Create a homework nook
Organization, personalization, and lighting are key

Gone are the days when the best place to do homework is at the dining room table or a desk in the corner of the basement. Today's homework requires computers, printers, and Internet access, maybe even copiers and faxes. That little desk, with its chrome lamp and single file drawer, isn't going to cut it anymore.

To create a homework nook that can turn homework woes into productive study time, think about the size of your home and your children's particular requirements. Do they like stiff chairs or a comfy ones? What type of desk best suits their needs? And what location would minimize distractions?

"When it comes to creating a homework area, experiment to see what type of setup works best for your child's homework habits," says Stacy DeBroff, chief executive officer of Mom Central, Inc. and author of The Mom Book Goes to School. "Most importantly, make sure your child's study area is free of distracting clutter," DeBroff says.

Let there be light
Unless they need to use a family computer, many kids prefer to do homework in their rooms, although not necessarily at a desk. Some kids like to snuggle into pillows to study; others prefer to spread everything out on the floor. Wherever they study, they absolutely need good lighting.

Make sure the arm of your child's desk lamp is long and flexible enough to shine where you need it and to get out of your way when you don't need it. Consider lighting products that feature "full spectrum" illumination, which is very close to natural lighting and helps to reduce eyestrain.

And color!
Bright paint on the walls or colorful seat cushions can make the space more attractive. They can add color and practice visualizing complex concepts with EXPO dry erase products.

Organization is key
Regardless of the size of the homework space, it is important to pare down the clutter and keep only the basics on hand. Adding personal cubbies, hooks, and shelves will keep kids organized and keep space tidy and ready for other uses. Creating filing areas for new assignments, paper, books, and reference materials not only makes the space neater, it makes it easier for your child to get work done.

The homework nook should also include an easy-to-use, brightly colored calendar system for long-term projects. Science projects and term papers can't be done overnight.

Help children set specific goals for long-term assignments.

Personalize the space
Get your kids involved in making the best space for them to do their work. A bulletin board or magnet board lets

kids decorate the space with their favorite assignments and artwork. You can also paint their names on their chairs or bookshelves.

Homework Shirt
Ken Haller, M.D., a St. Louis pediatrician and professor, suggests kids start the school year by picking out a homework shirt - a simple item of clothing that gets them in the mood to hit the books. "There are a lot of examples in life when you dress a certain way to tackle a given task. You frequently dress formally to go to a wedding. Athletes wear uniforms to play their sport. As so many kids are on the run, putting on a special shirt to do homework is a concrete reminder that it's time to hit the books," Haller says.

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