(This post is part of a series of 5 blogs meant to help families of children grades K-3 cope with school this fall. Links to the other four at the end of this post)
What we used to call normal is all up in the air right now. Is there a way to even start making sense of all this uncertainty and give our family enough stability to start the school year in peace?
Sure, there is. It will take some work upfront, but it is totally worth it, and you can totally do it.
Here is the step by step guide to success this fall:
1. Create a learning environment at home. The kind that promotes independence so that your kids can stay occupied for a bit longer while you get some work done.
2. Understand your child's learning needs and abilities.
3. Use points 1 and 2 above to set the right routine for success.
4. Know when and where to use screen time to your advantage.
5. Nurture your family's social & emotional health in times of uncertainty.
Create A Learning Environment At Home
Many teachers are back in their classrooms right now setting it up for the new school year. You might not be a teacher, but we have to assume that your home will be a learning space this school year even if part-time. I encourage you to set up your home with some classroom elements and tricks. If they work for teachers in a classroom space with 20-30 students, they should work for you too.
This step has everything to do with the way you organize your space and very little to do with the size of your space or your budget for such a project.
Let's first take a look at what a learning setting looks like and how to create it. Then I will give you a link to some ideas on Pinterest so you can visualize the different ideas and hopefully find some inspiration.
Please note: I am not affiliated with anyone, and I am not trying to sell you anything.
What to look for in a learning space:
1. Writing and projects Space.
Traditionally, desk and chair. There are many ideas both traditional and contemporary that would fit even the tiniest of corners. Just make sure each child has an individual "me spot" to get their work done. Pinterest ideas: Non-traditional writing spaces
2. Reading/quiet space.
This could be a shared space. What you need is an inviting space for reading. Some books on a shelf or in a basket or box, and some good lighting. Near a window or a bright lamp. Fluff it up with some cushions or blankets, a tent, or a cozy chair and you are good to go. Pinterest ideas: Quiet and hiding spots.
3. Active play and messy space.
When we think of school, we don't typically pay attention to this part, but it is very important. Children are not built for small spaces. If you ask a child about their favorite part of the day, a flattering majority would say recess. Your home needs to give children a chance to decompress. Consider it a balance to their sitting still or even a reward. Really, it is a need.
Active spaces don't have to be big. I encourage you to consider your vertical space as it is often overlooked. A climbing wall, monkey bars in the hallway, a swing, I even saw a foldable climbing structure. Pinterest ideas: Indoor active space.
4. A public space to discuss learning.
This may be your dinner table or living room. Wherever it is that you can welcome a discussion about the day's learning and teach planning skills.
5. A grown-up space.
You need a space for the adults to get their work done and relax after a long day too!
How to separate the different spaces:
After all this work to create the different spaces, how to separate them? Chances are they all different sections of the same room.
The answer is visual tricks. Use different colors, different textures, or different lighting to either attract attention or deffer attention. There is a whole science behind this concept, but you don't need to become an expert to create a learning space for your kids. Here are 5 tricks that get the job done.
1. Walls: Draw attention to a particular wall by changing its color or adding art to it. Don't want to paint a wall, no problem. Consider decals, removable borders, or even construction paper. Giving that vertical attention will immediately differentiate the space. Pinterest ideas: Walls
2. Floors: Creating different spots of color or texture instantly sets a border to that space. Let's say you want to limit play space to one corner, you could put a carpet or foam tiles there. Maybe what you need is a runner carpet that separates two different areas. In some cases repurposing a baby gate or even just using some masking tape on the floor would be enough of a separation. Pinterest ideas: Floors
3. Lighting: Whether natural or artificial, light controls energy. For working, playing, and high energy spaces, think bright windows and strong lighting. For reading and relaxing spots, you might want dimmer, softer light. Maybe even shades if your house is bright.
4. Ceiling height and small spaces: Another way to control energy and focus is ceiling height. For a reading corner or relaxing space, you might want to lower the ceiling by creating a tent-effect or find a small unused corner like under a table. A studying spot might also benefit from that cocooning feeling, depends on your child though.
5. Using furniture to physically separate space: This would include shelves and bookcases, but also sofas, chairs, and sturdy separators. If you have young or clumsy children then I would stay away from curtains and flimsy separators that could fall easily. Outside of that, just about any kind of furniture could be used to section out a room. Pinterest ideas: Furniture as separators
More from this series to help families with children grades K-3 get their homes and families ready for school this fall:
* Set Up Your Home For Learning (This post)