This year has been anything but normal. We’ve been told to not hug or visit family and friends. We’ve learned new terms like social distancing, flattening the curve, PPE and social circles were given a whole new meaning.
We’ve been though self-isolation and country wide business shutdowns. And one of the most drastic change to normal has been how we work, and now, how our kids get an education.
Normally, by this time of the year, parents would be starting to prepare for their kids to head back to the school. That used to mean a trip to your local Walmart-like store to pick up pens, binders, markers, backpack, lunch bag etc… But this year could look completely different. Parents now have the option to homeschool their kids instead of sending them back to the classrooms. And if your family has made the decision to homeschool, this will change your back to school shopping list.
When working from home became a reality, we talked about the things you needed in order to setup your home office. This is no different. Your kids also need a proper space to do their homework and, if you have chosen to, to do their homeschooling.
What worked in 2019 might not work in this new normal environment post COVID-19 and that’s OK.
So where do you start?
Choose a Space
The location of the kid’s workspace will depend on your home and your needs. There is no right answer here. If the family shares equipment, like a computer or laptop, then using a space in the home that is accessible to the whole family might be best for your family. If this isn’t the case and space is limited, setting up a workspace in the child’s bedroom could be your solution.
Take some time to think about it and include your kids in the decision. When you include them in the decision, they will made them feel like it is in fact their space. It will give them some ownership over the space and be more comfortable using the space.
Consider ways to separate school time from home time. It’s importable for your kids be able to turn off the schoolwork. With no psychical difference between the two, the lines can get blurred. If you ae homeschooling your kids, you will need to make a conscious effort to disconnect from school or your kids could get burned out. No different than an adult working from home. Think of this as habit training for your kid’s future. Working from home (in all likelihood) will become more typical. Learning to set those boundaries now, will set them up for success in the future.
Your New Back-to-School Shopping List
Once you have your space, you need the things that will create the workspace. Again, this could differ between households and grade levels. Speak to your child’s teacher if you have any questions but the basics would include:
- A Desk – big enough for your laptop, computer or tablet plus space to work by hand
- A Chair
- Lighting – poor lighting can add strain to the eyes.
- Equipment – Laptop, tablet, computer, printer.
- Power source – depending on where you are setting up this workspace, you may need a power cord or extension cord in order to plug in your devises.
- Storage – peg boards, pencil holders, drawers or baskets. Keeping an organized workspace has been proven to promote focus and productivity. This works of adults to.
- Pens, paper, markers etc
Before you go out shopping, make a generic list like the above to help keep you on track. When you do go out shopping, include your child. Letting them pick out the feel and look of their new workspace will give them a sense of ownership and ensure they are comfortable enough to keep focused while they are using the space.
When it comes to the actual design of your kids’ workspace (colours, textures, accessories etc), start with a neutral base and layer in your child’s personality through add-ons or accents.
The desk and the chair will be the most expensive items outside of electronics, but they will also last your child for years. These would be your base. These are things that will always be needed no matter how old they get or where they live. Choose something that is simple and in a neutral colour. Your child’s favorite colour or design taste many change over the years. By picking furniture that is neutral, they will start useful for longer.
Your base might be simple and boring and you still need to keep your kids engaged while they are using the workspace. To do that, they need to be able to connection to the workspace. Without a connection, they will lose interest and get distracted much more easily.
Use things like paint, wallpaper; print some photos of friends and use accessories and storage containers to express your child’s personality and add interest to the workspace. These items can be easily and inexpensively changed as your child grows and design taste change.
Involve your child in the selection process here. When you give them a voice and a choice, it connects them to the project. It gives them some ownership and a sense of pride in the outcome. It will also make the workspace feel like it really is their space – with their imprint.
Creating the Separation
I mentioned it earlier but it’s worth more explanation – creating the separation between work/school and home life. Just like we discussed in designing your home office, your kid’s also need to be able to walk away from “school” to regroup and recharge.
Depending on where you have chosen to setup their workspace, creating the division may be different for each home. If you are able to, close the space behind doors, that’s great. But if the workspace is in their bedroom or in a common area of the home, it might be more difficult to get that physical distance. You can try to create visual distance with mobile screen dividers or playing with furniture placement.
But no matter what physical things you do to separate school from home, setting a routine will make a world of difference. Have them start school at the same time every day, take breaks at the same time and of course, finish for the day at a set time. At the end of the day, the computer is turned off and the desk is cleaned up. Nothing is left open. By physically closing things down, you create the mindset that the day has ended. The same in reverse when the day had begun. Psychology is a powerful thing.
Designing a workspace that is functional, comfortable but also visually stimulating for the end user is the best way to set the user up for success. If they are uncomfortable; if the things they need are unavailable or are hard to use or if the space just doesn’t stimulate them, it has been proven that productivity drops, and things don’t get done (or done well).
What works for one person may not for another. It’s important that you include the child in creating their workspace. Not only so it is a space they enjoy using but you are also teaching them skills they will use for the rest of their lives – no matter where they live or what they do.
If you have any questions on setting up your kids new classroom, send us an email to firstname.lastname@example.org