According to some studies around 45% of students in grades three to 12 spend more than an hour every night doing homework, with some spending over three hours doing so. By the same token, only 50% of children get enough sleep (an average of nine hours nightly is recommended).
To enable your child to make the most of the little free time they have at the end of a long day at school, designing a positive homework environment is helpful.
Tidiness, ergonomics, and natural lighting are three aspects that will help them maximize their learning experience.
Creating a Neat, Well-Organized Space
Your child should have a quiet, tidy, well-organized space in which to work. A 2011 study by neuroscientists (McMains, 2011) showed that clearing clutter from home and work environments results in an improved ability to focus, process information, and produce work.
Think of clutter as a source of “information overload” for kids. As they struggle to filter out the mess, they lose their ability to focus exclusively on their work. Research has also found (Saxbe, 2009) that living in an untidy environment can raise levels of the stress hormone, cortisol. This hormone, when present at chronically high levels, can trigger anxiety and other problems.
Poor ergonomics in a home study environment can reduce your child’s productivity and cause aches and pains in areas like the back, neck, and even the legs. Your child should have a good chair with a supportive back and an adjustable height (so your child can look straight ahead at the screen, without having to look upwards or downwards, straining their neck).
The top line of the screen should be at or slightly below (0-30º) beneath eye level. The monitor should be positioned at a right angle from windows and task lights so there is no glare. It should also be at least an arm’s length away from your child.
Avoiding the Effects of Sedentarism
Sitting for long periods of time can affect your child’s blood flow and artery health. Although kids should not spend more than around an hour an evening doing homework, older kids (especially teens) can be at their desks all afternoon when they are preparing for major exams. Your child should get up from their desk every hour or so, to perform a few exercises (think brisk walking, stretching, Pilates, yoga, or even brisk walking up and down the stairs).
A standing desk can also help avoid the effects of sedentarism. They should use their standing desk at the recommended ratio of 2:1 or 1:1 (sitting to standing). They may find it uncomfortable to stand at first so they can ease into standing little by little until they feel comfortable using their desk in the recommended way.
Letting in the Light
Try to find an outdoor space for your child to study or place their study space close to natural light. Study after study has shown that people with more natural light exposure have better sleep quality and quantity, more physical activity, and an enhanced quality of life. Encourage your child to take their breaks in an outdoor setting, since even 10 minutes in a green area can lower stress levels and improve their mood.
Children can spend various hours a week doing homework. It is vital to set up a comfortable workspace for them – one that is tidy and ergonomic. Natural light is also important so try to position your child’s study space next to the garden or on the terrace if you live in an area with warm weather.