8 Tips for Creating Successful Virtual Learning Spaces
Summer is winding down and we are preparing for fall. Given all that is going on, back to school sits a little differently this year. Some districts are heading back to in person schooling, while others are offering virtual options. There are families considering full time homeschooling options. Whatever your choice is, it is the right one for you and your family. We are all doing the best that we can in this uncertain and ever-changing new reality. Here are some tips I put together for those who have decided to keep the kids at home for school this year.
Create a workspace for each family member
If there are multiple kids and adults working from home, each individual is going to need their own space. If space allows, add a desk or table in each child’s room. This would allow for each child to have their own space to tune into virtual classes, read, and finish independent work without distractions or noise from the rest of the family.
Short on space? Consider a small folding table or tv tray that can be put away each afternoon. Whatever you decide, set the expectations for who will be working where, within the school day.
Everyone thrives in different environments. Some people can work with the TV on while others need complete silence. Be mindful of everyone’s work style and try to limit distractions for one another. For little kids, sometimes playing classical music helps them to concentrate so try busting out some Mozart to blast for the whole family.
Set communication expectations
Are you on an important deadline and NEED an hour of uninterrupted work time? Is your husband on a Zoom call that CANNOT be Zoom bombed? Create a clear communication system between everyone working from home. This could include “Do Not Disturb” signs or something to hang on the doorknob that means DO NOT COME IN RIGHT NOW. I promise I’m not delusional so use these signs wisely. I know Sally is going to have a question or need help signing in on her computer so use these sparingly and be flexible.
Have supplies ready and nearby
Do you want little Johnny interrupting your work every ten minutes because he needs a pencil? Absolutely not! Use the school’s supply list to have materials ready to go for your kids. Try a little supply caddy for each individual child with essentials like pencils, a pencil sharpener, pens, crayons, headphones and chargers.
Designate a cabinet, closet, or even a cart for extra supplies for the whole family. Items like folders, paper, scissors, and glue can be housed separately and grabbed when needed. Try to anticipate EVERYTHING POSSIBLE that your kids may need, organize it neatly in its designated space, and show them where to find any supplies they may need. This will create a sense of responsibility, independence, and less interruptions for mom and dad.
Hang visual schedule or checklist in each workspace
I’m telling you this one is non-negotiable! For older students, create a simple spreadsheet with times of their online classes and independent work schedules. For younger students, a simple checklist would work with the daily tasks they need to accomplish each day. Not a reader? Use colors and pictures to help them “read” what they need to work on. Timers also help to manage little ones who can’t tell time yet.
Make sure to schedule brain breaks, snack times, and meal times. This will help keep the kids focused and on task if they know it’s almost time to hit up the pantry for a quick snack.
Pro tip: Are your kids eating you out of house and home?! Snack bins are your answer! Get one “snack bin” for each child with their name on it. Have them pick up their 2-3 snacks for the next day and place them in the bin. Once those snacks are gone, they are done for the day. I would also throw in a water bottle for each kid to cut down on dishes.
Use folders or magazine holders to contain paper clutter
When I was a first grade teacher, I would use a different color folder for ongoing work and one for completed work. This helped my little ones keep track of all their papers, while helping me keep track of what work needed to be checked and what needed to be finished.
Magazine holders are another good organizational tool to hold papers and workbooks for older children. Make sure and label each magazine file with what subject belongs in each holder. Schedule in time for a quick tidy up and the end of each day so that your child is ready for the next day with a clean work area!
Set morning and evening routines
Routines for children are so important! They seriously thrive when they know the set expectations for their day. A simple checklist or visual schedule works for little ones to breeze through their morning and evening routines.
Keep it simple! Morning routines can include a consistent wake up time, make your bed, eat breakfast, brush your teeth, comb your hair and get dressed. While your evening routine should include: tidy up your workspace, chores, charge electronics, dinner, bathtime, and a consistent bedtime.
Plan for “I’m done, now what?”
I KNOW that most of you have super genius babies who are going to finish their school work ASAP and will want to know what’s next. BE PREPARED FOR THIS because it will happen! A visual chart or designated activity bin will let your kids know what they can do when they are finished with their school work. Here are some ideas: read a book, do a puzzle, build something with blocks or legos, draw/color/paint, play a board game with a sibling, extra screen time, write in a journal, iPad educational games, kid’s yoga or workout video. Give your kids time to have fun and be creative! The best learning experiences end up being the spontaneous ones.
Have any specific questions about your virtual learning set up? Hit Reply or Leave a Comment! I would love to share my teacher knowledge with each and every one of you. I know 2020 has been hard but you are doing amazing Moms and Dads! Let me know how I can help to make your school at home a successful and memorable experience.