As the school year gets going, kids will be coming home with homework. Whether they need to do the assigned reading, complete worksheets, or finish an assignment online, they will need a space to get their work done. Giving kids a well-organized, pleasant space for studying, as well as time and support, will ensure they can do their best work.
Parents can help their kids establish good study habits by planning ahead and setting up a workspace and routines for getting homework done.
Workspace for Studying
Giving children a designated space for schoolwork is beneficial. Having a space that is already cleared off and set up for homework allows them to get started without fussing with cleaning and organizing before they can work. If homework space needs to do double-duty as a dining table or living space, set up bins or other containers to hold homework materials. That way, students can pull out a single container to get started rather than hunting down everything they need from other areas of the home.
Make sure kids have enough space for their materials, including a laptop or Chromebook. Set homework space near an electrical outlet so they can easily plug in their computer if they need to. Adjustable lighting, such as multiple desk lamps or overhead lights with a dimmer switch, can help them see to work and prevent glare on a monitor screen.
A workspace should be comfortable — but not so comfortable that it’s easy to doze off. Teens might prefer to work on their bed, but that can be distracting and lead to misplaced papers or books. Younger kids may need furniture that’s the right size for their smaller bodies. Child-sized chairs, tables, and desks can make it more comfortable to sit and focus on work.
Décor to Enhance Learning
In addition to making sure the homework space has adequate lighting and plenty of elbow room, giving the space pleasant touches can be useful as well. Well-thought-out décor can improve mood and help kids enjoy being in their study space.
Color psychology explains how color choices can set the mood for a workspace. Bright, light colors like pale blues and greens have a calming effect. Highly saturated colors like emerald green or royal blue may feel energizing. Warm colors like reds and oranges make rooms feel warmer, even if they are the same temperature as the rest of the building. Choose paint and furniture colors that enhance a student’s mood as well as suit their preferences.
Adding art or other wall décor can make a space more interesting. Parents should be thoughtful about what decorations they add to a homework space. One study showed that young students in a classroom with bold décor didn’t perform as well as students in an undecorated classroom. Select art that is pleasant but not distracting.
Plants and flowers are another element that can enhance a study space. Research shows that plants improve concentration and memory. Plants in a workspace can also reduce stress. In addition, plants are natural filters, and they can improve indoor air quality.
Many students, especially teens, try to study with a lot going on around them. Kids may have music or TV on in the background. They might have their phone nearby so they can see messages coming in. These distractions can affect their ability to learn.
A study from 2006 found that people who try to learn new information in a distraction-rich environment learned less efficiently. Distractions affect how the brain stores information. While students may be able to take in new information despite distractions, they may not be able to recall it as easily as if they learned it without distractions.
Distractions also lead to poor time management. Answering texts, taking calls, scrolling social media, and clicking links to videos can all take time away from homework. Wasting time on distractions can lead kids to stay up later to finish homework or not finish assignments before the due date.
That’s not to say kids need to do homework in a silent room with no interruptions. Playing music while studying can be beneficial because music improves mood. For most people, instrumental music is best for studying because music with lyrics can be distracting and reduce reading comprehension.
Some students work well when studying with a group of friends or classmates. It’s important for parents and students to honestly assess homework habits, figure out what is helpful, and eliminate negative distractions.
Establishing a Routine
Setting a basic routine for homework can give kids a solid framework for getting their work done. Set up expectations for what time kids should plan to do school work, how many breaks they can take, and what they’re allowed to do with free time before and after school work.
A routine doesn’t have to be the same every day. Busy schedules mean that on some days, kids will need to do homework after dinner, while on other days, they can get started right after school. It can be helpful to have a written schedule that lists activities, family events, and homework times so students know when they need to study each day.
Parents and caregivers can add deadlines and test dates to the schedule. Asking kids to look ahead at upcoming schoolwork demands helps them manage workflow. They can prioritize projects with earlier due dates and set time aside to review for upcoming tests. Parents can check in on their progress and encourage them to stay on track to meet deadlines.
A routine also means parents know when they should be available to help with homework. Adults don’t necessarily have to be in the same room as their kids, but kids should be able to come and ask them for assistance. Adults should also try to avoid activities such as work or important calls that can’t be interrupted during homework time.
The homework routine should also include reasonable breaks. Let kids know they can stand up and move, get a drink, or spend a little time with a family pet. Study breaks are helpful for students of all ages.
Positive Study Breaks
Marathon study sessions with no breaks aren’t good habits for students. Taking breaks for physical activity or a snack is beneficial for the learning process. Research shows that breaks for physical movement improve learning.
Mindfulness techniques for calming the mind and body are also helpful as a study skill. A 2019 study showed that using mindfulness to manage academic stress helped students stay focused and engaged so they could stay on track academically. Tactics such as breathing exercises or focusing on an object to calm the mind can give students a tool for settling their thoughts and refocusing their attention.
Other activities can provide a helpful break from studying and give students an opportunity to use self-care to manage academic stress. Purposeful study breaks can include activities such as:
- Time in nature
- Listening to music
- Spending time with pets
- Stretching exercises
- A short phone call or meet-up with friends
- Taking a walk
- Taking a relaxing bath or shower
Many teens may want to hop on their phones when they take a study break. Research shows that using social media to relax while studying isn’t actually helpful. In fact, it may be detrimental to studying. Participants in a 2019 study who took a phone break while doing school work took 19% longer to complete the assignment and solved 22% fewer problems than participants who did not use their phones during breaks. Adults may want to encourage teens to find a different way to relax during homework time.
Getting Extra Help
For some students, an ideal study environment and common sense organization tactics are only the start of academic success. Kids with certain learning differences may need additional assistance managing schoolwork. Parents who have concerns about persistent homework issues or poor grades can talk to teachers and counselors about getting extra help for their students.
Extra help may include assessments and support for learning disorders such as ADHD or dyslexia. For other students, tutoring in challenging subjects can aid them in grasping the subject matter. This may require changes to the study routine or doing homework at the tutor’s office instead of at home. Families can adjust their existing routines and expectations to meet these new needs.
Good study habits will help kids succeed in school, from elementary school through higher education. Giving them a firm foundation of skills for independent learning is a great way to ease their path in school. These same skills can carry over into the workplace and help them achieve lifelong success.