Homework Stations

There is no quick and easy way to get kids to do homework, but these stations might eliminate some of the excuses and avoidance tactics kids sometimes use.  In addition to being portable, they are fun and easy to put together-you certainly don't have to dress them up as much as I did-but I don't have girls, so I love the excuse to make something girly once in a while.

Some things I like about this idea:
  • All supplies are in one place.  No more "I can't find a pencil!  I need glue!" and so on.  This prevents the child from having to embark on the dangerous supply safari, from which they may never return...
  • The sign on the front flips back and forth between "Working on it!" to "I'm done!".  This may be an incentive in itself for some kids.  It also allows the parent to see how it's coming without having to nag as much, shifting the responsibility for making sure it gets done more to the child.
  • There is now a specific place for homework to be deposited when it comes in the door, and a place to leave it when it's done out of the dog's reach.  If used regularly, it will become a habit to check their station for completed homework as they head out the door. 
  • I always work better when things are organized-and cuteness makes me want to use it even it if it's for a task I'm not looking forward to all that much.  I think the same applies for kids.  
  • This idea is easily customized to fit the needs of your child, any box or container from a decorated cereal box to a little basket will work.  Just fill it with supplies that are used often, and decorate it up with something the child likes.  Involve the child and they'll be even more likely to use it.
Filling the crates:
I color-coded the baskets and items in the baskets so each girl knew who the item belonged to.  In addition to a pencil case full of things like scissors, glue sticks, colored pencils, pens etc.  I added a ruler, and a blinged-up monogramed notebook.  The cover is removable so the notebook can be replaced as it is used up. If the girls had been older, I might have included a calculator and calendar. 

To make the crate liner:
I used some mini milk crates that were going for $1 during the back-to-school sales.  They were ok, but I wanted to line them to help contain items, and to spiff them up a bit.  These instructions include dimensions for the mini crate I used, but can be used to make a liner for most straight-sided containers.  If you want to line a basket that narrows at the bottom and don't know how to adjust the pattern, make a straight-sided liner based on the widest point, then insert the liner into the container with the seams towards you.  Pin the seams to fit your container, and re-sew the seams.  Do this before hemming the liner or inserting elastic.

1. Measure the opening of the container you want to line.  The mini crate I used had an opening of 8x6 3/4".  Halve both measurements, and in the corner of a piece of tissue or larger paper draw a box using these dimensions (mine was 4x3 3/8").
2.  Measure the height of the interior of the container.  The mini crate I had was 6" tall.  Extend both lines by that amount.
3.  Draw a line parallel to the height lines to form your seam allowance line.  I put my seam allowance at 1/2".

4. To allow yourself enough give in the fabric so you can wrap it over the top, lay a ruler between the corner of the box and a point about 1/2 inch short of the end of the height line.  Extend the seam allowance line along this angle for about 3", or more if you'd like the fabric to extend down further.  Remember to allow an extra 1/2 inch or inch for hemming. Repeat for the other corner.  Extend the line back to the edge of the paper to complete the pattern.

Your completed pattern should look similar to this.
5. Cutting: fold the fabric in half, then in half again.  Position the corner of the pattern over the corner of the fabric, then cut. (I bought some fat quarters to use for this project, but found they are slightly too small.  Oh well, more for the stash).
6.  Fold fabric so two adjacent cuts are together, and sew.  Repeat for each side, so your fabric forms a box.
7.  Trim extra fabric from the corner and press seam open.Check fit at this point.

7. Create a rolled hem around the top by folding the fabric over 1/2 or 1/4 inch, depending on how thick you want the hem (be sure to allow enough room to thread your elastic through).  Fold over again, press and sew.  on the corners, create a rounded corner by rolling it as shown in the photo.  Trim extra fabric at the corners if needed.  If threading elastic through the hem using a safety pin, leave one opening, if using a threader (I love these!), leave another opening halfway around.  The corners can be a bit tricky to thread elastic through, so if you keep all the folds going the same direction it helps.  Another option is to set your machine on a zig-zag the same width as the elastic, and sew the elastic to the inside edge of the fabric, pulling the elastic taut as you sew to create a gather.  The unfinished edge can be hidden by ric-rac or ribbon once it is on the container.

8. Measure elastic length by wrapping it around the exterior of the container, and cutting it about 3 inches short depending on the give of the elastic.  You should be able to take the cut piece and stretch it around the box without it being too taut, but having enough give to overlap the ends about an inch.
9.  Thread elastic through the hem and sew ends together.  Finish hem by stitching the opening.
10. Place liner into container and adjust the gather so it is even.

The finished boxes are ready to decorate!

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