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The Perfect Place for Homework: Keys to Your Kids’ Success

08/28/2014

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Good study habits are a fundamental part of the learning process, and environment plays a big role in how well children study at home. Just as each child is different, so are their study space needs. The essentials include a quiet location, good lighting, an organization system, comfortable furniture and connectivity.

Here are some tips for creating a great study space.

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The Essentials

Location is key. The right area is especially important for easily distracted learners and learners with Attention Deficit Disorder (ADD). Though some may study better with background noise or people nearby, for most, a study space should be a quiet, low-traffic space free from distractions.

Study spaces should be well lit. The U.S. Department of Education recommends a room with bright light. Natural light is excellent, but for easily distracted learners, a large window may not be ideal. Whether light is natural or not, it should be bright and adequate. Desktop lighting is a great way to add style and shed light.

Study spaces need organization and filing systems. These work well for middle and high school students, allowing them to sort assignments by subject. A special box for markers or a drawer for construction paper helps teach organizational skills to younger students. Wall hooks for backpacks or shelves for binders and notebooks help keep items from cluttering up the space.

A good study space is inviting and comfortable. A desk is most comfortable if it reaches waist level when the child is sitting. If waist level cannot be reached, use a cushion. To reduce eyestrain, ensure computer monitors are at least 18 inches but no more than 30 inches from the child. Select a chair that allows the child to sit with his or her feet on the floor. If the child’s feet don’t reach the floor, consider adding a small footstool.

Now, it’s time to think about style and personality. This is the fun part. Involve your children in the decorating of their space. Allow them to choose the colors of folders or pick out school supplies. Save some wall space for a large calendar, where children can keep track of assignment due dates and events.

“I’m big on keeping something on the wall that reminds them of what they’ve accomplished, whether it’s a certificate, a medal, or something like that,” says Michelle Bufkin, certified academic language therapist and study skills expert who works with all types of learners in private practice and through Southern Methodist University.

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Know Your Type

Determine your child’s learning style. The basic types of learners are auditory, visual, and kinesthetic. There are online references, quizzes, and educational tools to help parents evaluate their child’s learning needs. Of course, meeting with a study skills teacher or counselor is often the best way to get personalized recommendations.

“I’m a real fanatic about having a wall or desk clock,” Bufkin says. “So many times, when students start studying, they’re not very efficient with their time. Having a visual reminder of how much time has elapsed can help refine whatever skills they come to the table with.”

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Auditory Learners

Auditory learners learn by hearing. Recording and playing back lessons is often useful for these students. Auditory learners also benefit from reading aloud and talking through a lesson with a parent or study partner. For auditory learners, study spaces should be a quiet place for reading and reciting aloud. It also may be helpful to have a computer or media player nearby, so the child can listen to recorded lessons or watch instructional video. “For auditory learners, noise-cancelling headphones can be so important,” notes Bufkin.

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Visual Learners

Visual learners learn by seeing and benefit from taking notes, writing important ideas and definitions repeatedly, or color-coding and outlining. Visual learners also need a quiet study space. These children learn best by spending quiet study time alone. Visual learners also need an adequate amount and variety of paper for taking notes, diagramming, and outlining. Visual learners also study well with flash cards, so keep a box of index cards handy. “For visual learners, color is a big thing,” Bufkin says. “Highlighters in all different colors are huge to have in a drawer for visual learners.”

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Kinesthetic Learners

Kinesthetic learners use their sense of touch to learn. These students function best in lab settings and with hands-on techniques. They study best when they are able to take small breaks and are less likely to sit still for long periods. Kinesthetic learners may need more storage for items like globes, models, memory games, and flashcards. “A study space for kinesthetic learners needs to accommodate the type of space, so that if they need to get up and pace or do wall presses to think clearly, that’s available to them,” says Bufkin.

Creating an organized and functional study area can be fun for parents and children, and having a space that works for your child is a great step toward educational success.

In terms of personal style, kids will use a space more if they’ve had some input into its design. Allow them to choose the colors of folders or pick out school supplies, and save some wall space for a large, fun calendar, where they can keep track of assignment due dates and events. – By Molly Price

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