How to Set Up At-Home Learning Spaces for Your Kids During the Coronavirus Outbreak
There's more involved than sticking to a schedule.
You may never be able to replicate the structure and set-up of your child's school in your own home, but there are solid steps you can take to transform your dining room table from family gathering spot to a learning zone. And best of all? You can structure the space however you want—it's your classroom now.
Before you start setting up your at-home learning space, Dr. Roseann Capanna-Hodge, pediatric mental health expert and psychologist, suggests making sure that you understand what the school expects of you and your child from the beginning. You should find out if they want you to continue following their existing routine and keep to their in-school curriculum; if so, you'll want to keep that in mind before you create your space. "Next, parents need to make sure what learning platform [they] will be using and what supplies are needed," she says. "Make sure you have exactly what they would need for all classes, including art and physical education, and have them accessible [to your] children [if possible]."
Designate and Organize a Learning Space
Before you run to the store (or click add-to-cart), Capanna-Hodge suggests cross-checking what supplies you will need for each class. This will prevent overbuying or unnecessary duplicates that you'll then need to find a place for within your home. Once you have everything you need, pick a designated supply area. "Have your child participate in the organization of materials for each class," she says. When you're done, do a dry run for every class your child will be taking to make sure everything is there and easily accessible.
If you are low on space for storing all your new supplies, try repurposing a utility cart or storage tote. This way you can easily move classroom supplies to-and-from workstations like kitchen tables during school hours, and then get them out of sight for mealtime. This can also add a visual separation between "learning time" and "home time" for your child.
Try Not to Rely on Electronics
While beginning an at-home learning routine is not the time to eschew all technology, it is a great time to try and get back to basics, according to clinical psychologist Dr. Renee Solomon. "Setting up an art station is a great way for kids to utilize a different part of their brains," she says. "It can be very simple such as having a bunch of supplies on the table." She suggests younger kids try working on collages or playing with clay to focus on and develop fine motor skills. Of course, you are still likely to need electronics for communications between your child and their teacher, and they should be readily available and easy to access during that time.
If you are hosting a class in the living room, or any other room where televisions and electronics might be a distraction, make sure they are off during "school time."
Schedules Are Still Important
According to Solomon, parents should not feel obligated to keep the same schedule every day or the same schedule that their kids had in school. "This will cause undue stress and resentment," she says. "It is so important right now for everyone to be flexible and surrender." Something she says may look different for every family.
While a color-coded printout of your child's daily activities may work for some families, it will not work for others, and that's okay. Finding what works for your family and your situation will help make you more successful at creating an in-home learning space than trying to duplicate things that work for other families.