With the school year starting up again, many parents find themselves wondering how to organize a study space to keep their kids on task and prevent those nasty letters from the teacher about missing assignments. Take a few moments to read these tips and get the year off to a good start.
Around this time of year, it’s almost impossible to avoid getting sucked into that kind of spending trap, but before you open your wallet remember that you need a system that will work throughout the year, not just for the first week or two.
How To Organize A Study Space
Chances are you already have what you need to organize your child’s study space. I say this after two decades of experience: you wouldn’t believe how much I once spent to create a homework spot for my kids!
You don’t need an entire room: Unless you’re homeschooling, you don’t need to dedicate a full room to your kid’s study space. In fact, doing so may be counterproductive. Think about what your kids do when you send them to clean their room: they dawdle, get distracted, then play with toys until the silence bothers you. At that point, you realize they haven’t cleaned a thing! The same thing happens when your kids study in a separate room, even if that room is their bedroom.
Think about YOUR needs: You know teachers expect you to ensure your kids get their homework done. Your kids want you to help them and maybe even look over their homework once it’s done, too. So when choosing your child’s homework space, think about the tasks you’ll be doing while they’re busy. Do you usually spend that time catching up on email? Finishing your own work? Making dinner? You’ll want to choose a spot for the kids where they won’t be underfoot, but where no one has to trek across the house every time there’s a question.
By cyber-secure: If your children will be using a computer or tablet to do their homework, set up their study space where you can keep an eye on what they’re seeing. A back bedroom means you can’t monitor what’s on their monitors so adjust your router’s parental controls.
Find a work surface and seating: Your kids don’t need a fancy roll-top desk with dozens of cubbies where they’ll just lose stuff. They might not even need a desk at all! I’d bought both of my kids their own desks only to find they preferred working at the kitchen table — a solution that worked best for me, too, since I use homework time to do my own work or cook dinner. (See below for how we solved the paperwork storage situation.) What they do need are a flat surface and a comfortable chair. Skip the rolling chairs or exercise balls if those will be distracting, but do consider using a cushion for hard-seated chairs.
Get good lighting: If your child will be working at a desk then consider an adjustable lamp that holds supplies, too. Incandescent lighting puts out a lot of heat, which leads to drowsiness, so look for a CFL or LED bulb that fits.
Gather supplies: Pens, pencils, crayons, markers, and a ruler are essential for most students. Older kids may also need index cards, highlighters, and staplers. If your child will be studying at a desk, use a drawer organizer to keep supplies sorted. We’ve found a rolling file cart with a supply organizer in the top drawer works just fine, plus I can roll it into the coat closet when homework is done.
Plan for paperwork storage: Another benefit of our rolling supply cart is being able to create a file folder for each class, along with folders for longer-term projects. When graded papers come in, they get filed into the class’ folder for future reference. Studying for tests is much faster now that my son can find all of the assignments he needs to review. No space for a rolling cart of your own? Then use an old binder with dividers to hold graded assignments.
Keep clocks silent: Some kids stay on task best when they can see a clock, while others find it oppressive. Only you know which will work best with your child, but if you use a clock be sure it’s a silent one. No one likes to hear tick-tock-tick-tock when they’re trying to think.
Establish a system: My daughter liked to get homework out of the way so once home she’d empty her backpack, file her papers, and hit the books. My son, on the other hand, needed time to unwind but would forget about paperwork he was supposed to give to me. We compromise by having him empty his backpack, file papers, and set up his books for studying as soon as he gets home — then he gets a break. This way I see the relevant documents and his space is ready to go when he is.
Reset it each night: A tidy study space reduces distractions and keeps your child from losing paperwork in the mess. Teach your child to put papers and supplies away every night when homework’s done. If you’re using the kitchen table for a study space, this isn’t an issue since everything has to be put away before dinner. If your child will be working elsewhere in the house, make a habit of checking their work area each evening and don’t let them move on to watching TV or gaming until it’s neat.
Now that you know how to organize study space don’t put it off — having a study area ready at the start of the school year will get your kids into good homework habits and get the year off to a great start.