May 21, 2024
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Organizing an Effective Study Space

Both parents and mechanchim strive to build independent children with healthy habits. Teaching “lifeskills” is one way to help your child reach higher levels of independence. As we find ourselves beginning the homework /school project time of year, it is a momentous and advantageous opportunity for an organizational life lesson. Let’s help your child set up an appropriate learning and working space that will enable him to stay focused, remain on task and salvage time and energy.

Can you find the desk in your child’s room? Yes, the one that is underneath the books, clothes and other numerous items acquired from such distinguished institutions as FunTime Junction. It is time to clear it off! Before you give over the “cleanup!” command and the proverbial “battle” begins, empathize with your child. Is organization hard for him? Does he have good ideas but needs some coaching to follow through? Does he not know that being organized is a beneficial trait to work on for schoolwork and for all endeavors? Keep in mind, for a disorganized child who needs lots of practice to become more organized, even the “idea” of clearing off the desk is beyond overwhelming. Some of us can think about the garage, attic or basement and relate completely!!! Empathizing will remove the negative feeling that you are mad at him for not yet being organized and it will show that you understand and care. It will build the foundation that you are going to go about this project together.

Begin using a team approach by agreeing upon a small chunk of time to spend together discovering the long lost desk. Get out a timer and plow forward (hopefully not literally)—together! Have fun and share memories with some of the long-lost discoveries while working. Hopefully this will keep interest and enthusiasm for the cleaning-up time. When interest in the activity has waned (30 seconds?), gently remind your child about the agreed-upon time, the value of keeping an agreement and the importance (and yes, the excitement) of having a clean space to work, to create and to learn.

Now that the desk is clear, it is time to organize. Give your child input into how the homework area can be arranged. You can do this by sharing how you like things on your own desk at home or at work (notice we did not say how things are on your desk at home, but rather how you would like things to be). The discussion on the layout and organization of the homework area, in and of itself, can be extremely beneficial. This process can help your child think about the way in which he best learns and works, and it will lead to new ideas and an open communication on how he can continually improve upon organizational skills and study habits.

After the discussion, have your child take a seat in the work area. Have him close his eyes and imagine himself about to study/learn/do homework (you know they are properly “picturing” when you notice a big smile from ear to ear, of course). Now, have him name the essential items that he will need to have easily available (pens, pencils, notebooks, paper, tape, sticky notes, a ruler etc.) and have him place his hand where he will find these items. Place the supplies where your child pictured it being. Depending on your child’s learning style, the items will be pictured in different layouts. Some children need their supplies spread out but in viewing range, others will want them in logical order of use, or within reach, or neatly tucked away in drawers. The goal here is to help your child best develop an area that suits his learning style—a place where he feels comfortable and relaxed.

If your child is more comfortable learning in more of a “family area,” like the kitchen or dining room table (often the case if your child is younger or more social), there are ways to create an organized homework approach. Get a basket or large Tupperware where all homework supplies can be kept. When that agreed-upon and designated homework time arrives each afternoon or evening, the box can come out and homework can begin. If this is your child’s approach make sure that Mommy, Tatty, brothers, and sisters are all “on board” with turning the family-shared room into the homework room. Often for the earlier elementary years with younger brothers and/or sisters in the house, a “family homework time and space” works well.

Homework time in the house has been known to be potentially hectic and turbulent in some homes. Taking the time to discuss homework, when it will be done, and of course where it will be done (before the homework frenzy really kicks in) builds a “healthy habit.” The process itself, of organizing and planning for homework, helps a child discover how they learn best and establishes some basic agreed-upon homework guidelines. Remember the word “opportunity” when organizing a homework space; it is an opportunity to work on shalom bayis, achdus and making the home really work for everyone.

Rabbi Daniel Presberg has been in the education field for over 25 years. He received his Bachelor of Arts degree in Psychology from Cornell University and Master’s Degree in Strategic Communication and Leadership from Seton Hall University. He has served as a General Studies Principal and has received numerous trainings in various methodologies. He founded SPARKS Educational Consultation and Services in 2015 to help each student reach their potential.

By Rabbi Daniel Presberg

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