With kids of all ages assigned so much homework, you'll certainly want to help make every homework session as efficient as possible. This often begins with creating an official "homework spot." In a recent study conducted by Houzz, a website for home decorating and design, 52 percent of respondents say the designated homework spot in their house is the either kitchen or dining room table. When asked why, parents say, "to keep an eye on progress."
Houzz experts maintain that "in addition to parental supervision, creating the right study space within the home will not only help kids get their homework finished, but can also help them learn more effectively." The study notes 13 percent of parents report their kids' chosen homework spot is "sprawled on the couch or family room rug," which the New Jersey Education Association says "should be re-evaluated." NJEA reports that the most important elements to a successful homework space are comfortable seating, enough work surface, a place to store materials and a distraction-free area.
Distractions are the real culprit. If kids can see the television from the dining room table, which occurs often in an open home layout, they will surely be distracted by whatever is on the screen, even if it's the evening news. Kids may not watch any programming that's on, but the sounds from it will certainly prevent them from focusing fully on their homework questions or reading.
To create a fully functional, efficient homework station, follow these easy tips:
--Choose the perfect homework spot. It might be a desk in a child's bedroom or a kid-sized desk in your home office -- a station set up specifically for homework, with everything the child needs right in easy reach. Keep school supplies in desk drawers so children don't have to become distracted getting up to look for these items when they need them.
--Ensure privacy. Make it a rule in your household that when kids are at their homework spots, they're not to be interrupted. Questions can wait until after they've finished their homework, and requests to play will also not be allowed. Set a specific time span and perhaps hang a sign on the door to the room with the homework spot displaying when the session will end. "We made a chalkboard with my son's name on it, reading: 'Shhhh! Jeremy is WORKING! He'll see you later!' And we write the homework end time on the chalkboard," says a mom of three, Emma Frank. "Believe it or not, it was my husband who would always interrupt him, until we put the sign up as a reminder."
--Decide whether kids should do homework together or alone. If kids can't share a space without distracting one another, set up homework stations for each in different rooms, dividing all necessary supplies so kids have everything they need in their respective desks or homework caddies.
--Think about comfort. A chair with a cushion can make it easy for kids to stay still and focus on work intended for a desk, like math and writing. A setting like a comfy chair may be more conducive to reading. Houzz experts say a separate chair also provides a welcome change of scenery for kids.
--Keep computers out in the open. Positioning a computer so the screen is visible to you keeps kids on the online pages where they should be and discourages distracting online browsing or messaging with friends, Houzz experts explain.
--Make it easy for kids to be organized. When kids have a designated spot for their backpacks and then an inbox for important papers that need to be signed by you, efficiency is improved. The Houzz experts also recommend a bulletin board for tacking up important papers and allowing kids to decorate their boards with inspiring photos and quotes. Storage bins and inexpensive plastic tubs keep kids' supplies orderly, and a label-maker helps kids to personalize their storage needs.
--Involve kids in decorating their homework spots. When kids have a say in such decor options as the color and pattern of their desk chair cushion, their computer skin and other elements of their homework station, they have a sense of ownership over the space and may be more likely to spend time there. Encourage kids to express their personalities in their homework spaces with approved decor items. "My daughter loves scrapbooking-style stickers for her bulletin board, so when she gets a good report from the teacher or a good grade on a test, we give her a pack of new stickers for her homework zone," says Denise DeRano, a mom of two.
--Add a personal touch of your own. Every now and then, leave a note on your child's desk expressing how proud you are of him or her. These notes in your handwriting are very meaningful to kids.
If your child already works in his or her bedroom at a desk, assess it for distractions. You might want to set a rule about no cellphones in the workspace, or instruct your child to declutter the space for easier working conditions.
With a personalized and organized homework spot, children can complete their homework each day with greater ease, focus and learning.