Wednesday, August 3, 2011

A Home Office for Students

A recent article in The Costco Connection, the magazine distributed by the warehouse chain to its customers, suggests that families set up a "home office for homework," something we think is a terrific idea. If you think about it, homework and school are a student's job and, just like a parent who may need a dedicated home office space to do the work of his or her job at home -- full-time or outside the regular work day -- students need a dedicated space to enable them to work most efficiently.

Whether this student office is in the student's own room, or in a more public part of the home, is a decision that families need to make based on the age of the student, the space available, and a particular student's need for direct supervision and ease of distraction. But even when families decide that the kitchen table is the best place for their children to work, there should still be a dedicated area for supplies and storage for each student.

Since this is prime time for sales of school supplies and dorm equipment, it might be helpful to consider the following when you are creating a home office for your student:
  • Different students need different kinds of chairs. At our offices, our assessment rooms have both fixed and wheeled chairs, since research has shown -- and we have observed -- that moving about while working can help students who struggle with attention to focus on the task at hand.
  • For older students, who may be working for more than an hour a day, proper support for wrists and back while using a computer is important.
  • Each student should have his or her own storage area -- a file box with dividers for each subject is ideal -- for papers that need to be retained (for studying for a final exam, for example) but are not needed currently. Students should be encouraged to go through their backpacks not less than every couple of weeks to remove papers that can go into this longer term storage.
  • A large white board, perhaps with a calendar, is a helpful way to prioritize tasks and to keep track of deadlines.
  • A dedicated place for supplies -- pens, pencils, scissors, glue sticks, paper, etc.-- can be individual to each student or centralized for the entire family. Procrastinators will have fewer excuses when the supplies they need are readily available.
All but the youngest children can become involved in setting up their home office. Taking the time to prepare before school re-opens can help reduce homework battles in the fall.

Photo used under Creative Commons by Lasse Rintakumpu

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