Kids thrive on structure. One of the best ways to encourage their educational success is to create a quiet space in your home where they can concentrate on their homework. The age of your kids will dictate where you should create your homework nook and how hands-on you will be during homework time.
For young kids (elementary school age), set up a homework space that is near the kitchen so you can prepare dinner while watching and helping them. For children that are a little older (middle and high school), create a space somewhere else in the house where they can have a little privacy while they work. Here are a few strategies for creating a fun and functional homework space:
Get organized, and get rid of anything you don't need. If you already have an office nook off of your kitchen, this is a great space to set up your homework station. Clear away clutter, papers, files and knick-knacks to create a virgin space.
If you need to buy new furniture, let the kids pick it out so they can feel ownership of the space. What kind of desk would be most useful to keep them organized? Will they need a stepstool for their feet? Put up a corkboard where your children can post artwork, photos and notices about school events. Post a calendar on which everyone in the family writes down upcoming special events and keeps track of her own schedule. "The most usable and desirable homework nook is one that's designed with the child in mind," says Kathy Koch, Ph.D., president and founder of Celebrate Kids, Inc.
Use small baskets or bins to hold useful supplies such as pencils, pens, rulers, crayons, tape, notebooks and paper. A stapler, wastebasket, recycle bin and mechanical-pencil sharpener are other good items to keep on hand.
Help your children focus by eliminating all potential distractions. Turn off the TV and radio. Give toddlers and preschool-age kids a quiet activity that will keep them entertained. Make sure older children who are in their own unsupervised study area don't have access to video games, cell phones, television or other technology that could steal focus from their work.
After a long day at school, your kids need a boost with a healthy snack. Keep some tasty and nutritious options available while they work.
Make sure your kids know you are available to help them if they need you. If they are struggling with a specific subject, sit down with them to monitor their progress. On the other hand, if they need to work independently, try to refrain from hovering. Give them the space they need.
Homework doesn't have to be a chore. Stay involved with what they are working on and talk to them about ways that their lessons apply to daily life. Take a break from a math worksheet and do some real-life fractions by slicing up an orange or an apple. Fold up paper airplanes and talk about the physics of how and why they fly. Ask your kids to help you measure the ingredients in a complicated recipe. If you keep an upbeat attitude about learning, your children are likely to feel the same way, too.
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