Parents, summer's over: It's time to change your nagging ritual from "hang up your beach towel" to "clean up your desk." Optics aside, having an organized, comfortable workspace can help your child focus better on homework. We explain how to do it.
When Toronto-based professional organizer Clare Kumar, who is preparing for Organize Your Desk Day on Oct. 21, sets up a workspace, she always includes natural, ambient and task lighting.
It's good to place a desk near a window, Ms. Kumar says, but to minimize glare on your child's computer screen, position the computer at a right angle to the window.
A floor lamp is a good source of ambient lighting, but most standard fluorescent bulbs don't provide full-spectrum light, so shop around for the more expensive but better-for-your-family ones that do.
A desk lamp that can be moved around to illuminate whatever your child is working on is key (Ms. Kumar suggests a gooseneck model), but make sure it's positioned on the opposite side of the body to the hand your child writes with "so the hand doesn't shadow what they're working on," Ms. Kumar explains.
In the younger elementary-school years, a proper office chair isn't terribly important so long as your child isn't sitting for more than an hour.
"If you're a more senior student and you're sitting for three hours every night doing work, you want to pay attention to properly supporting your body so you aren't causing any strains," Ms. Kumar says.
Finding the right balance between height and support are key - you aren't doing your child any favours if you give him or her one of your old hydraulic-lift manager's chairs. To take advantage of back support in the chair, one needs to be sitting back in it, and many kids can't without their legs dangling, Ms. Kumar explains.
"The most important thing is that the chair fits them so the back support fits them and their feet are flat on the floor," she says. "It allows for the most ease in ability to move around."
Your kid may try to sweet-talk you into letting him or her do homework in front of the TV ("It's just for the background noise"), but you should set up a quiet spot free from distractions.
Younger kids may prefer to be closer to their parents as they get into the homework ritual, so if you don't want to camp in your child's bedroom, bring him or her to you in a place such as the kitchen, Ms. Kumar suggests.
To distinguish the family eating area from your child's homework zone, create a holder to carry homework supplies to and from the table, Ms. Kumar suggests.
"Use magazine holders to hold paperwork for the children," she says. "You might have a portable box with all the stationary supplies."
When we think ergonomics at the office, it's all about mouse pads and keyboard placement, but in school, kids are still taking notes, filling out worksheets and even writing those standard five-paragraph essays by hand.
Ms. Kumar recommends hitting up a stationery or toy store for rubberized grips you can slip onto pencils or pens to make them easier to hold.
Instead of buying the sale pack of ballpoint pens, let your kid test some in the store to make sure they aren't difficult to hold and don't put too much strain on their hands.
"Cheapest isn't always the best - find something that really works," she says.
Buy your child larger notebooks, too, so they're not reaching the bottom of the page as often and having to strain their wrists writing those final lines.
*And don't do this ... let your own home office get cluttered. "Do as I say, not as I do" doesn't work