by Karen Sibal
It’s important to select a regular time for your child and yourself to do the homework. Will it be right after school, from 4 to 5 pm, or after dinner from 7 to 8:30 pm? The time you pick may depend on other activities you have planned after school, the schedules of other siblings, and your availability (i.e. if you work outside the home or if you’re at home with the kids). Try sticking to the same homework time every day and focusing on getting the homework completed within this time. This helps establish a routine along with good, lifelong time management habits.
Where homework will be completed is an important consideration. So far, we’ve gotten away with using the kitchen table – it’s been handy for both of us, as I can often help my daughter work through problems while cooking dinner. The drawbacks include a lot of distractions for her – the phone ringing, not to mention the time she wastes searching for pencils, erasers and whatever else she needs to get the job done.
This year, we’ve decided to designate a homework space away from the kitchen, primarily because the workload is increasing as she enters a higher grade. Nevertheless, the homework area that you choose should be where it’s fairly quiet and where your child can concentrate her best – but ideally within earshot of you so that you’re able to supervise or offer help.
The ideal homework area should include a proper desk, an ergonomic chair, and a reading lamp at minimum. If space permits, a cozy armchair is a good investment – it can provide a nice spot for taking a break or reading lengthy chapters and studying. It can also be used when you come to check on your child’s work.
Storage bins are the perfect solution for systematizing your homework gear. All the essentials like loose paper, folders, calculator, dictionary, stapler, tape, paper clips, glue, markers, crayons, ruler, geometry sets, pencils and erasers can be stored in size-appropriate bins. Other helpful things to consider are a trashcan and recycling bin, a school calendar to track homework assignments and some trays to sort work.
Computers are becoming a necessity for children in higher grades. When choosing a computer, make sure the computer screen is at eye level and the keyboard at a comfortable height. You’ll need a printer and may want to consider a copier, scanner, CD or DVD player too, but remember to plan for sufficient electrical outlets to meet your needs.
Involve your child in setting up the homework area. If you’re shopping for a new desk or lamp, get her input. She may even have some ideas on how to organize and decorate her special space – a couple of plants, posters, or cushions can help make the area inviting and inspirational. Once you’re organized, make sure your child is accountable for keeping her homework space tidy – whether it’s each night or once a week. Keeping the area clutter-free means she will be able to find things easily and will be able to get her work done faster.
Distractions that are essential to eliminate include: the TV (yes, it should not be anywhere near the homework area where it can be heard by your child) and the telephone. And then there’s food. Some kids like to have a continuous snack while working which can interfere with quality work being done, not to mention juice spills over assignments. Try and get snacks out of the way before starting, and if the hunger pangs strike, schedule a break time and eat away from the homework area. This way, you’ll be eliminating the likelihood of greasy fingerprints on homework and you’ll have a cleaner work area.
Karen Sibal is a freelance writer, researcher and communications consultant. She is the owner of Sibal Writing and Consulting, a firm that specializes in public policy research, effective communications and web solutions. Over the past 15 years, Karen has done work for local and provincial governments and several not-for-profit organizations. Karen has written extensively on children’s issues and has recently helped with launching an association for mothers and children in her community. She is a member of the Halton-Peel Communications Association and has also served as the managing editor of a government child welfare journal. Karen is currently authoring a children’s book series for preschool children and keeps busy with various community projects.
Karen lives with her husband and two girls, ages 2 and 8 years, in Oakville, Ontario Canada. For more information about Karen, please visit her web site at www.sibal.ca or call 416-580-9097.
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