Whether you made the choice for virtual or mostly in-person learning this year, it’s clear that having a reliable homeschooling space is going to be important!
When things get stressful, it’s helpful to focus on the things you can control, and in this case: you can get started today setting up a workspace for your child that is fun, functional, and cute. Here are some considerations we think will set you up for success:
Location, Location, Location
One of the most common frustrations from our clients is that a room is too messy or “just doesn’t work” – and the primary reason is that the room is trying to be too many things at once. Living rooms are a great example of this – it’s a common gathering space, often a TV or entertainment room, usually a library and reading room for homes with younger children, sometimes it also functions as the mudroom, playroom, and dining room within the same 15-minute span. Trying to cram your child’s homeschool classroom into a corner of that room is just asking for trouble in the form of clutter or ergonomic problems.
While cramming into a corner of the living room might be cozy, it’s probably not optimal. To really nail the location, you’re going to need to select a space that isn’t already overloaded, has enough room to adapt, and is also a place you and your kiddo can both focus and want to be for multiple hours in a day.
You might also find that you need multiple spaces to really function well. Your local elementary school doesn’t try to do everything all in one room, and neither should you.
Maybe you have a “computer lesson/online meeting” space with a pretty or changeable background. Maybe you designate Tuesdays as “outside” days and set up an umbrella for shade. Maybe you use the kitchen table or reading nook for art or writing projects that require extra focus.
If you’re worried about scattering clutter or having to ensure multiple rooms are clean all at once, it’s a great time to call us in to help. We can get things polished and ready to go at a moment’s notice!
Smells, sights (especially light), textures, and sounds play a critical role in your ability to focus – and kids tend to be hypersensitive to changes in an environment. Trying to work on the computer in a room that has too much or not enough light or glare from light sources can be really frustrating. Trying to work in a room adjacent to food smells, the snack-filled pantry, or with sources of noise or distraction like a TV or game system can make it impossible to focus.
The specific room you pick is less important than being able to adapt and create a “flow”.
Priming your space with a spritz of essential oils to assist with focus, taking 5 minutes to declutter and organize your tools, playing a particular kind of background music to help assist with focus, adjusting the blinds and curtains, or even setting LED lighting to a particular tone or brightness can all help. Experiment to find good combinations that work – when something becomes distracting or problematic, write it down so you can track and solve it over time.
The most important concept to embrace when homeschooling is the idea of flexibility. Some days the kitchen table will just not meet your needs and you’ll want to be outside. That’s just fine – every school has field trips. Be willing to experiment with your space and supplies and don’t get too hung-up on priming and primping the “perfect” at-home classroom space. Also, consider that homeschooling activities may bump into other family needs or wants, so being flexible with your space and rooms will help prevent conflicts.
Surfaces and Ergonomics
When repurposing surfaces like the kitchen table, making a habit of preparing your space – like wiping the table down after every meal – can help prevent simple focus-busing frustrations like the crunch of crumbs underneath a laptop or paper printouts absorbing food stains. The morning cleaning and preparation habit can also serve as a reliable signal that “class is about to begin”.
Homeschool tends to be messy. Using a baking sheet as a work station for arts and crafts can help keep messes to a minimum while also giving you a smaller surface area to clean up. Baking sheets can also double as lap desks without the added clutter of “yet another thing”.
Having a picnic blanket at the ready to serve as your “classroom rug” can also help prevent school supply accidents in hard to clean spots and create a movable, cozy “focus” spot that works just as well outside as it does inside. Bonus: when school is out, you can ball up your blanket, shake out crumbs over the trash, then toss that sucker in the washing machine and your classroom will be fresh and clean for tomorrow’s lessons with minimal effort.
Chairs and comfortable seating are important considerations, too – when working on the computer, most of us slouch or have bad posture habits. Over the course of a whole year, this can have major effects on your health. Setting up your space to have proper ergonomics at least some of the time is pretty important to long-term success when homeschooling (https://uhs.umich.edu/computerergonomics).
Classrooms are typically packed with lots of learning tools, but they almost always split these tools into organized sections of the room that orbit a multi-purpose work station. Everything has its own place (even if it moves) and teachers almost always take time at the start of the year to teach kids where to find and put things back.
Since flexibility is the name of the game, the best way to optimize your “space” is often to have nicely organized and portable toolkits for particular kinds of schoolwork. A pencil box may not cut it at homeschool – instead, you could set up a school supply tote or cubby with special drawers for art, math, writing, and reading. You might have a rolling cart that has all the technology stuff (chargers, USB cables, a scanner, a printer, etc…) that can plug into anywhere with an outlet.
Magazine holders are useful for storing paper (either to save schoolwork or to keep fresh paper ready to go with minimal mess).
Also, consider scanning in artwork and homework so you don’t have to keep the physical copies unless you really want to. There are several good free scanning apps available for most smartphones (including the default Notes app on the iPhone).
Clutter is usually the result of trying to do too many things at once. Overwhelm is the first step to a mess. Totes and cubbies make cleanup a lot easier because the question of “what needs to be put back?” is very easy to answer.
When you find spaces that work for particular kinds of lessons or classwork, it might be a good idea to tweak that space – add design elements as you go. Portable or temporary decor by way of magnet or cork boards fixed to the wall by 3M tabs make this really easy to do without permanent alterations to your walls! This can also help reduce paper clutter for frequently referenced papers.
Overall, you’re gonna have a lot of things to worry about when setting up for homeschooling or virtual schooling even one or two days out of the week. Don’t let your cleaning fall by the wayside – let us help! Call us at (970) 215-2224.
– Laura @ All Star Cleaning