Setting Up a Learning and Study Environment at Home

Making Homeschooling a Success

If you are learning from home via online teaching, doing some self-directed learning or studying for a test or exam, the environment you work in can make a big difference to your productivity and results. Here are some simple tips, ideas and strategies.

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Get Organised
The 6 P’s of success, Proper Planning Prevents Pretty Poor Performance, are extremely relevant to at home learning and study. Being organised and having a plan will certainly help keep you focused and can even half your learning time! Have you ever spent the first 30 minutes shuffling papers, looking at your notes and wondering what you are supposed to be doing? Make a daily plan of what you are going to study or learn. Create a timetable in small blocks of time and stick to it. Create mini rewards for yourself for staying on track. Knowing what you want to achieve will minimise the wasted time and help focus you.

Create small, achievable goals. For example, practice and memorise three Maths formulas, brainstorm the outline of a Classics essay, write 200 words for my English assignment or create 20 flash cards for my French vocabulary.

Music or Silence?
Some people prefer to study in silence while others prefer to study with music in the background. If you prefer a quiet environment, and there are noise distractions at home, wear some headphones, ear plugs or earmuffs to dampen the sound. If you prefer to study with some background music, the type you choose is very important. If you study to music with words, your brain will often focus on the words and not on what you are learning. Instrumental tracks of your favourite music may also not be useful because your brain is likely to still put the words in. Alternatively, Baroque music is the most useful. This is because it has 50-80 beats per minute, which is equivalent to your resting heart rate and helps activate your long term memory. Some great Baroque composers include Bach, Handel, Pachelbel, Vivaldi, Telemann and Corelli.

The Myth of Multitasking
Research shows that any time, a person moves attention from one task to another one, it adds an average of 25 percent to the time it takes to complete the initial
task. It also affects the quality of work people do. When people switch reactively from one task to another, they are trading depth for breadth. If you are listening
to the words of the music, rather than having quiet, classical tracks in the background, it is most likely difficult to focus on the information being learned.

Minimise the Clutter
Clutter has an impact on your brain. Excess things in your surroundings can have a negative impact on your ability to focus and process information. That’s
exactly what neuroscientists at Princeton University found when they looked at people’s task performance in an organised versus disorganised environment. The
results of the study showed that physical clutter in your surroundings competes for your attention, resulting in decreased performance and increased stress. Similar to what multitasking does to your brain, physical clutter overloads your senses, making you feel stressed, and impairs your ability to think creatively. Ensure you have a clean and tidy study environment, which also means turning off distractions such as social media and YouTube.

Study with Low Lighting
Lighting shouldn’t be too bright in your study area. Bright light reflecting off a white page can stress your eyes and make learning harder. Dr Rita Dunn’s research
shows that for up to 70% of students, studying with low lighting is best. Did you ever read under the bed covers when you were very young? Your parents
probably told you you’d ruin your eyesight. This isn’t true. For most children and teenagers, low lighting is the most effective. In fact, as we get older, into our
mid-20s, our eye muscles start to weaken and we need brighter light and sometimes glasses. If possible, avoid fluorescent lights as these flicker at a different rate than your brain and interrupt brain processing. They can also cause tiredness, lack of motivation and even headaches.

Study at Your Best Thinking Time
Are you a morning, afternoon or evening person? Study when you are most alert. If you are a morning person, get up an hour earlier than normal and study. If you prefer to stay up late at night, study during this time. Make sure you study in a place where you are not going to be disturbed. You might prefer to work at a table or desk, you might like to lie on the floor or even in your bedroom. A word of warning though, avoid lying on your bed as you are likely to fall asleep!

Changes to the circadian rhythm occur during adolescence, when most teens experience a sleep phase delay. This shift in teens’ circadian rhythm causes them to naturally feel alert later at night, making it difficult for them to fall asleep before 11:00 pm. Since most teens have early school start times along with other commitments, this sleep phase delay can make it difficult to get the sleep teens need – an average of 9 1/4 hours, but at least 8 1/2 hours. If you are learning from home and have a choice about the time you do your learning, a later start might be useful.

Study and Learn in Small Chunks
Again the research is clear, smaller chunks of time are better than long study and learning sessions. It is recommended, especially if you are learning something
challenging, or are lacking in motivation, to study for 20 minutes and then take a five minute break. During the five minute break, make sure you get up and move,
such as having a mini dance party! Drink some water or perhaps eat some brain food. To help with this and for more tips and ideas, download the iStudyAlarm on
your smartphone or device.

Whatever your learning style, best wishes to you all who are learning at home during this time of online learning!

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Karen Tui Boyes


Karen Tui Boyes is a champion for LifeLong Learning. A multi-award-winning speaker, educator and businesswoman, she is an expert in effective teaching, learning, study skills, motivation and positive thinking. Karen is the CEO of Spectrum Education, Principal of Spectrum Online Academy and the author of 10 books. She loves empowering teachers, parents and students and is the wife to one and the mother of two young adults.
Karen was named the GIFEW Evolutionary Woman of the Year 2022.