Getting Your Home Ready for Back to School

July 24, 2019

BY Erica Lamberg, Readers Digest

12 Home Upgrades That Will Make Your Kids Better Students

A home environment that’s conducive to academic success is one way to get this school year off right. We’ve polled educators and organizational experts for tips on what to do like creating homework spaces, getting organized and how to make the transition to summer mode to school mode successfully.

Get into a routine

Include your child in the plan. “The morning routine should be mutually established,” says Nancy K. Gretzinger, EdD, a retired educator from Gilbert, Arizona. Also, put your child’s backpack near the door so you’re both ready to start the day organized. “Make it a habit that the backpack is there at the end of the evening, so there’s no hunting for it in the morning when the time is precious,” Dr. Gretzinger says. 

Allow time to unwind after school

When your child arrives home, suggest changing out of school clothes, offer a nutritious snack and allow about 20-30 minutes to unwind, Dr. Gretzinger says. This time can be at the discretion of your child. Perhaps they want to watch TV or play outside. Taking a break before studying is just one of the many things tutoring centers recommend to  make children better students.

Get a calendar whiteboard

This old-school method can keep your family organized. The board can record school events and even friend events like birthday parties. “Don’t overbook your child in extracurricular activities,” cautions Gretzinger. “One curricular event that involves practices and games—that’s enough. Make sure, as the parent, you attend as many school functions as you can. This shows your child that education/school is important. Making the time shows your child you are important to them.”

Set up a homework area free of distractions

Diane Kilcommons, owner of Huntington Learning Center, a tutoring program in Elmhurst, Illinois, says while a clean desk in your child’s bedroom is an ideal study spot, other good places include a dining room table, kitchen counter or parent’s home office or study, as long as the area is quiet, well-lit and has all the supplies your child will need.

Buy school supplies

Purchasing some new school supplies can help ease the transition for your child. “Stocking up on brand-new school supplies can get your child excited about the year ahead of them, and don’t forget to grab a new planner for the student to stay on top of assignments,” suggests Kilcommons. This handy school-supply check list will have your ready for the first day.

  • Book Bag
  • Pens and Pencils
  • Pencil Case
  • Colored Pencils and Crayons
  • Markers and Highlighters
  • Erasers
  • Ruler
  • Compass
  • Scissors
  • Glue
  • Paper
  • Notebooks
  • Pocket Folders
  • Organizer
  • Calculator

Carve out some breaks

Whenever possible, allow for fun or relaxation after homework and before bedtime. “Children will be more efficient during study time when they know they’ll get to watch a television show or talk on the phone after they’re finished,” adds Kilcommons. Let them get their smartphone time in now, since you definitely shouldn’t let kids use the phones in bed.

Repaint your child’s homework zone

Heavy and dark rooms can stifle creativity, says Lowe’s spokesperson, Jenny Popis. “Brighten them up for you and your kiddos as they head back to school by applying a light, neutral paint,” she says. Also, for a quicker brightening fix for any room, try hanging light-colored curtains close to the celling. “This will give your room a larger, lighter feel.” Want to brighten the corners?

Declutter the homework space

Decluttering is paramount for back-to-school success. “Create a space where belongings are easy to find and access during the early-morning scramble by using containers, file organizers and stylish baskets and bins—and don’t forget to label,” adds Popis. To keep creative juices flowing, place an emphasis on managing what’s on the desk or within your workspace. “Do you see a few inspirational objects or photos, or do you see a mess? Replace a pile of papers with a photo, or get rid of a stack of junk mail, and brighten up the space with a vase flowers. A few, well-placed objects will create a more mindful, productive experience,” clarifies Popis. 

Invest in good lighting

The right lighting can also have a huge impact on productivity this school year. “Opt for task lighting—which is exactly how it sounds—lighting that allows you to perform a task. It supplies the intense, direct light needed for detailed work,” she says. “Task-oriented lighting includes wall sconces, track lighting and recessed lighting.”

Create a cozy reading nook

A reading space should be comfortable with a good source of light. “Reading tents can be great fun, a cushion on the floor or even a special stuffed animal companion or blanket on a regular chair can change the energy and mood. Let your child read aloud to you while you are folding laundry or loading the dishwasher,” says Mondakini Walsh, Upper School academic support specialist, Latin teacher and a curling coach at Dexter Southfield, a Pre-K through 12 independent school in Brookline, Massachusetts. 

Establish a bookcase for your children

By filling a bookcase with exciting new reads that kids can pick out themselves, this may encourage more independent reading. “Fill bookcases with a range of stable and evolving options including some poems, some stories, some non-fiction, and weekly selections from the public library that are around only for a short time,” Walsh says.

Understand your parenting role

Most school districts have a parent portal which allows access to grades, schedules and more. “Adults should make sure they understand how to use the net to access teachers’ web pages for homework assignments, news about upcoming tests, etc. and how to easily use the school’s information system software so they can keep up with their child’s progress,” says Susan McLester, former editor-in-chief of Tech & Learning magazine, former Los Angeles Times education columnist, and retired 18-year classroom teacher.