity, something interesting happened: Moms and dads felt comfortable being completely honest about their children’s grades, social interactions with peers, discipline and behavioral issues at home and at school, and, yes, about their media use.

Of course, collaborating, analyzing, and cross-correlating such a massive amount of data was a daunting task. We had to compare a multitude of diverse topics, to see if there were links between factors like sports and communication skills, grades and social involvement, bedtimes and personality traits, and parenting style and independence. Eventually, however, we were able to find the links—connect the dots—and identify habits used by those families whose children were experiencing academic, emotional, and social success. Once identified, these habits were then combined with parenting techniques that can incorporate these best practices.

A NEW CONCEPT OF HOMEWORK

The goal of this book is to help parents understand and facilitate the habits and routines that help children learn. This can often mean synthesizing seemingly unrelated tasks. For example, you might not think that communication skills are part of the homework process, but you will after reading this book. So are sports and social skills. Sleep is of the highest importance. What about cell phone use, video games, and computers? You guessed it—media use is an important part of homework and building successful learning habits.

Prepare to think of homework from an entirely new perspective. Welcome to homework for Generation M2.

“Generation M2,” that’s how our school-age children were described at a forum attended by the chairman of the Federal Communications Commission (FCC), media executives, and child development experts. In their report, “Generation M2: Media in the Lives of 8- to 18-Year-Olds,”4 the Kaiser Family Foundation presented their findings and concerns relative to entertainment media overuse by 8- to 18-year-olds. Our own findings concur with theirs: This generation’s media use is, indeed, exponential. It has an impact on virtually all aspects of family life and homework.

This book neither promotes nor condemns either media use or academic homework; both are here to stay. However, the parents we interviewed said they were confused, angry, and overwhelmed by the stresses their children have to manage—especially those presented by homework. Karen, one of the parents we interviewed, said it took her eight-year-old, third-grade daughter more than one hour, every night, to do her online math homework—frequently resulting in tears of frustration. Even more upsetting to Karen was her concern that her child wasn’t really learning or understanding the process of doing theoretically based math problems—a concern voiced by numerous parents with children in that class.

“It feels wrong,” Karen declared. “It feels crazy! But where do you draw the line?”

Parents want answers. They want to know where to draw the line to restore sanity to their everyday lives. In this culture of rapid technological advancement, educational changes, and social instability, parents feel a disturbing lack of balance. There’s a little voice in the back of their minds whispering, “Something’s not right.” And it isn’t. That’s why we want to start the conversation about learning habits for Generation M2 and how we, as parents, can reboot our parenting style to help our children succeed.

Our overarching purpose is to provide answers and techniques that parents can use—right now, today—to make their families run more smoothly and increase their children’s chances of success, regardless of the current curriculum used at their children’s school. To do that, we have taken a lot of literary license. For example, we use the words I, we, and the therapist interchangeably, for readability and interest. We also know the rules about pronouns (one of us was an English teacher), and we frequently ignore them, using the plural pronoun they in place of the phrase he or she or the awkward s/he because the latter are annoying to read. We sincerely beg your indulgence and forgiveness—we’d rather be readable than rigidly correct.

We also use many stories. People like stories, they relate to stories, they learn from stories. These are true stories; we have altered names and other identifying information to preserve the confidentiality of our patients and interviewees. You will likely see yourself and your kids within these pages; no worries—we haven’t been secretly spying on you. There is a universality of parental experience that transcends socioeconomic status, gender, educational level, and job description. Some of these stories are our own, from our personal parenting experiences. Whether shared to illustrate a positive or a negative technique or experience, we use them without apology.

Finally, we urge you to take the series of family challenges outlined in Chapter Eleven. These are fun, interesting techniques and games that your family can do, and they take just 24 hours per challenge. Use them to enhance your parenting skills and create some learning habits for your kids—and, perhaps, for you. They’re thought provoking, often highly amusing, and a great way to involve everyone in the family.

Watch other parents; notice if they’re learners or if they’re stuck. The learners will be the (quietly) successful and interesting ones, the ones with nothing to prove, the ones who are excited about what they do; they are the ones who not only listen—but hear. It’s that openness to learning that draws others to them. That’s the best thing you can do for your children: give them enduring learning habits. The ability to learn is what will help them succeed in life.

PART I

Lifelong Learning Starts at Home

CHAPTER ONE

Connecting the Disconnect:

The Learning Habit Studies

When you know better, you do better.

—Maya Angelou, author, poet, and recipient of the Presidential Medal of Freedom

Growing up, I always enjoyed shopping for back-to-school supplies. Although my mother took us shopping for clothing, the official role of “Trapper Keeper and pencil purchaser” was delegated to my father. I remember sharpening all of my newly purchased pencils before the first day of school, as if at any moment I might suddenly need 24 sharpened pencils. To this day, a row of neatly sharpened pencils evokes nostalgic back-to-school memories; memories my youngest child may not share. Within the next few years, asking a child to sharpen their pencil will be as obsolete as rolling down the car window. According to the Common Core State Standards Initiative, keyboards will soon replace pencils.1

The fact is, the world in which our children are being educated and socialized and will eventually become employed and self-sufficient is vastly different from our own. We need to understand and appreciate those differences, so we can adapt the way we think about learning. We need to prepare our children for academic and financial success by instilling in our homes a series of habits they can carry with them for the rest of their lives. To accomplish this, we’ll be placing a very different spin on the word homework.

It’s a challenge, as school assignments continue to morph every year. My eleventh grader has a manual textbook that is similar to the ones I had in school. His report card still comes home on a piece of paper in his backpack. My kindergartner has digital homework assignments, and I’m required to have a login and password to check her online report card. Yet they both attend school in the same school district. Many of these homework habits and tools are linked to various forms of media consumption that, if not properly managed, can work against our children. Too much information from too many sources can result in more confusion than clarity. But we can’t ignore it: This is how Generation M2 is being taught—through media and online educational tools. This book will teach you how to successfully synthesize all this wondrous new technology into our children’s lives, so it helps—rather than hinders—learning.

It’s a new dawn, it’s a new day, it’s a new life for me, and I’m feeling good.

—Nina Simone, singer, songwriter, pianist, arranger, and civil rights activist

Although Nina Simone’s lyrics embody the spirit we hope our children will take with them into adulthood, optimism may not be enough. Our children live in a world of changing educational opportunities, dwindling enrichment programs, world economic volatility, and the specter of unemployment. There is a growing gulf between the life a child has in their parent’s home and the life they can expect as adults. Although few of us would consider ourselves wealthy, most were able to get decent jobs after we graduated from college, some without even goi...

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Descripción Penguin Putnam Inc, United States, 2014. Paperback. Estado de conservación: New. Language: English . Brand New Book. A groundbreaking approach to building learning habits for life, based on a major new study revealing what works - and what doesn t Life is different for kids today. Between standardized testing, the Common Core Curriculum, copious homework assignments, and seemingly endless amounts of screen time, it s hard for kids - and parents - to know what s most essential. How can parents help their kids succeed - not just do well on the test -- but develop the learning habits they ll need to thrive throughout their lives? This important and parent-friendly book presents new solutions based on the largest study of family routines ever conducted. The Learning Habit offers a blueprint for navigating the maze of homework, media use, and the everyday stress that families with school-age children face; turning those stress times into opportunities to develop the eight critical skills kids will need to succeed in college and in the highly competitive job market of tomorrow - skills including concentration and focus, time management, decision-making, goal-setting, and self-reliance. Along with hands-on advice and compelling real-life case studies, the book includes 21 fun family challenges for parents and kids, bringing together the latest research with simple everyday solutions to help kids thrive, academically and beyond. Nº de ref. de la librería ABZ9780399167119

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Descripción Penguin Putnam Inc, United States, 2014. Paperback. Estado de conservación: New. Language: English . Brand New Book. A groundbreaking approach to building learning habits for life, based on a major new study revealing what works - and what doesn t Life is different for kids today. Between standardized testing, the Common Core Curriculum, copious homework assignments, and seemingly endless amounts of screen time, it s hard for kids - and parents - to know what s most essential. How can parents help their kids succeed - not just do well on the test -- but develop the learning habits they ll need to thrive throughout their lives? This important and parent-friendly book presents new solutions based on the largest study of family routines ever conducted. The Learning Habit offers a blueprint for navigating the maze of homework, media use, and the everyday stress that families with school-age children face; turning those stress times into opportunities to develop the eight critical skills kids will need to succeed in college and in the highly competitive job market of tomorrow - skills including concentration and focus, time management, decision-making, goal-setting, and self-reliance. Along with hands-on advice and compelling real-life case studies, the book includes 21 fun family challenges for parents and kids, bringing together the latest research with simple everyday solutions to help kids thrive, academically and beyond. Nº de ref. de la librería ABZ9780399167119

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