Providing Options and Choice in Workspace for Homework

Dr. Sam Goldstein

The way you and your child structure your home conditions (e.g., place for homework, noise, light, television, availability of resources) has been found to play an important role in predicting homework performance. In fact, these issues have been found to be even more important than checking and signing homework. Consider experimenting with a variety of locations and noise levels to decide what works best for your child. A quiet isolated setting is not necessarily the best for everyone. It may surprise you to learn that children can complete homework and perform well in a variety of positions and places. Remember, homework is not like medicine. It does not have to taste bad to be good for you. In fact, the more pleasant you can make the surrounding study conditions, schedules, and materials, the more likely your child with approach homework positively.

Settings to complete homework are best selected by your child because optimal conditions may change as your child’s age, abilities, and assignments change. Allow your child some decision making power in trying out different places for different tasks. A tote tray containing all essential materials for homework (e.g., markers, ruler, scissors) can be portable and yet be used to keep all essential materials together.

How and where does your child complete homework best? We suggest you create an experiment to discover this process. Ask you child to suggest 3 places (e.g., kitchen table, on the bed, on the bedroom floor, at a desk, in the family room on the couch) and conditions for each (music, television, or silence). Allow your child the opportunity to complete homework under these differing conditions over a several weeks. Together you can then decide best which type of homework is best completed under which condition and in which location.

This column is excerpted and condensed from, Seven Steps to Homework Success: A Family Guide for Solving Common Homework Problems by Sydney S. Zentall, Ph.D. and Sam Goldstein, Ph.D. (1999, Specialty Press, Inc.).