Do you remember the day you got the notice that schools were going to switch to remote learning because of the rapidly spreading novel coronavirus? For me, it was right after Spring Break. That day will likely be ingrained in the minds of parents for years to come, just like other memories of this unprecedented pandemic.
Fast forward nearly an entire year, and phrases like “home learning,” “learning at home,” “virtual learning,” and (my personal favorite) “e-learning” are all part of our everyday vocabulary now. And although hope is on the horizon, remote learning will likely be sticking around in some form.
So I say it’s time to cast aside our pandemic fatigue (another common phrase now) and do something to rekindle our excitement — and our kids’! — for this learning adventure we’re on. Let’s show them just how proud we are of what they’re accomplishing despite the obstacles by giving their home learning spaces some well-deserved makeovers.
Now, you don’t have to be an old hand at remote learning to participate. Regardless of where you are on your e-learning journey, these tips can help you create or renew your child’s learning space to be one that is both refreshing and practical. In addition to advice from education experts, you’ll get an inside look at what has and hasn’t worked for me — and what I’ve learned along the way.
So pull up your sleeves, put on your positive pants, and know that if you’re a parent/guardian/grandparent/coach in charge of a child’s learning, we’re cheering you on!
1. CONSIDER YOUR SPACE (OR LACK THEREOF)
“It’s THE PERFECT spot!” I told my husband. “She can sit quietly at her desk, and I can sit quietly at my desk, but we’ll both be in view of each other. That way, I can continue to work but help her out when she needs me.” Ha! In hindsight, this conversation reminds me of that time that I thought for sure I could handle a newborn baby and continue to work on growing my one-woman business at the same time. Yeah. Those were some crazy months.
You guessed it: Even though you have the best intentions, they may not be the most practical for your specific situation. I was set on converting our dining room (which is directly across from my office) into our classroom and still working full-time while acting as my daughter’s “learning coach,” just as so many parents have done over the past year. Needless to say, focusing became a lost art.
Ready for some expert advice? This video has plenty:
Here are some things I learned instead about finding the perfect location for a home learning space:
- If you’re a working parent, consider how close you want to be to your child during important calls — and how quickly either of you can relocate, if the need arises.
- Take inventory of how many doors can be shut between you, if needed. Seriously. I can’t tell you how many clients heard sing-along songs during meetings because it’s wide-open spaces around here. Likewise, it’s imperative that your child has a quiet learning environment.
- On the other hand, decide if you would prefer to be within earshot of the instructor’s voice (if applicable), to keep tabs on your hard worker.
- If your child is currently in a communal area, make sure everyone knows that space is where the learning takes place and nothing else. If other family members (yourself included) are moving about, they are being distracting.
- Consider the level of comfort and distractions. No, a bedroom is not an ideal place for a kid to learn (or stay awake, for that matter). And neither is the sofa or playroom or trampoline or tree house. You catch my drift.
Don’t have an entire room to dedicate to this endeavor? That’s perfectly fine — nearly any size space can be converted to a learning hub!
2. START WITH THE BASICS
Maybe you’re like me, and you scoured Pinterest for hours (more like days) to find anything and everything classroom-related to include in your space. Or perhaps you’re just beginning to dip your toes into the e-learning water, and you’re awfully tempted to just go ahead and dive into those dollar-store waters for every school knick knack that looks cute.
Here’s your wake-up call/warning: It’s not worth it. And guess what? Your child probably doesn’t care anyway. That banner that you meticulously hung around the ceiling trim? It’s guaranteed to come down. (True story.) And all those posters you’re thinking about ordering with the matching theme, fonts, and colors? Chances are, your kid won’t be able to tell you what they say after months of hanging out with them every day. (Another true story.) You know what will put your child in a pleasant mood? A clean, clutter-free environment. Start with just the necessities. Then, and only then, decide what else you think would be beneficial.
Learning space basics include:
- Plenty of light. Natural light is best, but try to keep your child facing away from a window. You want to hear about their day at school — not about how many boxes were delivered to the neighbors that day.
- A clean, hard surface to work on (floor not included).
- A comfortable chair at the appropriate height.
- Necessary grade-appropriate school supplies (technology, notebooks, art supplies, extras, etc.).
- Simple organizational system to keep track of everything (a rolling cart, for example, which can come in extra handy for those times when you want to take the learning outside).
|MOM PRO TIP: Not enough room? It’s A-okay to rent a storage unit or have a portable storage container delivered so you can clear out clutter and open up more space. It may not seem like it in the moment, but remind yourself this is just temporary.
3. USE YOUR STUDENT’S CREATIVE STYLE
Now this is where the fun begins. Once your basics are covered, you can decide how you’d like to spruce up the area and make it unique to your child. What’s their favorite color? Do they love a certain character? Let your child run the show with this one. Your job is to figure out how you can convert those interests into practical school solutions. For example, if your daughter loves polka dots, consider creating a polka dot pin board together to hang near her desk for pictures of her friends and important school reminders. It’s a twofer — you’ll freshen up the look and feel of the school zone and create some perfect bonding moments while you’re at it!
|MOM PRO TIP: This is also the perfect opportunity to go through your child’s recent work and put favorites on display. Who needs inspirational posters when you have one-of-a-kind works of art to show off?
4. VEER AWAY FROM ALL THINGS VIRTUAL
Just because you have a virtual learner doesn’t mean everything has to be virtual. In my case, when given the option to print out the worksheets and complete the projects offline before uploading pictures of them to the teacher, I always jumped at the opportunity. It’s pretty cool to see your kid use a stylus on a tablet, but it’s even cooler to watch her work on her handwriting skills (IMO). And it gives them a much-needed break from screen time. When it comes to remote learning resources, consider investing in a printer if you don’t currently own one … and a stockpile of art supplies, for that matter.
5. WORK ROUTINES INTO THE DESIGN
After all of my preparation and purchases, do you know what my daughter told my mom one day? That she wished she had a “turn-in box.” A simple, no-frills box that she could put her worksheets in for me to then take out, take pictures of, and upload to her teacher. If that’s not proof that children thrive with routine, I don’t know what is.
Take a look at your child’s daily schedule and consider:
- Keeping a dry-erase board handy, to make note of any changes or reminders
- Providing a timer, to help keep your child on task
- Setting specific break times (if not already included)
- Providing a snack and/or drink station
- Creating different zones (art zone, reading zone, etc.)
- Planning ahead each night and having the next day’s supplies ready and waiting
6. GIVE YOURSELF LOTS OF CREDIT!
Here’s the deal: No matter how fabulous your home learning space is, plans will still change. There will still be bad days. And the pandemic will still be tough. But that’s not all. You’ve grown closer to your family. You’re more patient, more flexible, more appreciative. And you’ve seen just how amazing your child is at school every day — something you likely never thought you’d experience.
There’s a lot we can’t control, especially these days. But one thing’s for sure: We can control how much love and support we show our children, no matter the challenges. If creating a learning space that’s exciting to visit every day brings a smile to my little girl’s face, I’ll do it over and over again. And I bet you’re willing to do it, too.
Leslie Baker is a freelance writer and editor based just outside of Memphis, Tennessee. Her passion is perfecting the art of truly making a house a home.