Establishing a Good Work Environment at Home

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You have signed up your child for extra-curricular activities, stuffed his new backpack with all the school supplies a teacher could ask for, and purchased new shoes and clothes, which, of course, he will outgrow before Thanksgiving. You think you have tackled every item on your back to school list, but there is one thing left to do. Establishing a good work environment at home is an important way to support your child's education. This means organizing a work space at home as well as establishing a routine for the family to follow during work time. Even the most organized Mom can learn some new tricks to keep her kids on track as the school year gets underway.

Designate a Work Zone Establishing an area where your child will work each night is the first step to success. We know that routine and structure help children's growth in a number of areas so naturally having a homework routine will help her academics. It could be the kitchen table so you are available to help while cooking dinner or a desk in her room. Make the area comfortable with lots of room for books and papers and a comfortable seat. The area should be well lit.

Keep it CleanMany children do their homework in a common area of the house, which naturally tends to accumulate clutter such as newspapers, school notices, and other personal items. Use baskets or table-top file storage to keep these papers in order. Clear the kitchen table of any centerpieces or decorations. Do not set the table for dinner until homework is done. Keeping the work area clean helps your child keep his thoughts clear.

Caution! Kids at Work! Establishing rules for behavior during work time can be just as important as defining the work space. If your child is working on homework, the television, computer, iPod, and cell phone should be turned off. If she has a lot of work, you may want to schedule break times. You can set an amount of time or number of homework pages to complete before she can cash in on her break. Make sure she has snack before she begins since we know hungry children have difficulty concentrating. It is also important to establish a routine for siblings who finish homework first or don't have any homework. Keep a box of puzzles, books, and toys that come out only when you need your child to be occupied for an extended period of time. You can also send siblings to use the computer and reinforce academic skills with online games or educational software. Remember to keep the pets occupied, too. Let the dog out or have an older family member take him for a walk.

Keep Supplies Handy Utilize a plastic storage unit for commonly used supplies, such as writing utensils, scrap paper, glue, scissors, calculators, a dictionary, a thesaurus, and index cards. A table top organizer with drawers will cost about $15 and a rolling cart is about $30. Having these supplies handy cuts down on the time spent looking for them and in turn, time spent off task. It also creates a sense of independence for your child as he can access the materials without your help.

Time management is an important, and often challenging, skill for children to aquire. Balancing social and academic events can be difficult for your child to do. Another way to support an organized and effective work environment at home is to help your child manage all the events in her life. Keep a calendar in the most commonly used room of the house. Use a different color pencil for each family member and keep track of important events, like sports practices, school concerts, or homework assignments. Encourage your child to check the calendar each day for upcoming events, homework assignment due dates, and tests.

Although families these days are incredibly busy, it is important to avoid using your car as a spot for homework. If you are waiting to pick up a child from practice, find a library close to the field where one child can do homework while the other finishes up his sport. The car is not an optimal location for doing homework and your child will not do his best work here.

Remember to encourage your child while she is working. A pat on the back, a high five, or a simple "Great work!" will boost her morale and motivate her to keep working.

Each year, families say "We can't believe how fast the summer went!" Before you know it, you will be back in the swing of the academic year, complete with games, concerts, and tests. Like it or not, homework is on its way and you can use these ideas to support a positive work environment in your home.

Jennifer Cerbasi teaches at a public school for children on the autism spectrum in New Jersey. As a coordinator of Applied Behavioral Analysis programs in the home, she works with parents to create and implement behavioral plans for their children in an environment that fosters both academic and social growth. In addition to her work both in the classroom and at home, she is also a member of the National Association of Special Education Teachers and the Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development.