Healthy Study Habits for Students

A #Reclaiming2020 Thread

School can be a lot for students under the best of circumstances, and this is equally as true for grad students as it is for kindergartners

Burnout, Screen Fatigue, and Other Anxieties

Mental health, establishing healthy study habits, and knowing how to find an appropriate balance is something we put a lot of focus on her at TNN.

Our students, especially in the US educational system, can oftentimes be put under extreme amounts of stress, and are very rarely given the tools to know how to deal with it. Even more so now during the age of COVID as classrooms shift into bedrooms and the lines between ‘study’ and ‘sleep’ become blurry at best.

Identifying the early stages of burnout (difficulty concentrating, poor sleep quality, irritability, eye strain, and more) is crucial to help curb it’s effects.

Knowing When to Walk Away

Burnout is something that is more often associated with high paying executive positions or even online content creators. But it is a common experience in all walks of life. Any time you expend more effort than you receive value from, you a prone to burnout. That could mean working at something for an hour and not making as much progress as you would have liked, or it could mean studying for months without feeling like there is no return.

To recognize if you are approaching or at risk of burnout, here are a few resources that can help.

The Tell-Tale Signs of Burnout from Psychology Today

Burnout Self Test from Mind Tools

Burnout Prevention and Treatment from Help Guide

Productive Procrastination

Procrastinating one activity by performing another is a trick as old as time. It’s why students who have a dreaded assignment suddenly find themselves with one thousand and one other little mindless things to do.

And while procrastinating something at all costs can easily develop into self-sabotage, there is a way to use that procrastination instinct for good.

If you are staring blankly at your screen, don’t know where to start, or just otherwise fighting tooth and nail to focused … stop fighting. Frustration and anxiety make focusing on a new subject even harder and that natural resistance you feel towards getting into a project can sometimes (not always) be your bodies way of telling you that you need a break.

So instead put on a ten-minute video, podcast, or music playlist, and use find a healthy use for that procrastination energy. Like;

By giving yourself an intentional ‘break’ that is still productive, you can start to create healthy habits around work-life balance and recognizing when you need to step away.

Setting Healthy Boundaries

As we mentioned before, with so many students performing some or all of their academic duties from home, the lines between ‘school’ and ‘no school’ can get kind of blurry. As anyone who has ever tried to work from home before can confirm, that is a sure fire recipe for burnout.

Creating physical or mental space where you can flick on and off in work/study mode is key to setting healthy boundaries, achieving a balanced lifestyle, and long term success. We all know the age old adage of the unhappy employee or executive who keeps bringing their work home with them. But what happens when the work starts at home with you as well?

There are a few ways to help deal with this but none quite so effective as creating a physically separate space for study time. Setting your desk against a wall or window so that you are less distracted by other stuff in your room, working in a separate office space, or working at the dining room table, assuming you have a supportive household, are all valid options.

It can also help to set time restrictions. Parents can enforce this by breaking up study time with schedule meal times, but also by putting a time limit on school stuff. If school work HAS to be done by 8pm, then it leaves students time to unwind and helps create that space. It also helps to include regularly scheduled breaks throughout the day. I find that I can rarely focus for more than 3 hours at a time, so I plan walks, kickboxing, or meal prep time around those gaps accordingly.

Limit Screen Time

By now we all know how bad starring into our screens for hours on end can be bad not just for your eyesight, but also for your circadian rhythm, your general physical well being, and even our mental health. This is even more true for younger kids whose brains are still developing.

In a classroom setting, teachers of younger students will routinely break up longer periods of sitting with short periods of movement. This same concept can be easily applied to screen time as well, serving a dual function here as screen time is typically relatively stationary.

Schedule regular intermissions to get up, walk away from the screen, maybe get a snack or go to the bathroom or even take a little walk (this is easier to enforce if you have pets). Do anything and everything that is not related to a screen (computer, cell phone, TV) for at least ten minutes in order to allow your eyes to rest and give you a break.

Print notes or use physical study guides when possible. Take notes on paper instead of in a tablet. Zoom your classes by connecting the computer to a TV screen or larger monitor but further away. And, whenever possible, choose options that are physical rather than digital. We will never be able to completely walk away from our screens, they are too valuable a resource. So limiting their influence where we can is a big help.


There is still a lot of the school year left, and much of the world is still in a constant state of change. As we adapt to different circumstances and try to build good habits, it is important to be kind to ourselves, listen to our bodies, and take steps to protect our mental and emotional health, particularly as students. Building good study habits and setting healthy boundaries is just a small part of that, but it is a part that we can all work on a little bit every day.


Check out this and more original content available every week at TheNerdyNanny.com by subscribing to us on Facebook or Instagram.

You can also check out Eve Daniels, author of The Nerdy Nanny books, on YouTube where she gives writing and academic advice as well as updating you on all of her latest and upcoming projects.

Distance Learning vs Virtual School vs Home Schooling

As we enter into a new school year, many of us are struggling with this strange new landscape that is Distance Learning. Still others are enrolling in virtual school or switching to an entirely homeschooled option.

Last year millions of parents struggled with balancing working at home (or not at all) with supervising their child’s education over the computer. So, before we head off back to the digital classroom, I thought it was a good idea to take a moment and get some advice from those who’ve been at it longer – Home School Parents.

But, before we get into that – home school, distance learning, virtual school? What exactly are they and what is even the difference?

Distance Learning

Distance Learning is when your child is still enrolled in the same school that they were in person. They still report to the same principle, they still organize their classes the same way, they still have the same teachers for the same subjects. The only difference is that those classes are now online.

The teachers are still 100% responsible for creating course material, giving assignments, proctoring tests, providing instruction, and grading. That does not mean your child will not ask you for in-person help, just as they would in normal circumstances with any homework they might bring home, but you are not the creator of their coursework.

These classes can be at a designated time, students can be required to attend virtual classes during particular windows, a certain number of days per week, a certain number of hours, or none of the above as long as their assignments are completed.

The individual scenario will be entirely dependent on your child’s school district, their school, their teachers and the particular subjects they are taking. For good or for bad there is no real uniform system for Distance Learning, which means that understanding your students systems and their individual requirements will ultimately be on an individual basis.

The biggest downside to distance learning is that it is, ultimately, at the discretion of your child’s school. If your state, school district, and the individual school say that they are opening for physical classes, then your child is expected to show up to class as if it were any other school year. If the number of new COVID cases increases or if your child’s school faces an outbreak, then you will likely face an emergency shut down and switch back to distance learning. You have no input and your child will be expected to attend regardless of the format.

For some students, the stress and uncertainly can be more disruptive than the actual online classes themselves. If that is the case, I recommend exploring a 100% virtual school option.

Virtual School

Many states, including Florida, have provided a 100% online school option for students completely free of charge for several years now. These operate in a very similar way to distance learning where a teacher, or several teachers, is responsible for creating your childs lesson plans.

These are, for the most part, privately owned and operated companies that contract with the state to create an independent digital ‘school’. With a virtual school option, your child will actually be transferring to a different school that operates entirely online. They will have new teachers and a new system to operate in, but largely similar classes.

The advantage of these systems is that, ideally, as they are entirely online schools they have more experience in helping students excel in an online environment. In practice, however, because these are privately owned and operated companies, they can often have their own flaws and foibles. As a general point of concern, schools owned by Connections Academy are often described as ‘point and click’ educators, with a lot of screen time and busywork and little focus on actual comprehension. Other virtual schools have minimal login requirements, which can be difficult for students who are natural procrastinators and may end up with all of their course work still not done by the end of the term.

There are many options and it would ultimately be up to you and your student to explore what option might be right for your family as each is suited for different learning styles. Additionally, because they are virtual they often do not have geographic restrictions, so you are not limited to schools in your county because… well, there are no ‘counties’ on the internet. Broward Virtual School is a great option for south Florida students.

There are also other online schools that are ‘private’ and require tuition. This can range anywhere from fifty to a hundred dollars per school year to several thousand per semester. Some offer scholarships, some don’t.

Check with your state education board for complete lists of both ‘public’ and ‘private’ virtual schools that operate in your state. You can also check out listings through Niche.com, an online educational review guide that is essentially the YELP of schools.

Home School

Home School is the most unique. It is the most demanding for parents but can also be the most beneficial for students in the right environment.

*NOTE – Some virtual school programs will market themselves as an Online Home School. This is not reflective of the actual program, and they are in fact still virtual schools. It is just a marketing tactic.

With true homeschooling, parents are responsible for creating a lesson plan within state guidelines. You need to find the materials, create a lesson plan, find or create test materials and assignments, and proctor all of the material. Parents are 80% in control (because they have to follow certain state guidelines) and 100% responsible.

The advantages of homeschooling are that because your child has one teacher, aka You, they are able to work as quickly or as slowly as they need in order to master the material. The teacher is not pausing to help 30 other students at the same time. This means students may spend as little as 1-2 hours per day working on class material to achieve the same results as a traditional classroom.

Parents who want to take on homeschooling should consider a few factors before they dive in. How well their child will respond to the parent taking on the role of teacher, child age and grade, learning style preferences, how many kids you have at home, whether or not you have to work during that period, and, in all brutal honesty, whether you can handle being a teacher (more on that available after 9/1 HERE).

If you are homeschooling a younger child and a teen you could do hands-on class time with the little in the morning and by the time the teenager is up at noon you are able to help them with their assignments if needed. Likewise, if you have a middle-school-age child but need to work at home, there is absolutely nothing that says school can’t be between 5 and 7 pm.

Additionally, with middle and high school age students, once coursework is assigned, students often will not need an adult to be directly involved the entire time. They could very easily get started on assignments at 2 and then have ‘teacher’ help them with anything they struggled with later in the evening.

Home School in a Pandemic

A NOTE OF CAUTION

I do NOT recommend homeschooling for parents who have not otherwise at least considered this option before. Not only can there be a lot of time commitment involved in setting up lesson plans and finding course materials but, to put it bluntly, not everyone is meant to teach.

Being able to explain complicated subjects in a way that students can easily understand.

Knowing what material is important to focus on as a foundation of future learning and what is not.

Understand the balance between ‘helping’ students and doing the work for them.

Being able to separate the rolls of ‘teacher’ from ‘parent’.

These are just some of the things that home school parents need to be able to juggle. It is a balancing act that home school parents have years to learn as their child grows older. Beyond learned skills, some personality types are just not a good match for teaching. If you lose your patience easily or are often in a rush, homeschooling will be more difficult. But there is one additional area that is especially important for parents of older children who are considering homeschooling –

How well do you understand the materials you are teaching?

I have said it once and I will say it again, confused teachers create confused students. If your high school sophomore is taking AP physics, unless you are an actual engineer, you will likely struggle to understand the class material, let alone being able to teach it. But even at a more basic level, if you struggle to remember the difference between an adverb and an adjective how well can you actually expect to be able to teach it?


Home Learning during a Pandemic

The abrupt transition from in-person to distance learning in the middle of the previous school year gave parents and students a glimpse at the virtual education experience. And while this means that this year parents will be better armed, or at least familiar with the programs at hand, the previous academic year was also filled with panic, last-minute patches, and the overall feeling that this entire situation was, ultimately, temporary.

This means that, for many, the lessons learned were soon forgotten. Both with course material, and course operation. Both for parents and students.

That is not inherently problematic. It is a completely natural and understood psychological phenomenon (Psychology Today). Educators have long since understood that stress inhibits learning (Strauss, 2011). Not only does that affect the amount of material our students manage to learn but, more importantly, it affects our ability to learn how to effectively navigate a new learning environment.

The stress of the initial switch combined with the tumultuous months since then, our brief brush with Distance Learning can feel as though it took place in another lifetime. Which makes our memories of how to navigate the digital learning environment somewhat blurry at best.

As the weeks turned to months and new COVID cases continue to rise, many of our students will be returning to the digital classrooms soon. And with only vague recollections of how to navigate this new landscape, It might be worth getting a few tips from those who have been through the distance and virtual schooling.

Coming Soon: Top Tips for Distance Learning Newbies from Home School Veterans


Check out this and more original content available every week at TheNerdyNanny.com by subscribing to us on Facebook or Instagram.

You can also check out Eve Daniels, author of The Nerdy Nanny books, on YouTube where she gives writing and academic advice as well as updating you on all of her latest and upcoming projects.

Other Resources;

IACET

Personal Recomendations -Karen ‘High School Junior’

Jori Krulder, English teacher of 23 years

Rocket City Mom

The Tot

Parents.com

Houston Public Media

Real Clear Education

SimpleHomeSchool.Net

Confessions of a Homeschooler