It's that time of year again: school's back in session (or about to be depending on your district), but things are looking a little differently this year. To cope with the pandemic, most every school is offering some form of distance learning. But when the classroom comes home, what's the best way to set things up? What can you do to create a focused learning environment for your kids?
The answer to these questions will depend on a variety of factors like your available space, how many kids will be distance learning, whether you're working from home, and how your children learn best. But to get things started, here are a few ideas for setting up your child's home "classroom" so they're ready to learn.
Where to Set Up
For younger kids, it's best to set up their home learning area in a place where you can oversee them, like the kitchen table or in a home office nook. Older kids who have desk space in their bedroom may be able to work independently. However with online learning or if they're using the internet for research, it's worth considering setting up a space in a family area so you can make sure they're not distracted by games, messages, or YouTube.
Pro tip: A light and spacious environment is the most ideal and conducive for learning, so if you can, station your child's study area near a window (or skylight!) for natural light and fresh air.
For healthy development, your child's chair is as important as their desk. Ideally, they should be able to sit comfortably with their feet flat on the floor. Of course, this can be hard if they're at the kitchen table and have little legs! So, try to make them as comfortable as possible. Use cushions if you need to so they're not constantly fidgeting.
Pro tip: For more long-term home learning, investing in an adjustable office chair for your kids allows them to grow with their learning space.
Even in traditional classrooms, kids will use any excuse to get up from their desk - using the bathroom, sharpening their pencils, or wandering off to find a ruler. While you can't prevent natural bodily functions, making sure they have everything they need, including stationary and books, at the beginning of the school day will help keep them organized. If they're using a laptop or tablet, make sure to have their chargers at their work station too. And make sure to have any login details they'll need for distance learning.
Pro tip: Use magazine files, in/out trays, pencil cases, or even empty shoeboxes to help organize your child's paper-based work. This will help them easily find that worksheet or protractor, as well as stop their learning materials from spreading too far out around the house.
Get Rid of Distractions
That means no tablet unless they're using it for class, no TV, no cell phones, maybe even no pets depending on how rambunctious they can get. This is school, after all! Keep in mind, though, that your kids are used to working in a busy classroom, so absolute silence isn't necessary. In fact, many children will even find schoolwork easier with a bit of background noise, like some quiet music or ambient noises.
Pro tip: Be smart about snacks! Hunger can be as much of a distraction as snacking, so check in with your kid throughout the day if you're able to gauge their hunger levels. Then, opt for some brain-boosting snacks if needed.
Make the Most of All Your Space...
There are many advantages and disadvantages to both at-home and traditional classroom learning. One benefit of at-home learning is being able to make use of more space. Give your child freedom to use different spaces as they tackle their home learning. Setting up at a table is best for Zoom learning, but blankets and cushions on an armchair can also be conducive for learning during quiet reading times.
Pro tip: Make even more of your space by setting up visuals. Having your child's class and homework schedule on their desk or stuck to the wall can help them see exactly what they should be doing at a glance. This helps both with establishing a routine and improving time management skills.
...And Keep it in Perspective
Not everyone has bedrooms equipped for learning, spacious kitchens with a family table, and home offices or studies. It can be a struggle to create a dedicated learning space, and distance is something very new for most students and teachers this school year. Don't get stressed if your at-home learning set-up isn't perfect. Just give your kids plenty of love and support, and you'll all see this school year through.