Q: Last year, I had a lot of fun setting up picture-perfect study areas for each of my kids in their bedrooms, but they never used them. Instead, they use the kitchen table to do their homework. I guess I don't mind most of the time, but if they have a big project, we end up eating on the couch in front of the TV. What can I do about this?
A: Isn't it amazing how quickly back-to-school time sneaks up on us? How old are your kids, and were they involved with your process? That can make a big difference when it comes to their preferences for desks and chairs, not to mention the location, and whether the space you so carefully carved out actually gets used. The funny thing is, kids instinctively know just the spot that works for them, even when adults think we have a better idea.
Younger kids like spending time in the most social areas of the house, and they need more supervision no matter what they are doing. Really little ones like to play on the kitchen floor because that's where Mom often is. Your kids picked the kitchen table for similar reasons. When they get to be teenagers, they'll probably prefer the privacy of their bedrooms.
For now, how is your house set up? Do you have a separate dining room or a rarely used living room that could be the kids' study and crafts area for bigger projects? And consider adding this rule: If homework gets done on the kitchen table, it needs to be moved before mealtime.
Wherever you decide, set up a bookcase or two with bins and shelves. Organize it so each kid has his or her own space and his or her own bins or baskets. Share ideas about storing all their tablets, phones, books, and backpacks. Have some school supplies in a portable container to take to the study table. Sports gear should be stored in a similar way, but someplace else — maybe in the garage, laundry room, or wherever it makes more sense.
Good luck, and let us know how it goes. Enjoy those homework moments: They'll be gone before you know it.