After-School Special: How to Zone Your Home for Learning
As children head back to school, it’s back to reality for parents too. Now is the time to organize our homes for the homework that’s soon to come. Advance planning and a few simple strategies, the experts say, can help boost productivity and reduce the frenzy. Parents out there know what I’m talking about — there’s that special time of day when you’re monitoring homework, making dinner and maybe trying to entertain a rambunctious younger sibling, all before rushing off to sports practice or dance class. So take a deep breath and try these expert-approved tips at home.
1. Create multiple homework zones. Here’s the good news: You don’t need to have one designated homework space that’s fully tricked out with all the bells and whistles. In fact, education expert Ann Dolin, author of Homework Made Simple: Tips, Tools and Solutions for Stress-Free Homework, says it’s
“The thing that matters most is that there aren’t a lot of distractions in the room.”
best to have two to three spots in the home where children can work. “Moving around to different places can actually improve productivity,” she says.
Divide homework time between the kitchen table and the home office, for example. And Dolin says parents don’t need to spend a lot preparing a space. “It doesn’t have to be spectacular. The thing that matters most is that there aren’t a lot of distractions in the room,” she says.
To ease mobility among the various spaces, organize school supplies (pens, highlighters, scissors and such) in a portable container. Dolin suggests a plastic shower caddy from Bed, Bath & Beyond. Here the supplies are cleverly positioned on a rotating lazy Susan. Corralling all the supplies in one place before the child sits down also helps avoid unnecessary interruptions later. A portable supply caddy or bag is also great if younger siblings often do homework from the soccer field sidelines.
2. Change up the chairs. Judy Shincarick, director of the Occupational and Physical Therapy departments at The Lab School of Washington agrees that a change of scenery can boost productivity, but believes a change in chairs can help too. She recommends different chairs (or no chair at all) for different homework activities. Because most children can’t sit still in one spot, like a chair, for too long, breaking up the monotony is important. “A solid chair, pushed in at a solid tabletop, is a good place to start,” she says. But it’s only one scenario.
Some children are able to focus better sitting on a ball chair, gently bouncing as they work. The subtle movement engages core muscles and allows for increased alertness. “Ball chairs can help with focus or be a distraction, depending on the child,” says Shincarick, who advises parents to consider their child’s individual needs and adapt as necessary.