Time flies doesn’t it? One minute you’re helping your baby learn how to walk, the next minute she’s in Kindergarten and before you know it – homework becomes an everyday event. One of the best things you can do to foster a reverence for learning is to create a customized study area for your children.
Not only does this begin to build an academic culture in your home, when done right, it also creates a soothing and distraction-free area where children can focus on their studies.
Your study area can arise just about anywhere, as long as there’s enough room for an uncluttered working space. Perhaps you’ve decided to add a message center or small home office space in the kitchen, or maybe you have a corner of a living room or the child’s bedroom that you can carve out.
I’ve found that creating a small work or study space in a guest room space can be a good idea. Getting the child out of their room and into a quieter, “special” space can help them focus on their work. In any case, here are the basics for making a study area where your child can get to work.
- Study your child. We are all very different when it comes to how we work and study best. Make sure you create a study space that is tailored to your child’s needs, and not your own. For example, some people work best in absolute quiet and silence, while others actually do best with a little background music or hubbub around them. Some need to sit still while others (kinesthetic learners and higher-energy children) need to wiggle a bit. Your child’s learning style and studying preferences should lead the way.
- Choose the space. Obviously your home will be a great predictor of where this space will be. If you have a small townhome or apartment, using a spare room is probably out of the question. But your goal should be to find a space that can accommodate a small desk or work surface, an appropriate chair or yoga ball (more on that later) and the essential work tools. You also want to take things like sound and lighting into the equation.
- Choose the furniture. Make sure the workspace is ergonomically comfortable for your child. Typically, the work surface should be about waist-height and the chair should be one that fits your child well (no dangling feet!). If your child likes to wiggle, consider using a yoga ball or swivel chair, so they can move a bit as they work. Motion anchors thought for kinesthetic learners and many younger, active children – so if they can’t more or wiggle a bit while they work, they’ll have a difficult time concentrating and staying on task.
- Eliminate clutter. Clutter is the enemy in any home design. It’s distracting and confusing. It tires the eyes and the mind. Your child will be particularly susceptible to clutter so a designated homework station should house only the necessary items – paper, pencils, pens, dictionary, and the homework at hand. Even markers, staplers, tape, glue, etc. should be stored in an accessible drawer or cupboard until they are needed.
- Keep supplies stored close. If you use a table, rather than a desk, make sure the cursory homework supplies are stored within arm’s reach, if possible. Every time your child has to leave the area to get something, or get up to ask you where something is located, takes his/her mind off the task at hand.
- Create space for organization. For the most part, organization is a learned skill. You can facilitate that skill in your children by teaching and implementing organizational tricks. Use a large wall-calendar to track and organize homework assignments and test days. If the homework area is in a family room or living room, you can use a desktop calendar instead so it doesn’t take up wall space. Make sure there’s a large, easy-to-read clock somewhere close so they can keep themselves on schedule. In and out boxes can help both of you keep on track of what needs to be looked at and/or signed and what is ready to be returned to the teacher.
- Sanctify Homework Time. Finally, you lead the way and set the tone, so do your part by making homework time a sacred time in the household. The TV should be off, cell phones should be placed on silent (the child should not have access to their cell phone until homework is complete), social media interactions are put on hold, older or younger children should be equally beholden to respecting the homework space and quiet time, etc. The less distractions the better so you child can really sink into the work and do their very best.