With many school districts here in Chicagoland and around the country set to start the year with remote learning, now is the time to make sure your home is truly ready for your students to head back to class — at a distance.
Whether working on a group project with friends or taking notes on a lesson over video chat, kids and young adults are going to need spaces of their own to focus, learn, and create this fall.
Looking to get over the “back-to-school” rush and help your little ones make the most of their virtual class time? Here are five important ways to help create a home learning environment that is comfortable, functional, and ready to help your family start the school year on the right foot:
1.) Make Use of the Space You Have
If you have a bonus room or home office space, you may already be looking for creative ways to adapt this area for young learners. But keep in mind that you don’t need a dedicated space to set up a great environment for schoolwork!
To help set up your students for success at home, experts recommend providing a space that is well-lit, equipped with comfortable seating, and which offers easy access to the internet and power outlets for online learning. Depending on your household, you may be able to create a functional study space in any number of locations — from transitioning your dining room into a remote work area, to taking over the kitchen island, to setting up a desk in an out-of-the-way corner of the living room. You may even look into creative ways to make the most of your home’s little nooks and crannies. Depending on your space, you could build an office into a linen closet, repurpose a hallway side table, or make the most of that awkward gap under the stairs. You might even look into dual-purpose furniture, such as collapsible desks or tray tables, which younger kids can use to maintain a good posture while sitting on the floor.
To help your learners focus while school is in session, be sure to think ahead and make plans to cut down on distractions. If multiple family members need to share a space, you can max out the room by using privacy screens or dividers. Adults and teens may want to consider using noise-cancelling headphones, or even white noise machines. If you have curious toddlers or enthusiastic pets, try to keep them separate from students during school hours. You can also help foster a quiet environment by keeping the TV and radio turned off, and trying not to run the vacuum cleaner or other loud appliances during class time.
2.) Keep the Workstation Organized and Clutter-Free
Studies have shown that people of all ages are able to concentrate better and be more productive in clean, well-organized workspaces. To help set your remote learners up for success, take care to keep their workstation neat and organized.
Look into creative solutions that will fit seamlessly into your space. For example, if you have an empty wall, you can implement vertical storage with floating shelves or hanging organizers, or hang a whiteboard or corkboard perfect for making to-do lists and keeping a calendar.
An empty bar cart or side table can be repurposed into a portable storage unit for school supplies. If you need to use space on a desk, consider using different organizers to help prevent art supplies, pencils, and papers from cluttering up the workspace. If your little one likes to keep things tidy, look for a labeling system that will work for their daily schedule.
At every step of the way, don’t hesitate to include your kids in this process! You may be surprised by the kinds of fun, functional ideas you can come up with when working together. Plus, your students may be more likely to actually stick to a cleaning schedule when they have a say in it.
3.) Create a Picture-Perfect Zoom Zone
While participating in a virtual classroom is sure to be a new experience, there are lots of ways to help make sure that your little ones are set up for success. Fortunately, many of the same principles that you use during work Zoom calls and video chats apply for your students participating in remote learning.
Set up the computer and webcam in a quiet place without too much background or ambient noise, and where the student can talk without causing too much of an echo. Try to keep the background clean, simple, and free of distractions, and consider using a virtual backdrop if you’re concerned about protecting their privacy. Make sure the space is well-lit and avoid rear lighting, which can cause deep shadows. Position the seating so that your kids can sit a comfortable distance away from the camera, which should be positioned around eye level.
4.) Amp Up Your Internet
With parents and kids both working from home, your WiFi may not be able to keep up. Depending on how much bandwidth you need, it may be worth looking into hardware that can help give your signal a boost, including range extenders and mesh routers. There are also programs available to help connect households across the country with free or reduced-cost internet services to promote distanced education, as well as organizations that can help families access affordable computers, tablets, and other educational electronics.
5.) Make Space for Play and Exercise
Lunch, recess, and even the downtime between classes all play a part in helping students navigate the school day. Don’t forget to build space for rest, play, and exercise into your daily routine.
This might include creating physical boundaries around the house. For example, you could set up a comfortable nook area for reading and writing, or create stations around the house to break up the day — for example, one room for working on projects and another for virtual classes. Many students might also benefit from having a fidget spinner, a stress ball, or another physical object nearby which they can quietly use when they’re starting to feel distracted or restless during class.
Meanwhile, be sure to also build in time to rest and recharge. Encourage your young ones to make time to walk around, stretch, and give their eyes a break. Find alternative activities — such as drawing, reading, or outdoor games — that will give them time away from screens.
Making the Most of Your Time at Home
This is the time to remember what’s truly important — health, family, and the bonds that tie us together. Whether it’s now serving as a school, office, playground, or simply a safe space, our home has never been more important. We know this is as well as anyone. At Baird & Warner, Chicagoland has been our home since 1855.
We are here for you, no matter what. We understand that you still have important real estate decisions to make, and our mission is to make achieving those goals easier. We will continue to provide the most updated information and guide you through this extraordinary time with a calm and steady hand.