With school just around the corner, it's not too early to start planning an area devoted for studying.
Creating a study space away from the TV and outfitted with markers, pencils, paper, glue sticks, dictionaries and other supplies can help kids focus on the work at hand.
Professional organizer Marie Ramirez of Simply Organized in Evanston helps parents create customized homework places based on what she's learned helping her three school-age children.
"My kids each have a desk in their bedroom. But we also have a game table in our family room. It fits behind an L-shaped couch and has a Lazy Susan. On it I keep everything they could possibly need from file cards, a stapler, markers, pencils," Ramirez says.
"If you have a space with everything in it already, it's easier to get down to work. Kids are in school for six hours then come home to homework. They can spend an hour looking for supplies, but if it's already there, they can get down to studying faster."
Ramirez says the best place to locate a study area is near the busiest room of the house - the kitchen. But she also suggests having study areas in several places, so different types of work can be done in different areas.
"Our office has three computers, but it's nice to have a computer in the kitchen or dining room, so you can keep an eye on what they're doing," she says. "Anyone can fit a little table into their family space."
The key is creating a study area that's large enough to be comfortable.
"Most of the people I work with plan an area that is way too small," Ramirez says. "If you have several kids, a space 8 feet by 4 feet will be too small. Most computer niches are just not big enough for a study area. Once you get the computer, the monitor and the keyboard, there's no room for supplies."
Ramirez says a study area can be as simple as a couple of file drawers, cubbies with baskets or a Lazy Susan.
If you're lucky enough to have a whole room to devote to a homework area, Ramirez recommends tailoring furniture to those who use it.
"Each family is different, but children work better when the furniture fits them. My son, who is the youngest, uses the former bathroom stool so his legs don't dangle. We find he can work longer with his feet supported."
An adjustable chair, computer table and keyboard tray can allow the whole family to use the same workstation.
Shop around at several stores to find items that will work in your home space. Make a plan for the space and then go shopping for the furniture and tools to implement it.
"At Bed Bath and Beyond, I found a shower caddy like I had in college," Ramirez says. "I added square tubes to divide the pencils and markers.
"IKEA has really cheap cabinets that I put in my basement. We use the top for a work space and have storage inside. The Container Store has lots of wonderful things for all the rooms of the house."
Remember peg boards? Those can used to organize things that can be hung. Ramirez says she has peg boards on the walls in her basement craft area and has attached strings in between. A couple of clothespins are used to display art projects.
Another tried-and-true office helper is the three-ring notebook.
"I get the biggest one I can find - one for each child," she says. "I use dividers for each subject and keep the papers the kids bring home from school. They can go back over the summer and review subjects like Spanish that they'll need next year."
Ramirez says that keeping the study area tidy is also part of the lesson.
"If kids see an organized space, they'll learn to do it too and it will become second nature. Part of the homework is packing up the work to take to school."