Feb 10, 2017

Does Your Little Scholar Have Trouble with Homework?

Here are 5 Tips for Creating a Productive ‘Homework Zone’



There’s a longstanding debate about homework in America’s schools. How necessary is it? How much of an impact does it have on learning and retention? How much is too much?

Whether you’re a proponent of the “10-minute rule” — that’s 10 minutes of homework for every grade level — or you think schoolwork is for school, your child probably has at least some homework each night. And when it’s time to knock it out, it’s probably hard to take his eyes off his iPad, or drag her away from the PS4.

There are a lot of ways to help your child focus, but one of the most effective is to give your child a dedicated space in which to do his or her homework. A distraction-free environment designed with a student in mind can have marked results on academic performance. These five tips can help you create a stress-free homework zone.

1. Separate, Don’t Isolate
What usually happens when you leave your child alone in her room with instructions to clean it? That’s what we thought. Still, forcing her to sit at the kitchen table so you can watch her doesn’t solve the problem of distraction, either. Instead, try embracing something between total isolation and total supervision: a study area that is near to a center of family life, but also slightly removed from it. Your budding scholar should be near enough to feel supervised, but not so close that she can feel your breath on the back of her neck. Proximity to family life is reassuring, and depending on what the family is up to, it can be a spur to finishing work.

So, carve out a corner of the formal dining room, if your family doesn’t normally eat meals there. Do you have a guest room? A home office? Clear out a corner for your child. And keep the door cracked, not closed.

2. Let Your Child Play Decorator
You won’t be doing the homework, will you? Then don’t pick out the mug where your young scholar will keep his pencils. Allowing your child to make some decorative decisions will make him feel ownership of the space. So even if you hate that poster of LeBron James he wants to hang over his desk, hold your tongue. Encourage him to make the space his own: Studies have shown that (adult) workers who personalize their space are more productive, more motivated, and more able to concentrate on tasks. Your child may not be learning, but he sure is working. So let him have some say about how his workspace looks.

3. ...But Make Sure There Are Bright Colors and Lots of Light
Let your little learner pick out his desk and some decorations… but make sure he has a lamp. And if possible, situate his workspace in a place that gets plenty of natural light. A 2014 study at Northwestern showed a strong correlation between exposure to light and productivity, sleep habits, and quality of life. Your scholar will need light — and plenty of it — to adequately focus on his schoolwork.

4. Stock It With Small Comforts (But Not Too Many)
Maybe your budding biochemist likes Teddy Grahams. Or maybe her tastes run to Swedish Fish and LaCroix. Whatever her (reasonable) pleasure, stocking a workspace with a few treats can ease the transition from play to work, and may keep her at the desk longer. And they don’t have to be food: An array of small notebooks, a collection of quirky pens, or a paperweight in the shape of her favorite organic compound will all say to your child that her homework doesn’t have to be a punishment.

5. Let There Be Music!
One of the best ways to establish a “study force field” around your child is to play some music in his workspace. Quiet music can help block out the background noise of him siblings watching TV, or your spouse’s telephone conversations. Pick something without lyrics — and pick something together with your child. Letting him have some control over what music will play — Bach or Brian Eno, Prokofiev or Philip Glass — will increase his sense of ownership over the space.

Of course, following these steps won’t ensure a future Pulitzer… or a perfect score on the SAT. How you go about creating a study space for your child will depend on your family dynamic — to say nothing of your home’s architecture. But no matter what, establishing a dedicated workspace for your child validates his or her work, sending the message that intellectual effort is worthwhile and important. That’s a lesson that will persist long after long division.

Sam Radbil is a contributing member of the marketing and communications team at ABODO, an online apartment marketplace. ABODO was founded in 2013 in Madison, Wisconsin. And in just three years, the company has grown to more than 30 employees, raised over $8M in outside funding and helps more than half a million renters find a new home each month.

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