Just because you’ve checked off every item on your child’s back-to-school list doesn’t mean your work is over. Parents also need to provide a good at-home study space, which is just as essential as back-to-school supplies, according to the U.S. Department of Education.
The first step to creating a study space is to consider the child. “The space needs to be a place where the child is comfortable and where the best results are obtained,” says Christi Proctor, designer on The Learning Channel’s decorating show Trading Spaces. “You need to know your child’s own study style and create a space where he can learn.”
Once you’ve identified the space, make it a place where homework can be done easily and comfortably.
• Lighten up!—Make the space easy on the eyes so reading and other tasks can be performed effortlessly. If necessary, add a desk lamp to your existing lighting to make the area brighter.
• Creature comforts—If your child can’t reach the work surface, he’ll be uncomfortable, which makes it harder to learn. Try different seating. Some children work best in a stiff chair in front of a desk, while others prefer lounge chairs or a bench at the kitchen table. “The child has to be comfortable, so he’ll want to be there,” Proctor says.
• Stockpile—Keep homework supplies close at hand. Even if you don’t have a dedicated desk drawer, you can make a portable supply box to keep pens, pencils, construction paper and glue sticks handy during homework time—and tucked away on a shelf afterward.
• Noise, or distraction?—Determine how much background noise your child prefers—or may need to concentrate. “Some kids need utter silence, while others want the comfort of music or the sounds of the family,” says Stacy DeBroff, author of The Mom Book. But turn the television off. “It’s too distracting, for your children and you,” DeBroff says.
Some homes have dens, extra bedrooms or offices that would be ideal study spaces. But a kitchen table or desk in the bedroom can be just as effective as long you provide your child with room to work, light to see, necessary supplies and a comfortable environment in which to learn. And of course, stick around—your child may need help with his algebra homework.