catholic homeschool teen

How to Boost Study Skills in Your Homeschool

Four Critical “Student Success Skills”:
What Homeschooling Parents Can Give Their Teens To Make Learning Easier

As homeschooling parents, we often ask, “How can I help my middle or high school student learn faster, understand the coursework, and do well in their courses?” Parents and researchers have found that focusing on a few top-tier skills can accelerate learning and make school more enjoyable.

Better focus, listening, and note-taking are just some of the skills that help middle and high school students learn faster and do well in school. When our homeschooled students master a few critical success skills, their abilities increase exponentially, leading to success and newfound enjoyment in learning.

Skills for All Students

Whether your student is studying algebra, working to understand Shakespeare, or preparing for life in college or the business world, specific skills are essential. One thing is for sure: developing these skills and implementing good habits ensures our children’s success in school and life.

The good news is that researchers have identified four critical skills and habits that are surprisingly simple to learn and use.

What it Takes to Learn Well (and more easily)

The four overarching skills on the “excellent student” list include active listening, active reading for comprehension, note-taking, and test-taking.

These key skills—along with attitudes, behaviors, and organizational “tricks”—do make learning faster and easier. With these four overarching skills, our teens can learn how to complete homework well, remember and apply the information they’ve learned, and even ace tests.

1. Active Listening

Active listening is a technique that helps students fully focus on the listener, hear what’s being said, learn the meaning of what’s behind the words, ask good questions, and show the speaker that “we’re getting it.” By using their eyes and faces, body language, reflective speech, and questions, students learn how to fully engage with the teacher—to understand what’s being said and increase communication.

2. Active Reading for Comprehension

Active reading includes several techniques that help students come to the text more prepared. It also helps students parse out the text in a manageable way and read with interaction (annotations, questions, and more). The results of active reading include not being overwhelmed by a text, gaining a higher understanding (more quickly), and even knowing “where to go in the text” and “what to do with the text” to study later.

3. Note-Taking Skills

Good note-taking involves subskills like identifying headlines, grouping ideas, summarizing concepts as you go, defining words efficiently, and structuring notes to increase memory and prepare for later study (for tests and exams). Good note-taking results in two main benefits: immediate learning that “sticks” and a ready-made study guide for later use.

4. Test-Taking Skills

Test-taking skills aren’t just about what happens during a test; the skills happen before and after the test, too. By learning what to do days before a test to prepare, what to do during the test to be calm and focused, and what to do after the test to “take the most learning forward” for even better results next time, all-encompassing test-taking skills give students a stronger sense of readiness and confidence.

A Course to Make it All Easier

Here at Homeschool Connections, because we want to help your teen master these four critical skills, we’ve created a course called “How to Be an Excellent Student: Note Taking, Test Taking, and How to Get an A.”

This short but powerful recorded course for all middle and high school students is designed and taught by Professor Erin M. Brown, MA, MFA, an educator of 40+ years, curriculum and program developer for all ages (including university programs), and author of 18 books, including Simplified Writing 101: Top Secrets for College Success. 

It’s no secret that students who want to make learning and test-taking as easy and successful as possible need to take this four-session course.

What’s to Learn?

Students learn how to master the four key skills of active listening and active reading, best practices for note taking and annotation (very helpful for any in-person or live online course or learning situation), critical reading skills for comprehension to retain what is read faster and with easier recall, test-taking skills, and more.

Along with the four skills, the course also teaches your student critical attitudes, behaviors, and organizational “tricks” that are critical to their success. Each attitude, behavior, and organizational trick is laid out in a way that helps your student understand that doing these things makes learning easier and makes schooling and interacting with others enjoyable.

Why Take the How to Be an Excellent Student Course?

There are so many reasons why this course can be a help to your student – and here are a few to consider:

  • If your student struggles with remembering what’s heard in class or with any adult communication, the course shows students how to fully engage, remember, and interact at the highest levels during classes and interactions with all adults.
  • If your student struggles with reading and remembering the material, whether in books, articles, or online, the course shows how to read so that the information both “sticks” and can be recalled more easily.
  • If your student has struggled with note-taking or complained about not knowing what to take notes on, the course teaches them how to think about the material, what to write on the page, and how to organize it for better access and recall.
  • If your student finds it difficult to prepare for tests or exams adequately, students learn what to do before, during, and after tests and exams to score well confidently.
  • If you want your student to “get back into the swing of things” before the school year starts – because of the course’s shorter length and availability online in recordings, taking the course in August before the school year begins can be a fantastic way to refresh your student’s mind and prepare him or her to jump into learning again.
  • If you have a recent graduate who is about to begin college in the fall, and you know the assignment load and pacing can be much less forgiving than in high school, then this course is a way to prepare the student for the shift in learning fully.


It’s clear that the skills we’ve been discussing can give your student a successful high school career that prepares for life far beyond the teen years. Who knew a short course like this could have so much impact? Most agree: the investment is well worth the time.

To learn more or register, visit the course registration page here.

How do you instill good study skills in your homeschool? Join me and other homeschooling parents at our Homeschool Connections Community or our Facebook group to continue the discussion!


Resources to help you in your Catholic homeschool…

Catholic Homeschool Classes Online

Homeschooling Saints Podcast

Good Counsel Careers

The Catholic Homeschool Conference

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Homeschooling can seem daunting at first, but take it from us: The joy and freedom you gain from homeschooling far outweighs the challenges.

With flexible online classes, passionate instructors, and a supportive community at your back and cheering you on, there’s no limits to where your homeschooling journey can take your family! 

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