When stay at home orders ramped up and many schools closed last spring, pretty much every parent I know was thrust into suddenly having their children at home, and trying to "homeschool" with no preparation at all.
If you are anything like me then you probably did not have time to create a distance learning space at home.
In my case I work from home, and I have since my first baby was born, so I was lucky that it wasn't a shock to have my kids home all day.
But there was nothing easy or non stressful about the situation. All of a sudden I was in charge of making sure my kids are doing their school work, keeping them entertained, getting them exercise, and I really had no area of my house that was a good room for them to work.
To say it was overwhelming is an understatement!
Since I did not have a dedicated space we tried using the kitchen table. I set my kids up with my old iPads and that totally bombed.
Unfortunately the iPads did not work seamlessly with Google classroom or many of the apps the school required.
I ended up having to do a lot of the uploading and updating my from my own laptop, and the children ended up in my office.
Well my office space is tiny, one small desk and chair. So I had them work one at a time while I helped them. They were distracted, they wanted to play with items in my office, and spin the chair around in circles pretty much the entire time.
Did I mention my kids are young? They were in kindergarten and second grade at the time. I also have a freshly turned four year old as well.
Accepting the reality of learning at home
Since I spent the spring just getting by, I told myself if we are still at home in the fall I would be much more on top of this.
I learned in July that we are starting the school year 100% distance learning (or virtual learning) until at least January. I have a feeling it could end up being all year, so I wanted to create the nicest space I could.
Plenty of parents have been homeschooling for ages, and while my ideas are geared towards parents who are embarking on this for the first time, it works for homeschooling as well.
I don't consider what I am doing homeschool because my children are still following the school district's plan and schedule. I will be helping for sure but hopefully I won't be doing the schooling.
The tips below are also geared towards younger children. My kids are in elementary school, and I have one who would have been starting preschool.
Older kids in middle school and high school may want to use desks in their rooms, or other types of spaces, so take my tips as they are and use what applies for you.
My mother was an elementary reading specialist for over 30 years so I was lucky to have her input as I put this space together. She will also be supplying my children with an easel type board for the room which is not here yet, so therefore not in the images of the room.
Tips for creating a distance learning space
- Minimize distractions is a tip I have heard repeatedly. I worry about this one a little bit because my kids will be on the main floor of our house and they will be together. For this reason I have bought them both headphones with mics and bluetooth so they can hopefully focus on their class and not each other.
- Give kids a space of their own for learning. Having my kids in my office using my desk did not work out well. I am now creating a space in our home dedicated to distance learning.
- Set up supplies and get kids involved in the process. While not going back to school in person is a bummer, my kids are excited to see the supplies coming in and the space coming together. This is getting them motivated for the school year despite it being different than normal.
- Keep supplies and school items organized. I have given each of my children their own school supply cart. This is to keep their items organized, and to also allow them to move the cart and take everything to another part of the house if this is needed for any reason.
- Make the space a place kids can leave school behind. I debated putting desks into my kids room initially, but after I heard this tip I decided to keep them in another shared room of the house.
- Kids need to put the school work down and leave it at the end of the day. This tip definitely applies more to younger kids. I can see more responsible and older kids having a space in their rooms if that works for them.
- Have space for kids to move around and possibly different seating options. I seriously debated whether to put my kids at their own desks or use a table. Since they are pretty young I could not see them sitting in one place all day. For this reason I have a table, a charging desk, a bean bag chair, and a soft comfortable chair so they can move around as they get antsy.
Creating my distance learning space
Our dining room has never been used as a dining room. I moved into this house a couple of years ago and initially this room was used as a playroom, but the toys quickly outgrew the space. Now the playroom is in the basement, and this room has been a small toy space and book room since then.
It was the perfect space to make our distance learning classroom.
- I used an old kitchen table from my previous home as their main table where they will sit with their school assigned Google Chromebooks. I am so lucky our school provided these because we really struggled in the spring using our own devices.
- I bought this desk which comes from Ikea but I overpaid for it on Amazon. By the time I decided to buy a desk almost everything was sold out and it was only the end of July.
- I am going to use the desk mainly for charging their laptops but I did add a monitor I already have in case one child has a meeting and would like to use the bigger space.
- The small desk chair is for the kids to use when they want to move and fits perfectly at the charging desk.
- The bean bag chair was added as an option for when they just get sick of sitting in a chair. The Chromebooks are portable so I wanted to give them options to move around. In my opinion kids in younger grades move around a lot. They are already being asked to be on a screen for hours more than normal, I want them to be able to move around as needed.
- The shelving in this room is from Ikea and I already had from when it was a playroom. It is still loaded up with toys for my preschooler. While the older two are learning she will still be able to easily grab some toys and play with me.
- I bought headphones for the kids so they are not distracted by each other and noises in the house. They can be wired or use bluetooth and have a mic. I had to get my preschooler a pair too so she wouldn't feel left out.
- I got a ton of school supplies and several small whiteboards so children can write on them and hold them up for the teacher to see. They are not in the carts yet in these images but they are ready to go.
- I also got a whiteboard calendar for the wall so we can keep track of assignments and special dates.
- Each child has their own cart with their supplies. This way they can move around the house if it's needed for some reason. And they can keep all of their items organized and not get them confused with each other.
- We have a good Wifi setup in our house using Google's mesh system but you may want to check yours out before school starts. Or wire to the kid's devices directly. Ours will be moving around so we need good Wifi.
- I added a few educational decorations which are again mostly for my preschooler. I plan to add more for the older kids and rotate them throughout the year.
As many of us get ready to start the new school year from home, I am sharing ideas for creating a learning space where children can focus and be happy and comfortable.
These are my ideas and I hope they help you create an amazing distance learning space at home too. There is nothing normal about what we are all about to embark on, and I do hope parents can collaborate together to make this a little easier.
I will be sharing more ideas and things I learn as the school year goes on, and I hope you will share your ideas with me too.
I did debate whether a table or individual desks would be better, but since my children are young I went with a table and multiple seating options so they can move around.
If it ends up not working out at the table I will update this post with any changes I make.
Please let me know, how are you getting ready for the new school year at home?
Shop the picks I used to create my distance learning space at home
These are the exact items I ordered and are pictured in my room.