Study or Revision? What am I actually nagging my child to do?

The Battle of Half-Term  

‘Study’ vs ‘Revision’.

Do we understand what we are actually nagging our children to do?

As a teacher with over 25 years service; as the Principal Director of my own tuition company and as a tutor to many young GCSE students, I welcomed the thought of actually guiding my own son through this process.  After all, who is best placed to maximise his chances of success but his own mum.  I cherished the vision of us studying in tandem, side by side and ticking off the ‘To Do List’ of our jointly constructed ‘Revision Timetables’; him walking into the living room armed with ‘Post-it Notes’ saying things like – ‘test me Mum.’

That was in the distant and hazy days of primary school, when I was allowed to attend his school assemblies, when he volunteered conversation and I hadn’t filled his room with devices such as a gaming PC, PS4 and a Smartphone; all of which I would gladly douse with petrol and set alight in the hope of recapturing that child in the Year 6 Leavers’ Assembly.

I first did my GCSEs in 1988, yes, the very first year they were introduced and historically the year ‘they gave out grade A’s like advice at a wedding’ and I achieved, if I say so myself, very good, solid A*-Cs and the whole experience was relatively pleasant, fruitful and not actually that memorable.

31 years later, I find myself at the chalk-face again, as GCSEs are back in my life but this time surrounded by whole world of panic and trauma. Not me personally sitting them but my 16 year old son James, whose attitude to the whole exam thing is, shall we say, less than engaged. I, on the other hand, feel I am reliving 1988 all over again but this time it actually matters.

I have found myself, over the last ten months becoming increasingly neurotic and panic stricken regarding his exams and this is acting in direct correlation to his lack of concern.

The more stressed I appear to become, the less he actually seems to do. I can’t remember my mum ever doing anything like this for me, I have no recollection of either of my parents actually engaging to any great extent in my education or life choices, they let me get on with it. On reflection, I did okay but that was the 1980’s and a lifetime ago!

As a parent, I have cleared entire shelves in W H Smiths of stationery (I have every conceivable colour of Post-it Note); I’ve filed and collated his notes; made and laminated revision timetables and not a day goes by when a Revision Guide from Amazon doesn’t get delivered. Ask me anything on The Long March in China, anything!

My entire communication with him at the moment is littered with the following phrases or variations of such, to the point that I am actually boring myself.

  • Have you done any revising today?
  • Where you up to with your revision?
  • Have you actually attempted any study?
  • Please study.
  • Please revise.
  • I’ll pay you if you’ll come off the computer.
  • Please Revise, Please Study, I am begging you.

Only when he broke the sponsored silence of 2019 and spoke, did he venture the most crucial piece of information – “I don’t know how to revise and what do you mean by study?”

That immediately make me stop and think…

Study? Revision? What is difference? – Have we actually got a handle on what it is we are nagging our children to do this half-term?

“Study = new and fresh self-learning”
“Revision = Going back over the ‘study’ to learn it”

So, as far as study and revision go, both are equally as important but you can’t have one without the other.

Study is when you self-teach and add value to your existing knowledge. You learn more new stuff about your subject through a range of methods.

These might be:

  • Study notes –  like Sparks or York
  • YouTube tutorials – like Mr Bruff or Stacey Reay
  • Testing yourself using past exam papers or making notes on the mark schemes
  • Looking up exemplar responses. Then, you condense that knowledge to a way of easily remembering: posters, post it notes or cue cards.

Revision is exactly what the word suggests, re-looking (re-vision) again at previous study, that is why your study has to be done in the first place.

Make sure you have a really good selection of:

  • Notes
  • Homework
  • Teacher’s feedback
  • Classwork books and folders and then collate it all into a way of remembering it easily like you would with your study.

Study is new and fresh learning, revision is going back over the study.

I find the students (clue in the title) who study more and find new stuff to add value to their learning gain the better grades.

Classwork, homework and “reading back over your notes” isn’t enough, learn some new stuff.

Be under no illusion that this period of self reflection has brought me to the conclusion that I should allow James to take responsibility for his own study; park my helicopter style parenting and simply trust him.

No chance!

I will shortly venture into his room, tap him on the shoulder, motion in sign language for him to remove his headphones and disengage his weapon. I will then ask him to study, explain to him that I remove the PS4 (which he knows full well I won’t) and remind him that these exams won’t pass themselves.

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