August 2019 Back To School Dr. Christine Powell
A messy workspace is not always the hallmark of a creative mind- It can be down right distracting. Dr. Christine Powell, Special Educator, provides 6 tips inspired by organizational guru, Maria Kondo, to create a calm and centered workspace.
Research supports the fact that disorganization causes stress, and that clutter affects the way we work. Adults are often more disciplined than children and realize that creating an organized workspace can facilitate good work habits and shorten the amount of time spent on tasks. Children often need to be taught how to get organized. Although they may like their workspaces messy and cluttered, science supports the fact that a chaotic workspace increases distractions, decreases focus, and may case anxiety. With this in mind, here are six tips to help you and your child tame the clutter and create a workspace worthy of an A+.
Creating a Study Space
Whether the study space is in a general use area of your home or a corner of a separate room, the study space should be relatively free from noise and visual distractions. These diversions can be in the form of high traffic areas of the house, noise from a television, or individuals talking on the phone. When you are creating a space, position a table or desk in a well-lit corner of a room, away from disturbances that will pull your child’s attention from studying. Ideally, the child should be seated facing away from activity, and preferably, they should not be facing a window. Although the view might be beautiful, it might be tempting to look outside and cause distractions, making it challenging to concentrate.
Consider the Light Source
Light has a psychological impact on students, which can affect their learning and studying. Studies have found that students perform significantly better on standardized tests in classrooms where natural light is present. Overly harsh lighting, to include florescent light can be harsh on the eyes, and it is recommended to use natural light when available. A work area that is too dark may induce feelings of tiredness, which impacts motivation and effort. When studying in the evening, it is recommended using a lamp that has a flexible arm. An adjustable arm will allow your child to focus the stream of light, eliminating glare and shadows, which may result in squinting. Reducing glare can cut down on eye strain and increase focus. Additionally, research suggests that using white to natural bulbs creates a light source that is easier on the eyes and facilitates alertness.
Only the Basics
An optimal study space should have the materials your child needs to complete tasks within arms reach. These items include pens, paper, laptop, study aids, etc. A functional study space should not have attention-stealing knickknacks, as clutter can contribute to over-stimulation. Over-stimulation may have a negative effect on how your child adjusts emotionally to the task of studying or completing homework. Enlist your child to help with decluttering, explaining the thinking behind putting distracting items away. While supporting your child to take the lead, encourage them to spot the difference between items that may help contribute to studying verses others that are attention thieves.
Comfortable seating is often the most overlooked aspect of creating a well-designed study area. When considering the type of seating that is most conducive for your child, asking for their input is essential. Having buy-in will create ownership on your child’s part and may encourage increased time on task. You do not need to invest heavily in a special chair, as nowadays there are many alternatives to a conventional chair, to include Yoga Balls, backless chairs, and stools. Whatever type of seating you choose, it must be comfortable. Make sure that your child’s feet can reach the floor, which will assist in physical stability and aid in feeling stable and in control.
Take A Technology Inventory
Unless a computer, iPad, or other technological device is necessary for homework or study, make sure it is off and out of sight. There is no better time to teach your child the benefits of being unplugged and developing concentration skills. Although getting your child off their device may prove challenging, research supports study time without phone use. Research published in Computers In Human Behavior (2013) found that students spend only two-thirds of their time working on school assignments during study time when they have access to their phones. Help your child understand that study time will decrease without the added distractions of media-tasking. If a computer device is required, consider setting parental controls on social media platforms to assist your child in developing the skills necessary to unplug during study time.
A study by the University of Edinburgh published in Landscapes, and Urban Planning (2012) found that individuals are less stressed when they spent time in nature. If spending time at a nearby park or in a green space is limited, consider getting a small desk plant. The effects of increased greenery may prove beneficial in helping to create a calming environment conducive to homework.
Creating a space at home to study should be a combined effort with you and your child participating. The start of a new school year provides an opportunity for parents to work with their children to declutter and rework their home study space. Use these tips to help create a space that makes the grade.
Author: Christine Powell is a special educator, researcher, and education advocate helping parents and students make purposeful educational decisions. She is a Fulbright Distinguished Teacher Award fellow and adjunct professor.
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