Smart Space

By Diane Schlindwein

May 14, 2015 4 min read

Going back to school means getting back to homework. That's why it's important to set up the best homework space possible before the beginning of the academic year.

When you are purchasing supplies for school, remember to buy extras to keep at home. Before the first day of school, stock a portable homework caddy or bin with the essentials your child will need for homework: an assignment book, paper, pencils and pens of several different colors, highlighters, markers, crayons, scissors, glue, tape, a ruler, a calculator, a stapler and a reference book or two.

However, finding the best place to do homework is as essential as furnishing the right supplies. "It is very important these days to supervise your child's homework time," says Beth LaFata, a longtime school counselor and adviser. "It should be done at a consistent time and place, as that builds good habits and a routine."

"The place to do homework should be away from the distractions of TV and video games. The cellphone is a big distraction, and I would recommend having your child put that aside during homework time," LaFata says. "The place your child does homework should be where you can see him and supervise. Bedrooms are quiet but have too many distractions, and it is hard to see your children, especially if they close the door."

"The good old kitchen table, where we grew up doing homework, is still a good place," she says. "It has the proper lighting and space to spread out the work."

However, the type of work your child is doing might dictate where he should do it. "Writing and math should always be done at a table, but reading and studying for a test should be done in a quieter, more comfortable space -- but not on a bed," LaFata says.

Usually, it's a good idea to ask your child to help you set up the homework area, says another childhood expert, Katherine Lee. The child who has a say in how the workspace is set up will be more willing to do homework there.

Clutter makes it harder to concentrate, so make sure the area is organized and neat, LaFata adds. Many families have a laptop and a USB drive on hand -- and some schools send them home with students -- so have a reliable Internet connection nearby.

Finally, use a portable calendar or a bulletin board that holds each child's school calendar. The calendar should include not only homework, project assignments and test dates but also fun events that he or she can look forward to at school.

Let your student work without distractions or annoyances. Remember that it's hard to concentrate with dogs barking, siblings playing nearby or music blaring.

LaFata says parents should check on their children's homework progress to make sure they are staying on task. "However, it is not good to sit with them the entire time, as they will not be able to work independently," she says. "If there is a lot of homework, set up a break time with goals to have a certain amount of work done before they take a break."

By helping your child to create an easy-to-use homework space, you'll help her to learn good study and work habits that she'll use both in school and for the rest of her life.

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