Are you facing the challenge of online learning this fall? For families of K-12 students, as well as many college students, the reality of online learning is here. But, are you ready? Juggling the competing needs of working from home, overseeing online learning, childcare, feeding your family, and maintaining some semblance of order can quickly become overwhelming. Creating a kids space just for online learning will help battle some of the chaos that we all now face.
Finding the Right Space
Of course, the youngest children will need ongoing supervision, and their learning space will have to be located in the main living area of the house. So, it’s essential that you carve out a space (even just a corner), solely for the kids. A sense of place is important, so that children will understand that, although in-person school may be temporarily on hold, this is a learning space.
When my own children were young, our small den was dedicated entirely to their toys, games, beanbag chairs and a communal computer. It wasn’t pretty! But, it helped keep the rest of the house tidy and organized. It also gave my brood a place that was solely theirs. If you are fortunate enough to have a space like this, with a bit of a revamp, it can become an ideal home learning environment.
Unusual (or unused) spaces. No dedicated kid space? It’s time to get resourceful. How about a three-season room, loft space, or a rarely used formal dining room? While these spots may be intended for other functions, it’s more than worth the trade off to give kids a place where they can truly learn during this difficult time.
Take it outside. While the weather is still beautiful, utilize the patio, deck or balcony in short bursts. A change of scenery can help with the inevitable fatigue that online learning can bring.
Find a quiet corner. If your space is small, or if you have an open floor plan, a quiet corner may be your only option. If possible, locate it away from high traffic areas, such as the front door or kitchen.
Don’t banish kids to the bedroom! Bedrooms should be used exclusively for sleeping and relaxing. A desk filled with unfinished papers, a pile of reading, and a long to-do list can cause anxiety and is never conducive to a good night’s sleep.
Make the Space Beautiful
Creating a home learning environment is a little like a teacher setting up a classroom. Think about your child’s school environment for a moment. Is it filled with bright colors? Inspiring art? Books and tempting art supplies?
Enlist the help of your children. Creating a unique environment that gets kids excited about learning is essential. And, when you have their buy-in, the battle is half won from the start!
Clear out. Stashing toys and distractions out of sight is important. If storage is an issue, cover up (using screens or partitions) anything that could be distracting. And, while permanent changes are probably not needed, some clever rearranging may be.
The basics. Move in an appropriately sized desk or table, a comfy, adjustable chair, and task lighting. Make sure there is plenty of space on the desk for a monitor, a spot to write or draw, and room enough to stack work in progress. A bookcase adjacent to the desk is another must-have for school books and supplies.
Don’t forget the walls. Add an inexpensive whiteboard, chalkboard, or a cork board for messages, notes and a to-do list. A space to display artwork, projects, and papers is also crucial. I personally love the look of flag bunting that uses clothespins to hand papers and pictures. (Bonus – bunting only requires two push pins to secure!).
Think about storage. Keeping school, art and craft supplies easily accessible is essential. Dollar store bins in bright colors keep papers and projects together, funky coffee mugs or cups corral pens and markers.
Move it! Sitting all day is unhealthy. If it’s in the budget, consider investing in a stand up desk. At the very least, set up a timer so that kids have a hard-to-ignore reminder to get up and move every 30 minutes.
Cozy up the learning. When kids have reading to do, create a secondary space that will inspire them. A book nook, window seat, teepee, indoor tent or other special spot is like a mini-retreat. Use a plush throw, fluffy pillows, and fairy lights to create a charming sanctuary that is sure to inspire.
This school year promises to be a challenge for everyone. Don’t forget to make some space for yourself – and give yourself some grace, while you are at it!
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Susan Said… WHAT?! is your guide to style for the way you live, and was named one of the Top 50 Beauty Blogs in the World by RebateZone.com. You’ll find everything from fashion, jewelry, beauty and accessories, to gardens, interiors and DIY projects, plus the latest ideas events of all kinds. Susan Conforte McNeill is an author, entrepreneur, and co-founder of the literacy organization Success Won’t Wait!