10 Ideas for a Smarter Homework Station for Students of All Ages
Professional home educators and long-time school teachers share their top tips for creating a conducive learning environment at home. Put their tips to the test by creating a dedicated homework station and watch your home — and your kid — get a little smarter.
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Dial Back the Distractions
One of the best ways to keep your student on task while learning from home is to keep their workspace clutter free and eliminate outside distractions as much as possible. Sherri Conti is a kindergarten teacher with more than 30 years of experience. She says the secret to creating a successful homeschool station is to keep on hand only the materials necessary to complete each lesson on the table. “Items such as pencils, crayons and notebooks are okay but try to keep toys and technology to a minimum while working with elementary-age students.” Instead, “Use their favorite toy, movie or outdoor activity as an incentive to stay on task throughout the day," she says.
Be Organized in Style
Homeschool educator and lifestyle blogger Markëta Howard instructs her two children and has mastered the art of (stylish!) homeschool supply organization. “The learning materials in our homeschool room are organized on shelves and displayed on trays or on small book stands,” she says. "I organize our materials by subject, then by age to suit each of my child’s needs. In our upstairs loft, we have a separate space that houses many of my children’s books (organized by color), along with a table and their morning basket work. Finally, we set up our basement to include space for gross motor skills activities." Follow Markëta on Instagram @schoolathomeandbeyond for more inspiring photos and home education tips.
Keep a Calendar
Middle and high school students are gaining their independence and as such, often require a unique approach for homeschool education. High school teacher Caitlin Carter works with students between 9th and 12th grade and shares that organization and personal planning are key for teens. Her advice? “Hang a whiteboard calendar on the wall of their homeschool station so your student can write down due dates for all of their assignments. This is helpful because it allows them to keep track of what is due all in one central location.”
Learn More: How to Make a Giant Chalkboard Calendar
Have a Strategic Setup
Keep the lesson plan in mind when setting up a homeschool station for the week. Homeschool educator Markëta Howard keeps chaos at bay while working with her two kiddos on creative projects by setting up on wipeable surfaces. "Our kitchen area includes their arts and crafts materials, space for messy play and experiments, and child-size supplies for making clean-up a breeze!"
Separate Work and Play
All of the pros agree that a designated workspace outside of the students’ bedroom or playroom is paramount for a successful learning experience at home. Markëta Howard explains, “The physical distinction of a dedicated learning space helps my children understand that there are times to play and times to work. Our learning space is free from toys and is instead filled with Montessori materials and other educational activities and supplies. Since I know we will use our learning space most days, I want my children to love and respect their space and have a constant thirst to work in it."
Designate a Study Space
The same rule for designated workspaces applies to middle and high school students, too. High school teacher Caitlin Carter suggests that parents create a homeschool station in a small, quiet space with low foot traffic for their teen. She says, “Get a desk or small table and a comfy chair and set it up in that area. I would avoid creating a learning space in a child’s bedroom, if possible because bedrooms usually have lots of distractions in them. Also, bedrooms are typically a teen’s safe place where they go to relax so you don’t want the learning space to take over that environment."
Store Supplies Creatively
Why not get creative with your school supplies storage? "If you don’t already have an 'art cart' I highly recommend getting one," says homeschool pro Markëta Howard. "We have a rolling cart set up in our kitchen area and it holds art materials, activity books, handwriting supplies and play dough, all of which my kids use almost daily. When you have a small space it’s important for children to know where materials belong so they can easily put things away. The art cart is helpful because it’s accessible and keeps materials organized and in one place."
Learn More: Small Space Solution: School Supply Storage Cart
Keep It Phone-Free
It’s crucial to limit screen time for your middle or high school student during the day while they adjust to homeschool learning. Caitlin Carter’s favorite tip to keep teens’ tech in check? “Have students put their phone on Do Not Disturb mode or keep their phone in a separate location so they won’t become distracted by their notifications and tempted to go online. Set a timer for 45 minutes of no phone during that time and once the time goes off, allow your child to spend 5-15 minutes on their phone as a “brain break” before returning to their schoolwork. Repeat the process throughout the day and adjust the timer as needed.”
Display Art + Accomplishments
Give your student creative freedom to decorate their workspace with their artwork and achievements. A classic bulletin board and pushpins offer a stylish way to show off good grades, a roll washi tape provides a fun way to add photos of friendly faces to their wall. Allowing your student to personalize their workspace will make them excited to learn there each day.
Learn More: 8 Creative Ways to Decorate With Kids' Artwork
When your elementary student is struggling to engage or retain information about a certain subject, veteran kindergarten teacher Sherri Conti encourages parents to use props and toys to customize the lesson to fit their child’s interests. “Use your student’s favorite animal or sport as a main theme within the lesson. For example, if your kiddo loves dinosaurs, use a Triceratops as a subject for a creative writing prompt or make a T-Rex the star of their counting worksheet.”