As promised in our last blog, 6 Habits to Help Your Child Transition from School to Home, this week we are featuring a special how-to blog, on creating an organized homework station for your student.
The location of this homework station is important, as you want it to be a central and neutral space that everyone has access to, and which is visible to all. If possible, choose an area with some counter space AND vertical wall space. Some people opt for a rolling caddy that can be rolled into another room when guests come over.
The perfect organized homework station should have the following features:
- A large calendar for planning after-school activities, scheduling actions and due-dates on longer school projects, play dates and other important school related info. Place the calendar near the homework station and write in legible writing so that everyone in the family can view events and other important dates. Refer to it every day, even if just to cross off the day before and show your child how time is passing.
- A whiteboard is a great tool for kids to write their homework and projects on, plus it’s also a great way for older kids to show their parents where they are with their homework without having to be asked. We recommend a large one on an easel, but a small one near the homework station works too.
- A homework caddy. There are lots of great ideas out on the web, like this Simple Homework Caddy from blogger Clean Mama. The contents of the caddy should reflect the age of your students. For example, an older child’s caddy could include a calculator and graph paper, while a younger child’s caddy might contain crayons and blank paper. Using a homework caddy means that students should not need to take anything out of their backpack other than their homework folder – in fact, the backpack should stay in the landing area. This minimizes migrating objects into the home and keeps them prepared for the next day. The caddy can be moved to the kitchen table or wherever homework is done, and then moved back to the homework station after homework is finished. Their homework folder can be returned to the backpack on the wall, which should not have come into the house at all during this process. The key is for the backpack to be placed and stay in the same location at all times, to eliminate morning stress looking for it.
- A folder for “in process” projects. This is a designated area for longer term projects that have multiple steps over the course of multiple days. The folder should be brightly colored and visible. This folder should always be kept in the homework station. If you have an older student, purchase multiple folders and label them by class so that they can keep projects separate. The folder means that they can bring their in-process project to school and keep it organized and in one place if needed – just make sure they bring it home!
- An organized area for “completed” work. One of the big causes of paper disorganization (and resulting stress of loosing paper) is when “action” paper is mixed with “reference” paper. To help kids stay organized, create a separate area for work that is finished. Keep a recycle bin near the homework area so that easily tossed items get recycled right away. My clients often struggle to throw away kid’s work that has been recently completed and graded, even though they don’t plan to keep it in the long run. If that is the case for you, this designated area is a good way to keep those papers organized during this waiting period before the paper gets old enough to be considered ready to throw out.
- Create a “memorabilia” area for papers that you definitely want to keep. This can be in the form of a folder or box in the homework area, or even somewhere else in the home. I recommend placing an under-the-bed bin under your child’s bed, and placing all school related memorabilia there. When the school year is up, collect those items into a folder or portfolio (this Quick and Easy DIY Art Portfolio should do the trick) and label it with the school year, and put it into storage. Then the box is empty and ready for the next year! Take pictures of bulky items that you don’t have room for (dioramas anyone?). There are lots of good apps out there for keeping these organized, like the Keepy app. Again, keeping memorabilia out of the homework area helps to keep the action paper separate and front of mind, and to keep piles from forming.
We hope these tips help you to set up new habits for your student’s homework area, and that they have lots of success in the upcoming school year!