Story by Alyssa Chirco, Photo by Kim Stahnke
Homework may not be your child’s favorite part of the school year, but it’s no secret that completing those after-school assignments can lead to academic success. To help the students in your household develop good study habits and tackle their homework with confidence, set up at least one well-stocked study station within your home.
“A study space that is relatively distraction-free helps students focus on the assignment at hand,” says Ann Dolin, M.Ed., author of “Homework Made Simple: Tips, Tools and Solutions to Stress-Free Homework” and president of Educational Connections Tutoring. “And it’s important to engage kids in the process of figuring out where those spaces should be.”
Dolin recommends that parents and children work together to identify a few different study space options in the home before a new school year starts. She also points out that such spaces don’t need to cost a lot of money, and that big ticket items like a desk aren’t necessarily required.
“A lot of students don’t even want to do homework at a traditional desk. They’ve been sitting at a desk all day and they prefer comfort. It’s okay if your child is lounging on the couch but still productive.”
Wondering where the students in your home can study successfully? Potential ideas include:
1: A Central Command Center
“Elementary and middle school students, especially those who are doing homework online, should always be in a central location where their activity can be monitored,” Dolin says. In this case, a small desk in the kitchen or family room can serve as a study space, especially if there are cabinets for storage. Think about where you keep items like calendars, school papers and the family computer. You probably already have a central command center of sorts; stash some scissors, pens, paper and glue sticks there, and you have a simple, inexpensive study station.
2: A Family Work Zone
Some families designate an entire room in their house as a work and study zone. You can equip the space with computers and printers, as well as a table or desk for writing and big, comfy chairs for reading and studying. Art and craft supplies often are found here, too, since these rooms are designed with both creativity and productivity in mind. Kids who like company and a bit of background noise while doing homework thrive in this environment, since siblings often are close by working on projects of their own. Loft spaces, basements, attics and spare bedrooms all lend themselves to becoming a family work zone with the right furniture and accessories. Your family room can double as a family work zone, too. Store supplies in a shower caddy and buy a few portable laptop desks and your study space is ready to go.
3: A Rolling Homework Cart
Your homework headquarters doesn’t have to be stationary. Invest in a rolling homework cart so your student’s assignments and supplies are always within reach. Notebooks, file folders, writing supplies, paper and even laptops and printers can be stored on these carts, especially if you invest in one with at least three shelves. With this option, you enjoy the added bonus of easy cleanup and out-of-the-way storage, since the cart can be rolled into an inconspicuous closet or alcove once homework is completed.
4: A Kitchen Table
Despite objections from parents, the kitchen or dining room table remains a popular homework spot. There’s just something so appealing (and convenient) about spreading your papers across the very surface where your family eats dinner. But is this really an ideal study station? “Some kids like the hum of a busy area and it makes them very productive,” Dolin says. “Kids will naturally gravitate to the place that helps them the most. As long as they’re productive, it’s okay.”
5: A Multi-Purpose Home Office
When it comes to homework, Dolin identifies two types of kids: those who need a quiet space free from distractions, and those who are more productive in the hum of a busy area. For those who need absolute quiet, Mom or Dad’s home office is ideal. Standard office supplies already will be on hand, and the room has already been designed with work in mind.
“Most important for a homework space is having all the necessary tools and resources like pens, pencils and a dictionary,” says Ronda Franz, teacher and mom of three. “A designated homework space helps kids get in the mindset that it’s homework time.”
For younger students, clear a space on the desk or tuck a small table and chair into a corner of the room so they can work on their projects while you work on yours. To make a home office work with older students, assign designated office hours so every member of the family knows when he or she can expect to use the space.
6: A Desk in the Bedroom
According to Dolin, the bedroom is not a good study space for elementary and middle school students, who still require parental oversight.
Teacher John Yates agrees that it’s best to choose a place where parents can interact with their child if help is needed. However, a desk in the bedroom can work well for high school students who need a designated work space away from the hustle and bustle of the rest of the family.
“For older kids,” Dolin says, “it’s really about helping them manage their time, not necessarily their environment.”
If you do have a younger student who prefers to study in the bedroom, check in frequently and monitor grades closely. Some independent learners can be successful studying at a bedroom desk, but a student who gets distracted easily is better off in a location where you can supervise their progress.