How to Create a Productive Homework Zone in Your Home

School is in full swing and so is the homework.

No matter the age, all kids need a little help when it comes to getting it done. And no, it’s not your job to do the homework, but you can help by setting up a productive environment for studying at home.

Step One: Get your child involved.

Don’t expect your child to use a homework “system” that you think is ideal. Linda Goldman, a professional organizer based in Highland Park, stresses time and again that it’s a waste of time to set up an organizational system that doesn’t suit the user.

Talk to your child. Ask her where she likes to do her homework and where she is most productive. Next time your son sits down to do his work, observe his habits and what readily distracts him. “Kids need a space where it’s comfortable for them to work or they probably won’t use it,” Goldman says.

Step Two: Explore a few options.

Some kids need the structure of a desk, others want to spread out on their bed. Some like to read curled up in a cozy chair but need a table to spread out for projects, science or math.

“It doesn’t hurt to have a couple homework zones,” Goldman says. If your child is older and more independent, consider using a desk in his bedroom or a family computer room. For younger kids, use the kitchen table or dining room. Both spots offer the advantage of keeping you on hand to help when needed.

Step Three: Set up for success.

If your child is using her desk, Goldman suggests working with them to clear out the most accessible drawers of cherished “stuff” and refill them with the supplies they will need (including pens, pencils, lined and graph paper, sharpeners, scissors, stapler, index cards, paper clips, calculator, ruler, highlighters, Post-it notes, Wite-Out, markers and colored pencils).

Other suggestions she offers include:

  • A bulletin board nearby where kids can post things they need to reference like sports/activities schedules and a month-at-a-glance calendar where they can record test dates and due dates.
  • Open shelving for current textbooks/school books and reference books.
  • A desktop file box with hanging files for each subject. This allows kids to put away papers they may need later for studying like completed/graded homework and assignments, notes and tests (while at the same time encouraging them to clear out their backpacks).
  • A paper tray for loose papers. If there are papers they want to leave in the homework area but don’t want misplace, they know where to look later.
  • If your child is a roamer, think about setting up a portable supply box that he can take from place to place, and designate a spot to store it.
  • Remember, kids sit inside all school day under fluorescent bulbs. Don’t underestimate the value of natural light and fresh air.

Step Four: Tweak the system as needed.

Every child is unique, even in the same family. One child might need a quiet room without a lot of visual distraction, while another really does concentrate better listening to music. Keep the dialogue open and let them know you are there to help them succeed, not to define how.