As the debate around school openings continues, many parents are weighing how best to create a home learning space that’ll help a child focus on his or her lessons.
This blog pulls together a dozen homeschool setup ideas. Depending on how old your kids are, as will your home’s size and configuration, some tips may resonate more than others! Don’t forget to consider whether your child will be sharing the space with siblings at different grade levels — or with parents who work remotely. The first rule of thumb? Be patient, flexible, and creative!
1 – Pick a spot
Older kids are pretty independent, but if they don’t already have a desk in a bedroom or family room, now’s a great time to think that through. If your kids are in preschool or just starting elementary classes or are online for courses or homework research, it’s worth setting them up somewhere where you can keep an eye on them, and limit digital distractions like Animal Crossing, TikTok, and YouTube.
2 – Limit distractions
Speaking of distractions, unless they’re using a tablet for learning, put it away. TV’s get turned off, too. Even the family dog or cat should be banned from your home classroom. We’ve all been on Zoom calls where a coworker’s cat plops down in front of the camera. Also, if your kids have a mobile phone, switch it off. Text messages that can be super distracting at the dinner table are even harder to ignore while doing homework.
3 – Lighten up
It’s normal to pause during studies to rest your eyes on something besides a book or a screen, so if possible, try to position your kid’s study space near a window. The natural light and fresh air will be a major plus.
4 – Sharing a space?
Sharing a home-based workspace with a child taking online lessons can be a little challenging. So, think about ways to mix it up. If you can’t juggle Zoom meetings, perhaps you swap locations every so often: you work in a bedroom while they claim the kitchen table and vice versa. The other key element here is noise. Invest in a good set of noise reduction headphones or Earbuds (for you). They’ll make a world of difference.
5 – Sound off?
Even though we just mentioned getting earphones to limit distractions in a shared space, we’re going to walk that back a bit. Your child may be used to being in an active classroom, with the buzz of students and teachers. Sometimes that background noise is how they learn best, so there is no need to create a space that offers absolute quiet. A bit of ambient noise, like some soft music or the sounds of nature, can help clear the head for learning.
6 – Be ergonomic
Common knowledge is to maintain good posture when working: sit upright, feet flat on the floor, keep screens at eye level. But it’s not so easy with a kid, especially if their feet don’t reach the floor from the kitchen table. Booster seats for little ones and cushions for older kids can work wonders, whichever keeps them from fidgeting and adjusting their position.
7 – Keep things within reach
Kids are clever. They’ll use any excuse to get up from their seat and wander away: a replacement pen, a pad of paper that’s gone missing, the wrong laptop charger. Once they leave the study area, they may conveniently forget to return. Make sure everything they need — printouts of assignments, books, pencils, pens, batteries, electronics, water bottles — are all within reach. Store these items in a shoebox to keep them from getting scattered throughout the house. And keep login credentials for the websites or apps they’ll be connecting to, somewhere that’s secure and easily accessible.
8 – Be predictable
Setting up a routine is a great way to keep your kids ready for what’s next. A playful wall calendar highlights the day’s events and upcoming assignments. For older kids, use an online calendar app that can quickly print out a daily or weekly schedule that’s easy to manage and revise. My Study Life and Evernote are good choices. You can also use an iPhone or microwave timer to set time limits for projects, so kids know when to take a break or move on to the next assignment.
9 – Get a Zoom shirt
Most remote workers know what a Zoom shirt is. It’s the dress-up shirt you keep handy to look more professional during a video conference call. Kids could use something like that too. Define online class-time from the rest of their home life by having them wear something more appropriate than a t-shirt and shorts. When school is out, they can peel off the Zoom shirt and switch to play clothes. This can help get your kid into a learning headspace.
10 – Smart snacking
If your kids are food motivated, they’ll likely raid the fridge a lot more if their learning from the kitchen table. To keep them from being distracted by the lure of cookies and chips, schedule snack times between classes. Put out a couple of healthy items that they can nibble while working, then reward a completed school day with a personal favorite.
11 – Don’t just sit there
Pre-pandemic, your kid didn’t spend all day sitting at his or her desk. There’s a lot of stimuli in their day from changing classrooms, taking recess, moving through hallways, and gathering at assemblies. At home, they’ll benefit from some of the same transitions. So mix it up! Create a space for reading that might be less formal than the main study area. Art projects and creative learning can happen in another room, and if you’re lucky enough to have a yard or patio, make that part of the learning environment too. And by all means, take walks between classes to get a change of scenery if at all possible.
12 – Namaste
Not all of us have extra bedrooms, spacious kitchens, and patios to spread out in. Don’t get overwhelmed if your perfectly designed home is getting a little overcrowded with school projects and makeshift learning spaces. If you get stressed, your child will get stressed — and that affects concentration. Remember, this too shall pass. Try to make the best of your homeschooling situation. You may miss it when it’s over!
NEED TO UPGRADE?
One of the pandemic’s effects is realizing you need a bigger house, especially when everyone is working or learning from home. Maybe it’s time to consider a new home in a new neighborhood that can accommodate the new normal. Take the time to connect with a local professional — a real estate agent who will listen to your needs and chat with you about what’s in the market in your price range. To determine what you can afford, work with an experienced lender. We have mortgage professionals across the country who can help you better understand your housing budget and get you started on the pre-approval process before going house hunting.