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How to keep your child's self-esteem high during the exam period

Until exams get abolished in 2013 at the primary school level, parents will still have to face this dreaded period with their children.

Is it a good idea to drill your child in the art of exams, or should you take a more organic approach to learning even as crunch time draws near?

Fiona Walker, principal director of Julia Gabriel Centre For Learning & Chiltern House, gives her input on how to make exam period a more positive time for both parent and child.

Should parents hothouse their child?

No! Children learn when they are engaged in activities that make learning meaningful. Learning must build on previous experiences and knowledge. Children construct their knowledge as one would construct a tower with building blocks. A strong foundation is important. By isolating a subject and hot-housing a child you may be able to get them to memorise facts and figures but it will be without the understanding that enables them to make any use of that information. For the vast majority of children, being able to connect the subject to their own experiences or make it relevant to their lives and interests, will make an enormous difference.

For some children isolating a skill and going over it in a repetitive manner may help them grasp the concept but it may also lead to boredom and lack of engagement.

How much time should children at this age spend studying?

Children should not spend more than 2 hours on homework or studying at night during exam time. For some this can be done with a short break that involves a small snack and shake – out. For others it may require a number of complete breaks for meals or a run around in the park.

How much time should parents be involved and how much should they let their children study independently?

I think this depends on your child and may well differ depending on certain subjects. Some children may be easily motivated and may have well developed study skills. For others they may need greater prompts to remain focused. It is important to keep your child’s self-esteem high and have very realistic expectations of your child’s ability.

If your child finds a subject challenging, parents are integral in ensuring their child feels positive about their effort. How hard a child works is more important than the final score in the exam. Parents should know how much effort their child has put in towards their studying and should praise them for that effort.

Should play and outdoor activity be allowed during the examination period? How does it help or distract?

Yes! How many breaks a child needs and what those breaks should consist of will depend on the child.

A child who is more active will be able to focus better after a period of physical activity.

Studying can cause tension in many children and the healthiest way to release that tension is through physical activity. It is important for parents to build in time for breaks.

Schools will focus more on the academic development of your child.

As parents it is our job to provide a balance for our children and to protect their right to childhood and all that should mean. Schools are beginning to realise that focusing on academic results does not necessarily develop the well-rounded individuals the future needs.

By reducing the number of exams primary children sit and increasing arts related subjects into the main – stream curriculum we are heading in the right direction. Even more important than a report card of high grades is a confident, happy child who has the self-believe that he can succeed in a number of areas and enjoys learning.

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