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When you purchased your home, you may not have been thinking about how it could also double as a school! But if you’re now looking to set up a virtual classroom in your home, you’re not alone. A recent study indicates that 52% of students in the United States will be educating remotely full-time this fall, and another 19% will be practicing some kind of hybrid education option.
Setting up a school area in your house is no small task. You have to consider the needs of each individual child, as well as those of the family as a whole. Here’s how you can optimize your home for virtual learning while also maintaining that “homey” feeling you adore.
Consider kids’ ages and needs
J. Perrin Cornell, a top real estate agent in Wenatchee, Washington, has worked with several clients who are setting up their home to attend school remotely, and he’s also consulted with many teachers who are doing the same.
When setting up a school space, he says it’s important to view learning in terms of three layers: the child, the teacher, and the parent. Before getting too far into your virtual classroom setup, you’ll want to ask yourself some preparation questions with those three layers in mind.
How much support do your kids need from adults?
Each child learns differently, and only you know how much adult support your child will need while schooling at home. Generally speaking, younger kids require more direction and help from adults as they’re doing their schoolwork. High school students are probably a little more independent, or they may seek help from friends or tutors.
The level of expected adult interaction will influence the way you set up your child’s learning space. Those who anticipate their students needing a lot of oversight will want the learning space(s) in their home to be easily accessible for the helper. Otherwise, your student will end up losing a lot of efficiency by walking back and forth for assistance.
Consider the possibility that you may need to multitask while helping with school. For example, you may want to set your kindergartener up near the kitchen so that you can prep dinner while helping them read worksheet directions.
How much time will school take?
Again, the answer to this question will vary based on the type of schooling as well as the individual student. Florida Virtual School, an online learn-at-your-own-pace school, says, “On average, students in grades Kindergarten-3 will have 20 hours of work to complete per week, and grades 4-12 will have 25 hours per week.” But other schools require students to be logged on continuously for all traditional school hours. Check with your child’s educator about time requirements so you know what to expect.
The amount of time your child will spend on school will also influence how you set up your space. If you expect your child to be done in just a few hours each day, you may not want to put as much preparation into your home’s school area. Carving out a spot at the dinner table may be just fine for a few hours!
How much work is independent?
Each school is doing virtual education a little differently. Some teachers are live online throughout the entire day; other teachers give instruction, then log off when it’s time for their students to do independent work.
Check with your child’s teacher about the amount of independent work time that can be expected, as that will make a difference in how you set up and manage your virtual classroom. You may want to set up a formal computer station for instruction plus a more casual seating station for independent work. In fact, traditional educational data gathered over a period of 18 years shows that many students tend to perform better when allowed to work in different stations.
Is this temporary, or do you intend to school at home for the foreseeable future?
Some districts are planning to do virtual school for only the first quarter. Some families intend to school at home for the whole year, regardless of district mandates. If virtual schooling is a temporary thing in your household, you may not want to spend a lot of money on your child’s learning space. But if your child will be learning at home indefinitely, you’ll probably want to invest in some furniture and supplies to make them comfortable for the long haul.
Work with the space you have
After you’ve evaluated your family’s personal schooling needs, you’ll need to think through the physical space constraints of your home. Some houses allow for a separate school space; others require some creative multi-purposing.
If your kids will work in a separate room
Those who plan to school at home for quite some time may want to consider converting a little-used room into a school room. A playroom, bonus room, unused formal dining room, loft, or guest room could be repurposed as a quiet space for virtual school needs. Even an extra walk-in closet will work!
If you’ve got an entire room to work with, you can think big about furnishing and layout. Creating a functional school space can be fun! Take a look at some of these essentials for a dedicated school room.
- Desks: With space to spare, go for a worktop that’s wide enough to showcase open binders and textbooks on either side of the computer keyboard. We like this casually-styled option with drawers, this classic desk with hutch, or this L-shaped contemporary design for lots of surface area.
- Chairs: Though most office furniture tends to be paired with rolling chairs, those wheels may not be the best choice for kids from a safety perspective. Instead, you may want to consider a simple design that’s colorful and sturdy. And don’t forget to add a fun and comfortable reading chair in the corner!
- Tables: In the center of your school room you may want to place a small table and chair set for crafts or parent help time. We like this chic, cafe-style set.
- Bookshelves: Be sure to have some shorter bookshelves so younger kids can access all of their resources safely. Taller bookshelves can be great for older kids or for supplies you want to keep out of reach.
- Cubes: Because of its versatility, cubby storage has long been a classroom staple. In your school room, a cube organizer and pull-out bins could be a great (and familiar) way to organize loose items, such as headsets, library books, and art projects.
- Wall hangings: Use the wall space wisely, with functional items such as a whiteboard and calendar. Inspirational art adds extra style and a boost of encouragement!
If your kids will work in their bedroom
With a few modifications, a child’s bedroom can easily work as a virtual school area during the day.
Cornell says that minimizing distractions is key, so you may want to set up your child’s workspace away from toys, games, and possibly even windows. You might also want to encourage them to clean up playthings and make their bed each morning to differentiate learning time from relaxing time.
For bedrooms that will double as school rooms, you may want to look for a smaller desk that won’t overpower the room. After all, kids don’t want their entire room to feel like school! We love this desk and hutch combo because of the vertical storage space and built-in bulletin board. And this murphy-style desk is pure genius for smaller bedrooms — simply fold it up at the end of the school day!
Your child likely already has a comfortable reading spot in their room — their bed! But if you find that’s not ideal for school reading, try this folding floor chair that can easily lay flat and slide under the bed.
If your kids will work in a common area
As mentioned, some kids may need lots of interaction while learning. Others may share a bedroom and need to separate from their sibling for school time. And some might actually focus better in public spaces. (In adult terms: the coffee shop worker!) Whatever the reason, you may find the need to set up school in a common living area of your home.
To set up school in a family living space, it might be best to designate a specific “school spot” every day. Any flat surface will work; the dining table, kitchen counter, or game table are all great options. You could even create a temporary desk by bridging a board between two small bookcases.
Cornell tells of one family who converted an upstairs hallway into a school space by constructing low tables and running dedicated internet access to the spot. “They took a space that was otherwise wasted and turned it into something quite useful,” he says.
Be sure to make ergonomic adjustments to any common area chairs that kids might use for schooling. To support proper posture, your child’s eyeline should be level with their computer screen. Add cushions or swap out chairs if necessary.
Because a common area is also used for other purposes after school, you’ll probably want your child to clean up all their supplies and books each day. A small rolling utility cart could be a great way to keep everything together while also allowing supplies to be wheeled away at the end of virtual school time.
Create an information hub
As an adult, you’ll also need to consider what you need to support your child’s learning. Virtual schooling will probably require you to live differently, and that means your home will need to be set up differently.
Help streamline virtual schooling responsibilities by creating an information hub. Have a central place for all school paperwork that you print out: dates, forms, flyers, addresses, logins, and more.
This hub could be a great reference spot for your kids, too. After all, many classroom teachers have a “morning meeting” with a rundown of important info — an information hub could be considered the home equivalent!
A wall organizer helps to keep information tidy and accessible. This farmhouse-chic chalkboard has plenty of filing spots to keep your info organized for multiple children. This ten-slot wooden file holder has space to sort paperwork by subject area. Or pair this rustic filing system and magnetic calendar for savvy organizational style.
If you’ve got a dedicated school room, your info hub could easily be incorporated there. Other places for an information wall could include your mudroom, laundry room, or a separate corner of your home office.
Create a supply hub
Successfully schooling at home will also require you to be prepared with all the necessary supplies. Avoid mess, loss, and constant questions (“Mom! Where are my colored pencils?”) by creating a supply hub somewhere in your home. Many classroom teachers maintain a supply closet, so an at-home equivalent is important.
Think through what your child will need and purchase the supplies first. At that point, you’ll know how much space to dedicate to your supply hub. Clear out a shelf in the hall closet, empty a cabinet above the washer, or purchase a decorative accent cabinet to house your supplies neatly in a common area.
If you prefer for your children to have their supplies in their own room, consider adding clear bins to their closet, or repurpose an over-the-door shoe hanger to keep markers, pens, and erasers separated.
So what’s the rule for creating the ultimate, perfect, foolproof virtual school space at home? There isn’t one! The beauty of virtual school is that learning can happen anywhere. Work within your home’s best features, and make your school space the best it can be!
Header Image Source: (Element5 Digital / Unsplash)