It takes effort and discipline to study, and savvy parents know that creating a special space for the job helps tweens build those budding skills. Creating a study zone that matches your tween’s personality, study skills and academic strengths can pay off in better focus and success at school. The investment of your time and energy shows your child you are serious about their study success. Second, it will allow you to work together on a project that will help you to get to know your child better — and maybe even uncover truths about them. And hopefully, if the zone is cool enough, your tween will study, write and read there a little longer. We all tend to linger longer in spaces that make us feel good.
A student’s workspace at home is typically one of two areas: a desk in their room or the dining-room table. Most teachers recommend a desk in a quiet spot, free of clutter or distractions. Keeping this spot special for studying can help, says Monica Lander, an elementary-class teacher at Three Cedars Waldorf School in Bellevue. “I would recommend that the desk and space not be used for other activities. This will help support a mood of work immediately upon entering the space.”
It’s also important that the student have all supplies handy, so they are not constantly distracted by going elsewhere to grab a pen or a dictionary from a backpack or in another room.
It’s also nice if a parent stays nearby, if possible, in case the tween needs help. Middle-school teacher Christina Byrne also encourages parents to consider other quiet and pleasant places to study, such as the public library or even the backyard. Byrne says that parents should keep an eye on homework and test scores and if the student is struggling, consider changing the space.
What to include
Sara Eizen, a Seattle interior designer, recommends that parents allow enough room for the student to spread out their books and papers. “Some assignments require the student have a book open and writing at the same time. You don’t want them juggling a book or writing pad on their lap.” Eizen also stresses the importance of good lighting and a comfortable chair or pillows. Parents also need to evaluate whether a computer should be included in the student’s room or kept closer to the family hub, e.g., the kitchen, family room or wherever the family gathers.
Lander recommends that students always have a dictionary and thesaurus handy in their study space. Additionally, she encourages parents to outfit the space with a complete set of art supplies, sound-blocking headphones if the study space is not quiet and some kind of divider if the study space is part of a larger space. What not to include
When it comes to studying, what’s left out of the study zone can be just as relevant as what is included. Lander recommends that the following items be left out: “cell phone, iPod, TV — any distractions that give the messages: You can effectively multitask; it’s OK to be socializing when you work; you need to be entertained while you work.” Lander believes that none of these practices will support excellence in schoolwork or in the working world.
Study groups: helpful or distracting?
With the often blossoming social lives of adolescents, studying with friends starts to play a major part in the study landscape for many students. Is it effective, or is it just an excuse to socialize and avoid the looming math assignment or science test?
Lander says students should learn to work collaboratively with peers, stay on task, take intentional breaks as needed and then return to complete the work.
“Students of all ages should develop flexibility in their study skills,” says Lander. “They should learn to receive parental guidance and be able to involve their parents in their work when it is appropriate.”
If your tween enjoys and benefits from studying with friends, it’s important to ensure that each student has enough space to get their work done. Extra seating and desktop or countertop space can be helpful.
What if the space is small?
Some parents may worry that their adolescent’s room is too small to create an effective study space. If so, Eizen recommends parents consider building or purchasing a loft-style bunk bed with a bed on top and a desk underneath. “This is a great use of space as we usually don’t take advantage of our vertical spaces,” Eizen says. She also suggests a drop-down desk for small spaces; parents can build one by hinging a desktop surface to the wall so it can be brought down for studying and raised and fastened to the wall when not in use.
The key to creating and organizing your tween’s study space is keeping their personality, study habits and needs in mind. You do not need to rush out to the store to buy furniture and organization supplies. Take a peek around your house; you may just have the perfect art caddy disguised as an old Easter basket in your attic. Get creative!
Karen Dawson, owner of Dawson Communications Group, lives with her husband and children on the Eastside.
Smart ideas for your student’s space:
- Include a recycle bin next to your student’s trash can to avoid clutter and extra trips to the household recycling bin.
- Consider storage when making purchases; if the space is small, purchase seating that contains storage space (such as an ottoman).
- Repurpose an extra shoe organizer on the back of a closet door to organize art supplies.
Fun websites for supplies: