Four Elements of a Cool and Functional Homework Space

"Once (children) get into the habit of working in the appropriate area, their attitude toward homework will change"

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- Lee Canter and Lee Hausner, Ph.D. in their book "Homework without Tears: A Parents’ Guide for Motivating Children to Do Homework and to Succeed in School"

You’ve heard about it. Maybe you’ve even experienced it. The kicking, the screaming, the cajoling, the teeth-pulling that happens every school year, yes, it is homework time. The time most parents dread because of the energy spent and amount of time lost persuading their son or daughter that yes, homework is important and why, because I said so. Creating a cool and functional homework space may not make your son or daughter jump for joy at the thought of doing homework, but they might be more inclined to do homework if the space has a few key elements to it.

Homework Space Tip #1- PRIVACY

If there’s anything “un-cool”, it’s trying to work on an important assignment/project and being interrupted by a little brother/sister, the ringing telephone, the blaring television, or the myriad of other distractions that abound in a typical home. There’s a reason those old library study areas had dividers/walls/partitions on the desks and a middle-aged lady with a scowl and an ever-present finger raised to her lips. It was to help the student maintain focus and block out visual/audible distractions.

Privacy is important. Just ask ANY teenager. The most privacy of course is in the youngster’s bedroom but in a lot of households, children share the same bedroom so using a little creativity might be required. The main idea of creating a cool and functional homework space is to make it an area that is quiet and separate from the leisure/family spaces. Using a simple partition can convert one corner of a bedroom/basement to a nice, separate homework space. This combined with a family agreement that when anyone is working in the space, then it’s time to turn the volume down or go outside with the noise.

Homework Space Tip #2- RESOURCES

The type of resources necessary will depend on the assignment or project, but for certain a healthy supply of paper, pens, and pencils (w/ erasers!) is a must. For art and other colorful projects you may also want plenty of colored pencils, markers, and construction paper on hand. A computer is also nice for research and other online help but not necessarily critical. In fact, the computer might become more of a distraction than a helpful tool so, as the TV disclaimer goes, discretion is advised.

Other good resources include a dictionary, thesaurus and a clock. A clock is especially helpful so the student doesn’t have to get up and ask what time it is every 5 minutes. It also can be used, especially with younger students, as a motivational device for self-discipline or as a way of curbing frustration (“if you spend more than 5 minutes on this problem just move to the next one and I’ll try to help you with it after you’re finished”). A puzzle book or two might also be nice for those times where your child just wants to relax for a few moments but you’d rather they avoid mind-numbing video games like Halo 3 or Call of Duty.

Homework Space Tip #3- CLEAN & NEAT

Math is hard enough without having to hunt for a calculator or a ruler every time you need one. Keeping resources in just a few containers or labeled drawers can cut down on frustration and stress in an often stressful situation (especially if you waited until the night before to start that 5-page research paper, like I did from time to time). Whiteboards might not be a bad purchase – they make a great surface for putting short to-do lists and working out a problem together. A corkboard can be a good tool for hanging significant items or a small calendar showing important due dates. Make sure a good-sized waste basket is nearby to battle the paper monster that is always lurking. Good organization is a skill that can be taught and modeled…the earlier the better.

Homework Space Tip #4- COOL-LOOKING

This one may be the most neglected element but it’s important for students to feel like the space is “theirs” in some way. Getting their input on how to decorate can be a fun way to get them to “buy in” to the space. It could be as simple as displaying a poster or a few pictures that they love. Putting the workspace by a window can also lift the spirits and provide a visual break from staring at a desk/computer all evening.

However the homework space looks, the important thing is that your child finds it comfortable and easy to use for whatever assignment or project may await them this school year.

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