August has arrived, which means it’s time to hit the books and get back to school — and for a lot of students, school will be at home this year. In the age of COVID-19, many parents have shifted to online and homeschool scenarios (and most would agree teachers are underpaid to the tune of at least $1 billion a year). If you’re one of the many families choosing to homeschool for the upcoming school year, getting your house prepared is the first step. Whether you’ve got little ones or high schoolers, here are some tips to get your home set up for homeschooling success.
Make the space
The same way it’s important to have a separate office area while working from home to achieve the desired work-life balance, it’s also important to have a separate homeschool area reserved exclusively for teaching. This helps both you and your child get in the right mental state to start the school day. (Not to mention it keeps books and classroom materials from taking over your couch.)
If you don’t live in a mansion with rooms to spare, don’t fret. This space can be anything: a nook area of the family room, a wall in the kitchen or even a school cabinet in the dining room. The key is to choose a quiet area free from distractions, and use it only for classwork as much as possible.
If you have the option to decorate the space, choose calm, restful colors, such as pale green or light blue, or paint part of a wall with chalkboard paint. A lot of learning these days is done online and with the help of electronics, so choose an area near an outlet that has nice, bright lighting. We can’t have our kids reading in the dark, after all.
Set up a desk
Now that your homeschool area is defined, it’s important to have a formal desk space in it. This structure is essential when teaching at home. A traditional desk is great, but feel free to get creative here. Any clutter-free, flat surface where you can sit upright will work just fine.
Professionals recommend a chair-and-table setup that follows the 90-90-90 angle rule: knees and hips bent at a 90-degree angle, posture at a 90-degree angle and feet firmly on the floor. If there’s more than one child in your household, set up a desk for each one. If you are using one table or counter, assign a separate end or section to each child.
Shop for supplies
Ask any schoolteacher, and you’ll become aware that supply shopping is extensive. In addition to the teacher manuals, textbooks, pencils and paper, here’s some items for the house that will come in handy:
- Storage bins
- Trash/recycle bins
- Bookcase and books
- Bulletin board/whiteboard
- Washable tablecloth
- Area rug
Utilizing the library for books is great, but it’s also important to have a variety of books available in the house — especially for children in upper elementary and beyond as they hone their comprehension skills and build a love for reading. You can often find books on a budget by checking local thrift stores and book warehouses.
If you have little ones who squirm in their seats or struggle to focus, an area rug can be helpful, perhaps decorated with their favorite character. It will become a place where they get excited to sit and learn.
When it comes to homeschooling, it’s all about organization, organization, organization. And organization. Here, color-coding is your best friend. You can do this by subject — with color-coordinated bins, notebooks and folders for each — or by child, day of the week, etc. Create a system that works for you and stick with it.
Have a designated folder that holds the assignments for each week as well as a basket for completed work to go in. Some families still have the kids keep their assignments and books in a backpack, which is not only a great space-saving option, but it also allows instant portability for taking a trip out of the house — even if it’s just to the backyard for some fresh air. Have bag, can travel.
Learners benefit from hands-on, sensory materials, but internet access is also essential for homeschooling. Not only will your kids be able to participate in online courses and keep in touch with their friends, but they’ll also learn valuable computer and software skills. Going wireless keeps your classroom flexible and reduces clutter. Here are a few wireless devices to trick out your homeschool setup:
- Chromebook, for web-based learning and developing keyboarding skills
- Tablet, for reading e-books, watching videos and learning with apps
- Bluetooth speaker, for listening to audiobooks, podcasts and music
- Headphones or earbuds, to eliminate sound distractions during lessons
- Wireless printer, to print materials from any device
Wi-Fi sharing is a great way to easily connect all your devices with high-speed internet and to maintain control over your children’s internet access. It turns your mobile phone into an internet hotspot, but instead of wasting the phone’s cellular data, it extends your phone’s Wi-Fi connection to other users and devices in your home, turning your phone into a router. Most importantly, it does so without requiring you to give out your Wi-Fi password.
Embrace the tech
The future is now, so use today’s technology to your advantage. While Zoom learning groups and the literally thousands of online apps for students are fabulous and especially valuable when teaching at home, don’t forget to look into tech that will make your life easier too. This homeschool app roundup is a great place to start, with 10 of the most frequently recommended and highly rated apps to keep homeschooling parents organized and efficient.
If you live in a “Hey, Alexa” household, rigging your homeschool area with a Google device is another helpful tool. You can set reminders, interact during lessons and even “surprise attack” your students from another room or location — say, if you need to step out to the store — to make sure they’re staying on task.
Keep it tidy
Teaching is a full-time job, and so is running a household. During the school day, there will still be dishes, laundry and meals to contend with. It’s a good idea to integrate a chore schedule into your day, and definitely get your kids involved. If Mary Poppins taught us anything, it’s that cleaning can be a game.
To keep the classroom area tidy and clutter-free, have a trash container and a recycling bin nearby, and store away any toys, books or arts and crafts immediately after use. A washable tablecloth over a crafting table is a cleanup lifesaver.
It’s easy to overlook, but keeping up with your home maintenance is also important. Nothing interrupts a lesson faster than a broken fridge or busted pipe. A Cinch Home Services home warranty plan is a convenient and cost-effective way to give yourself peace of mind while you’re spending more time at home. Get a free quote from Cinch today, and check out the Cinch website for more info on home improvements and protection plans.