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Homework Space

By Dr. Sam Goldstein and Dr. Sydney Zentall

The way you and your child structure your home conditions (place for homework, noise, light, television, availability of resources and so on) 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 homework.

Experiment with Locations

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 (markers, ruler, scissors, calculator) can be portable and yet be used to keep all materials together.

How and where does your child complete homework best? We suggest you create an experiment to discover this process. Ask your child to suggest three places (such as the kitchen table, on the bed, on the floor, at a desk, on the family room couch) and conditions for each (music, television or silence). Allow your child the opportunity to complete homework under these various conditions over several weeks. Together you can then decide 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.

Dr. Goldstein is a developmental neuropsychologist and a member of the faculty at the University of Utah. He has authored a dozen books and other resources, which can be accessed through his website at Dr. Zentall is Professor of Special Education in Psychological Sciences at Purdue University. She has published numerous scientific articles and is the past president of the Division for Research of the Council for Exceptional Children.