“Back-to-school” is taking on new meaning in 2020, as COVID-19 forces millions of families across the country to bring the classroom into the living room.
Here are five tips to ensure a smooth return to remote learning. We hope these teacher- and parent-approved suggestions will help keep your kids engaged, your home in order, and the entire family sane and happy during this surreal season.
Create a Dedicated Space
Step one is setting up a designated area in the home for virtual instruction. This will minimize distractions and help learners get into a “school” mindset and show up each morning ready to focus. “For parents, the most important thing is to figure out both a consistent space and routine,” said Tiffany Kinnaird, an elementary school counselor in Asheville, N.C. “We’re reminding our teachers that every student has a different home life and environment, so no two families will have the same setup or resources.”
Just as moms and dads working from home must stay disciplined and on task, kids are tempted even moreso by toys, games, pets and more. So it’s best to separate home/fun and school/work as much as possible. “We’re working as hard as we can to make sure our students stay engaged,” said Brooke Patrick, a first-grade teacher at a dual-language school near Atlanta, GA. “But parents have a big role to play in maintaining an environment conducive to remote learning.”
Consider converting a little-used dining room, guest bedroom or basement into a temporary classroom. Choosing a space with a door that can be closed to give students privacy while working, talking with a teacher or taking a test is preferable, but not a must. No spare room? No problem. Set up in the family room, carve out a corner of the kitchen or repurpose a nook under the stairs.
Provide Suitable Surfaces and Seating
Give your child a smooth, stable and spacious workspace to spread out and complete their lessons and homework. “Students need to be working at a desk or table, if possible,” said Marcia Flood, a high school English and history teacher in Starkville, Miss. “When we started Zoom-ing in the spring, I could see some of my kids ‘working’ from their beds… which obviously isn’t ideal.”
Straight-backed, ergonomic chairs are equally important to prevent slouching and keep your learners locked in to their studies. If your pupils prefer to learn upright, give a standing desk a shot (ironing boards or kitchen island countertops can suffice as substitutes).
Make it Light and Bright
Bringing as much natural light as possible into the learning space will brighten both the room and the mood. Position desks near windows (avoid direct sunlight, which can be a bit too harsh), and consider working outside on a covered porch, patio or deck when the weather cooperates.
Adding a splash of color via a fresh coat of paint can bring energy and fun into educational spaces. “Orange tones help spark enthusiasm and creativity, and greens are calming and aid with concentration,” says Collen Cromer, an interior designer and mom in Charlotte, N.C.
Create a Classroom-Like Setting
By taking steps to replicate the school environment in the comforts of your home, you can help ensure a smooth transition to remote learning (and, hopefully soon, back to school). Keep staple supplies like books, notepads, water bottles and pencils neatly organized in student-specific cups, baskets and bins, and consider hanging posters, charts and chalk/whiteboards.
Clocks and calendars can help kids – and parents – keep track of scheduling. Be sure to take proper breaks for lunch and snacks (it’s best to eat in the kitchen or dining room and keep food out of the learning area).
Keep it Clean, Cozy and Flexible
All materials should stay in the dedicated learning space, just as they do in the classroom, so avoid setting up in a common area. “Visual clutter affects us all,” Cromer adds. “Keeping everything in closed-storage systems like closets, bins and cabinets – or even rolling carts for smaller homes – will help maintain order and sanity.”
STAINMASTER® carpet can help keep learning areas tidy and comfy, and warm up a room. It can also help with noise reduction and resists common spills and stains* that are sure to be part of the at-home school day. Also, go with a lighter color to make spaces feel brighter and bigger.
Give your kids the freedom to complete independent school tasks like reading and drawing on the soft floor (add a pad for an extra-plush feel), a beanbag or the couch for a refreshing change of pace and scenery. Because while structure, rhythm and routine are important, so is a willingness to go with the flow.
“Our biggest hope is to have flexibility on both sides,” Patrick says. “We’re doing our best as teachers to adapt, and we know parents are taking on a portion of our jobs while continuing to do their jobs from home and raise their children. This is a new journey for everyone, so it’s best to work together and communicate.”
*Please refer to the STAINMASTER® carpet limited warranty for more details