by Mariah Wells
Add some Sesame Street to The Jetsons and throw in a pandemic for good measure. Mix well -- and you’ve got the recipe for virtual learning in the 2020-2021 school year. Most parents figured out last spring that their kids weren't going back to the classroom anytime soon. If you haven’t created a learning space in your home for your kids, it’s way past time.
Here are five ways to improve the learning environment in your home.
1. Right-Size Your Child’s Desk
If you’ve ever tried to take a seat in a first-grade classroom, you discovered the chairs are way too small for your adult posterior. But being able to put their feet on the ground and see over the desk is one way the traditional classroom setup helps children focus. If you have elementary school-aged children, smaller chairs and smaller desks will help make the day easier, both physically and mentally. You can find a kid-sized table and four chairs for under $100 on Amazon. You might be lucky enough to find one for even less on NextDoor or Facebook Marketplace.
2. Control the Clutter
No matter how old you are, clutter causes stress -- and stress makes it harder for your children to keep up with their schoolwork. Keep things clutter-free by making cleanup time a routine at the end of the school day for younger kids. For older children, make them go through their spaces with a trash bag once a week and throw out what they don’t need.
3. See Some Green
Researchers have shown that green space reduces stress and increases focus, so take breaks and get outside, or bring some of the greenery inside. It’s probably not possible to set up a remote school classroom in the middle of Zilker Park, but you can bring some Hill Country penstemon, Texas sage, and other Central Texas native plants to your patio, backyard, or window to get those creative juices flowing.
4. Keep a Stock of Supplies
The first day of school is far behind us, but keeping your child’s learning space stocked with supplies is as important as it was during those first weeks of the fall semester.
Make sure younger kids have all the crayons, construction paper, and glue sticks they need. Keep pencils sharpened and kid-friendly scissors in good shape. For older kids, make sure their devices are in good working order, as well as accessories like earbuds, headphones, and microphones. Check speakers and wires to make sure everything is still in good condition.
5. Let the Sunshine In
At least one school designer is a big fan of natural light in home learning environments because sunshine is good for our physical and mental health. It’s easy to let the day get away from you -- and next thing you know, your kids haven’t been outside for three days. Natural light coming through the window is ideal.
If you can't find a good space next to a window, find an outdoor spot for reading or break-time. Recess was invented to give kids a chance to soak up some of that Texas sunshine.
Bonus Tip: Go With The Flow
Finally, go with the flow. Trying to calmly adjust to the "normal" of this new environment has been a challenge for everybody, including your children who are now learning at home. You can take a few measures to make this unprecedented school year easier for your kids -- and make your home a better schoolhouse for the time being, too.
[NAPO Austin note] A Professional organizer can help you create a fun and functional family study space. Find a local pro at NAPOAustin.com.
Mariah Wells studied writing and biology in Houston before moving to Austin with her family to teach English and science. When she isn't teaching or writing, you'll find her in the garden with her husband and twin boys.