Back-to-School Tips, Part 1: Creating a Homework Station
School is back in session! And with that, comes homework and a wide range of emotions that surround that activity: the excitement for your child to reinforce what they are learning all day, the joy in seeing your child’s brain grow exponentially . . . and the agony of cajoling them to get it done. We ride that roller coaster daily!
Before becoming a parent, I heard my friends with children moan and groan about homework – and I never thought homework could be this challenging. Our son is only in 4th grade and math homework is already getting progressively harder (Common Core has an interesting way of teaching concepts!). This New York Times post recently analyzed parents’ anxiety with math – one mom rates homework by how many glasses of wine it takes to peel herself off the ceiling after it is done: “That was a two glasser!” Here’s raising a toast to all of you parents, along with a few tips to make homework a more enjoyable experience for everyone.
In this first post of back-to-school tips, I will outline key strategies to help your child get it done so you can all do a victory dance at the finish line.
Tip #1: Creating a Homework Station
One of the most important things you can do is create a dedicated space for your child to do homework: a homework station. Since I live in LA, I’ll give this project a movie analogy:
The first step in creating a homework station is scouting the right location. Where in your home is best? Is there enough light? Is there enough space?
Younger children most often prefer to do homework in Your Home’s Central Station: where foot traffic flows, dinner is being made, pets are underfoot, phones are ringing, kitchen appliances are whirring . . . you get the idea. The kitchen or dining room table is the usual choice – and this is totally OK, especially since you’re nearby to give them assistance if they need it.
For older children, it may be time to carve out a quiet space in the den or living room, or encourage them to start using a desk in their bedroom. This location allows them to focus without distractions (smartphones parked elsewhere) and get their work done.
Whatever location you choose for your child, be sure that there is good lighting and enough space to spread out their books, paper and supplies . . . which leads me to:
Like a movie set, every homework station needs its own arsenal of props: pencils, pens, crayons, markers, paper, scissors, glue, etc. If your child is doing homework in a central location, a homework caddy is the perfect solution. This way, they’ll have all the supplies they need at their fingertips and they won’t have to get up every few minutes to retrieve another item they need. There are so many creative ways to make your own homework caddy – have fun with this part!
With homework, your child takes the starring role, and you, as the parent, are the supporting actor. For younger children, you are there to provide assistance, explain concepts and support them in this amazing new role with a continuously growing responsibility. Some children benefit when the parent is right there with them, which is called “anchoring” or “body-doubling.” You can tell your child, “Mommy is doing her homework now (e.g. answering work emails on a laptop computer) and it’s time for you to do your homework, too.” This anchors the child to the space, helps them focus and, ultimately, enables them to get homework done. If you play your supporting role right, you will make your little star shine!
Here’s to happier homework days ahead….stay tuned for tip #2!