How To Save on Furnishing A Homework Corner

Father helps teen daughter with homework
Create a Homework Space. Caiaimage/Tom Merton

"A place for everything, and everything in it's place." - Benjamin Frankling

 If you want to make sure your child does their homework, you have to provide a place for them to do their homework.  That place, of course, is the homework corner.  As your child grows older, their needs in a homework corner will change.  This means that the homework corner will need updating every school year.  Since you are already buying school supplies, school clothing, and tech gadgets for the new school year, finding ways to save on a homework corner is one more way to help keep a parent's hard earned green in their pocket.

Really, this space is a k-12 students home office.  Whether an office or a study corner, there are four basic elements you need to create this work area at home:  desk, chair, lamps, and organizers.  We will go through each of these elements for frugal options separately, but first, I want to cover the general frugal tips.

By now, most of my readers know that one of my favorite strategies is to time purchases for the best sales.  Late August and early September is a favorite time for retailers to have decorate-your-college-dorm sales.  Along with college logo gear and extra long twin sheets you will find desks, chairs, lamps and organizers on sale.  Don't worry if you miss this sale or later discover your child needs something different to optimize their homework corners functionality.  Christmas season sales sometimes have lamps and chairs at great prices.  For organizers, you can find sales when retailers market to all of the new year's resolution folks who swear that this year, they really will get organized for once.

For an even better price than what you can get on sale, there are several ways to score homework furniture for free.  Start by looking items you already own but aren't using.  Find ways to creatively repurpose what you do have (a few ideas on this later) and look for or trade for items at school supply swaps.

Now, let's go through those four categories for frugal ways to save on your homework corner:

Desks

A classic frugal hack for a desk is to use a solid core door with various options for leg support,  These could be two drawer filing cabinets on both sides, or four ballisters or posts attached with brackets.  You can also look for a second-hand desk at local thrift stores, yard sales or websites like craigslist.  You want to go with the sturdiest material you can.  Don't worry about appearance - paint will do wonders to make a desk fit in with your home decor.

Some children or teens may do well with a very relaxed homework atmosphere.  A small portable lap desk is a great, inexpensive choice for the student who can kick back while getting their work done.

If you have some basic woodworking skills and tools available to use, this sawhorse style desk is a fast and frugal project.

Chairs 

Today's youth spend hours sitting all day.  It is important that the homework corner have a chair that is comfortable and well-adjusted for you child to prevent posture problems and muscle injury later on.

 Combine a good fit with four legs that need to balance properly on a floor, and chairs are an area that only skilled DIY'ers should attempt to build themselves when it comes to regular homework use.  Instead, watch closely for chairs on sale.  Check out office supply sales and second-hand options for adjustable features.  If you find a second chair that is just hideous look for ways to brighten it up by covering it with new fabric or painting it.

Lamps

Look at homework corners on Pinterest and you will almost always see a lamp sitting on the desk.  Lamps are meant to be there to provide good lighting for the task of completing work.  If the homework corner is already placed in a well-lit area, you may not even need a lamp.  If you find you need a lamp you can watch for the sales already mentioned, and also those in craft and art supply stores.  These seated work hobbyists have similar lighting needs to the student.  

Another frugal option - depending on the students needs - is a quality headlight headlamp.  I first tried my headlight headlamp while attending college in Fairbanks, Alaska.  I had the headlamp to walk around outside in the long dark winters, but quickly realized the light was always perfectly wherever I needed to see.  I could read in bed or write my papers at my desk with perfectly aimed light, regardless of my roommates sleep schedule.  Translate that to youth who share space with a  sibling, and you can see why I buy my own children these headlamps for reading and homework.  

Headlamps go on sale at different times of the year.  Retailers place them on sale for the Christmas holidays, but they also go on clearance during the summer months.  Occasionally they can be found at discount prices during fall as retailers know winter enthusiasts may be shopping ahead.  

Organizers

This is a broad category.  What you will need will be based on your school's homework policy, your child's organization habits, and your way of keeping up with school communication.

  • Need a bulletin board?  make a custom sized one with corkboard squares from craft and home building supply centers
  • empty soup cans, mason jars, and interesting bottles are great for holding pens, pencils, and large scissors.  Cover with paper, duct tape or paint to match your decorator preferences.
  • Empty cereal boxes can hold magazines, workbooks and two pocket folders.  Simply cut at a diagonal from the top of one corner to about 4 inches above the opposite bottom corner.  Cover with duct tape, contact paper or decoupage by covering it with fabric and painted over with a mix of white glue and water (1:1 ratio.)
  • milk crates or empty boxes that have been decorated with duct tape, contact paper or the decoupage method above can be sued to contain book and backpack mess at home.
  • Get creative with scrap wood and other materials painted with chalkboard paint and dry-erase paint.  Whole calendar and communication centers can be designed for  cheap once you evaluate your needs and purchase paint.

Be careful duplicating school-to-home communication systems.  Many secondary level schools require students to use a paper planner.  If you have a second system at home of writing all assignments on a white board, it may just be too much for your student to handle both, and one of them will slide - leaving you in the dark.  If your child's school has a required system, do your best to check that system yourself as often as you need to.

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