By Olivia K. Pitkethly, MA, LMHC | Photo Courtesy of Olivia K. Pitkethly
Welcome back to school! New teachers, new friends, new activities! Why not create a new space for your kiddo to continue to enhance his learning experience?
According to “Homework In America,” a 2014 Brown Center Report on American Education, homework for students in grades 3 through twelve takes an average of one hour per night and rarely exceeds two hours per night. I doubt they factored in the time it takes to actually get your child to sit down and complete his homework! Nevertheless, you can help him make his space a little more inviting with these ideas.
The right time
When does your child prefer to do his homework? (I can hear my own children shout “Never!” as I write this.) Right after school? Before dinner? After a shower? Recognize the time that your child feels most refreshed and clear-headed and have him tackle his assignments then. Some children may even benefit from breaking up their homework. They can tackle one subject at a time, taking breaks in between to eat dinner, shower, do extracurricular activities, etc.
Your child should have a designated space free of distractions to complete his homework. The kind of space a child needs may depend on what grade level he is in. Elementary schoolers may need to be in a more central location so parents can easily offer assistance while attending to their own responsibilities, while students in middle or high school may do better with a more secluded space. Make sure the TV, phone and other electronics are out of sight, aside from a computer if needed.
Exercise in creativity
If you want the space to be more inviting, enlist your child’s help. Help him to find his favorite place in the house, whether it is the kitchen table, his room or a sunny spot on the patio. Decorate the area with a splash of his favorite color. If he has chosen a common area in the house, create a mobile homework station for him. Transform a plain plastic filing cabinet on wheels by adding colorful contact paper on the top and funky labels for each drawer. You can also convert a few IKEA spice racks into decorative bookshelves by painting them and arranging them on the wall.
Finding the right supplies
Have an ample supply of pens, pencils, erasers, highlighters, markers and paper in the designated homework area. For older children, keep a dictionary and thesaurus handy, especially if the space is free of non-essential electronics. If your child needs to use a tablet or computer, be sure to keep the chargers in an easily accessible space. Pin up a calendar to help your child remember important due dates or test days. Or, if your child would benefit from an even larger visual cue, consider creating your own corkboard calendar. Using ribbon, you can section the board off into a grid pattern with seven rows. Label each row with its corresponding weekday and pin up colorful reminders as needed.
Repurpose old furniture
When my son was entering elementary school, I inherited my late grandfather’s old writing desk and chair. I painted the desk in one of his favorite colors, lined the drawers with bright contact paper, changed out the hardware to something more modern and added a seat cushion for support. This way, he had his very own homework spot designed just for him. If you prefer not to disturb any of your current furniture, take a trip to a thrift store or a yard sale and give an old piece an update and a new home.