Back to school how-to: create an effective homework space

Chances are, you’ve got a place at home where you pay the bills, plan the weekend and take care of your “homework.” Your kids need their own dedicated space for their homework, too. Whether it’s a corner of the kitchen table or a separate room, your child’s homework space matters.

“One of the most valuable things parents can do is provide a set space for students to do their homework — and turn off the TV and video games,” says Glenn Kessinger, a middle school instructional facilitator in Yakima, WA. A dedicated space helps kids:

• Focus on tasks
• Improve concentration
• Stay organized

Here are four ways to create a homework space:

1. Minimize distractions

It’s easy to be distracted when you’re faced with something you don’t want to do. Now imagine what it’s like for your kids facing a pile of homework when games, friends and TV shows are competing for their attention. Minimize distractions with a homework space that’s as quiet and secluded as possible. Declare it a schoolwork-only zone where computers and devices are used expressly to complete assignments during specific hours or all the time.

Pro tip: “Allow your child to have some say in the matter of where the area is and how it’s set up,” suggests David Bakke, an Atlanta-area father. Giving a little ownership in the location increases the odds they’ll actually use it.

2. Make it practical

If you have the space and budget, create a small office-like environment with a desk and chair, printer and ample storage for school supplies. Can’t spare the space full time? Make it easy to access and put away all the materials. “Use a tote or storage bin to store school supplies,” suggests Los Angeles-based “Organizing Guy” Bill Bliesath ( “Choose a size that stores all the items without too much unused space — it’s easier to store in a nearby cupboard or under the bed.”

3. Maximize function

Select an area with plenty of natural light and room for an adjustable table, desk or floor lamp ample task lighting. Then create a work surface that’s big enough to spread out on. “All of your main school supplies should be within reach, and anything your kids don’t use on a daily basis should be kept off the surface,” advises New York-based organizer Barbara Reich, author of Secrets of an Organized Mom. “A homework space should be a place where a child wants to learn, not a place for clutter and mess.” Organizational items make it easy to grab just what your child needs without rummaging through a lot of other stuff. “A desktop organizer or drawer insert keeps all of the school supplies separated and neat,” she says. For younger kids who often prefer the floor, use small containers for pencils, glue, markers and other supplies.

Pro tip: Sharing issues? Let each child choose supplies and organizers in their favorite colors, or personalize them with paint pens.

4. Manage inventory

Nothing’s worse than realizing you’re out of a critical supply the night before an assignment is due. Designate a space — a shelf in the linen closet or a dedicated cabinet, perhaps — for art supplies and school supplies so your child doesn’t get distracted searching all over the house for something. And check the inventory weekly or monthly. This technique ensures you always have what you need and guards against buying supplies you already have.

Setting up a homework space for your kids doesn’t necessarily mean planning an addition to your house or giving up your guest room. A little thought about what your children really need to complete their assignments and do their studying — along with some smart shopping ideas — creates the right environment for learning and achievement.