How to set up a home study center

Deciding where your child should do homework is as important as deciding when it should be done. A good study center includes certain basic features. Beyond these, be creative in designing a study area to suit the needs of your child’s learning style. Here are some points to consider:

Lighting
Good lighting is always important, but some children prefer brighter lights than others. Set up a desk lamp at the table or desk where your child works.

Seating
Good posture helps concentration. This isn’t to say that your child can’t slump into a beanbag chair to read a story, but for optimum attention to homework, a straight-backed chair at a table or desk is best.

Noise
Although some children can study in the midst of TVs and radios blaring, other children playing, dogs barking and parents conversing, it’s better if the study center is relatively quiet. If possible, it should be located away from where distracting toys are kept. A “Do Not Disturb” sign can be a nice touch.

Study Materials
Often the first few minutes of homework time are wasted as children search the house for materials they need. You can put an end to this by stocking the home study center with writing instruments, erasers, paper, note cards, paper clips, pencil sharpeners, correction fluid, and other supplies. Make a small chalkboard or dry-erase board available for exercises that would normally be done on scratch paper, and hang a bulletin board for posting calendars, important notices and directions for special projects.

A Computer
Computers are becoming more and more common in the home. Computers are helpful for accessing information for reports and projects, completing writing assignments, and practising basic skills in reading and mathematics. If you decide to include a computer in your child’s home study center (or if you allow him to use the family computer), you’ll also need supplies such as printer paper, ink cartridges, blank CDs or disks, and computer software.

When you’re making the decision about where to set up your child’s study area, also think about whether this is where you want to set up a computer with Internet access. If your child will be allowed to surf the Internet without your direct supervision, set up the computer in a central place in your home, so you and others can easily see what your child is viewing and doing online.

Reference Materials
The study center should include a small reference library. For children in kindergargen and first grade, a “pictionary,” or picture dictionary, is a good idea. For children above first grade level, supply a dictionary written at a level your child can understand. Check your local bookstore; good dictionaries for students are published by HarperCollins, Houghton Mifflin, Simon & Schuster and Merriam Webster. You might also want to select a thesaurus for your child; Harper Collins, Simon & Schuster, and Merriam-Webster all publish reputable student thesaurus. A set of encyclopedias saves trips to the library; the World Book is an excellent resource for older elementary school children, since it’s easier to read than most other encycloepedias. An atlas and a globe can also be useful. If you have a computer, consider purchasing an encyclopedia or dictionary on CD-ROM/DVD, or buy an online subscription to an encyclopedia such as World Book or Encyclopedia Britannica. Multimedia reference works are becoming more readily available (and affordable); interactive encycloepedias and video almanacs can bring learning to life for your child. If you have internet access, encycloepedias, dictionaries, almanacs and ohter searchable reference materials are easily accessible.

Your Presence
Generally speaking, the younger the child, the more likely it is that he will get down to work if you’re nearby. You shouldn’t have to hover over him during every homework session, but if he’s at the kitchen table while you’re preparing dinner, or at the dining room table while you’re reading the newspaper in the next room, the opportunities for distractions will be fewer. And you’ll be around to answer questions and provide encouragement. Older children with a proven track record of doing their homework without constant supervision can be allowed to study in their room or another place of their choosing, as long as it meets the criteria previously outlined.

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