These days, schools don't waste time. Children start getting homework assignments beginning in kindergarten. As they get older, the sheer volume of homework can be downright overwhelming. And if your children are like mine, they bring work home starting the first day of school.
Location, Location, Location
Work with your child to select an ideal location conducive to homework. Here are some options and a few things to keep in mind about each one:
- Child's bedroom - many of you might assume that this is the ideal location for your child to do her homework as most bedroom sets for children come with a desk and chair. In fact, though, most bedrooms are full of distractions that may make it more difficult for your child to stay focused. It's also harder for you to casually monitor homework activity if your child is in her room with the door closed.
- Home office - if your home office is in a centralized location and is neat and organized, it might be an ideal homework center. This location would also help reinforce the difference between work and play for your child.
- Kitchen table - many children, especially younger ones, will stay more focused by doing their homework at the kitchen table with you nearby. You can answer questions, monitor homework activity and start dinner preparations at the same time.
- Dining room table - most dining rooms are in a central location but are used infrequently. Yours could be an ideal location for a homework center, especially if your child requires a more quiet place to complete her work or your kitchen countertops are a little too cluttered.
Design the Space
Once you've decided upon the ideal location for a homework center, design the space with the following organizational skills in mind:
- Use a desk or table - while your child may try to convince you that she can get her homework done while sprawled across the floor, bed or couch, encourage her to use a desk or table. This will help send the subtle message that there is a time to be focused and a time to be relaxed. A desk or table also makes it easier to ensure all necessary homework supplies are within reach.
- Create a homework supply kit - if you want to create an effective and organized homework center, you need to make sure your child has all of the necessary supplies readily accessible. These supplies include: paper, pens, pencils, colored pencils, ruler, glue sticks, and scissors. Corral these supplies in a craft box or portable plastic bin. Label it the "Homework Supply Kit," and make it clear that these supplies are for homework only. Consider letting younger children decorate the box to make it personal and more fun to use.
- Keep the space neat and organized - it is difficult for your child to be neat and organized about her homework if her homework center is a cluttered mess. Encourage your child to straighten up the area at the end of each homework session by making sure all supplies have been put back into the kit and that any leftover papers or scraps have been thrown away.
Establish a Routine
While a neat and organized homework center is extremely important, it's only helpful if your child uses it to complete her homework. One of the best ways you can help improve your child's homework organizational skills is by establishing a specific homework routine.
Routines by their very nature are meant to be done over and over again. Whatever routine you establish, it should be consistent and done the same way each day.
Take your child's personality and schedule into consideration:
- Does she need a mental break between school and homework?
- Is she involved in any extracurricular activities or sports that include regular meetings or practices?
- Does she play a musical instrument? Does she need to factor practicing into her evening routine?
- When is she more alert or focused?
An evening routine might look something like this:
- Arrive home from school
- Snack and brief break
- Homework session #1
- Ball Practice
- Homework session #2
- Bath or shower
- Television or pleasure reading
During the homework sessions, encourage your child to start with the most challenging assignment or to start with the homework for her least favorite subject. She'll be more focused at the beginning of her homework session, and she'll find it easier to complete her homework when the less challenging tasks are saved for last.
Whatever schedule you establish, it should help your child learn:
- To establish priorities with homework being one of them;
- To manage her time to make sure these priorities are completed; and
- That if she stays focused and gets her work done, there's time for television and relaxation before bed.
These are organizational skills that will help your child in school and in life.