Distance learning is a brand new challenge for many. If you have never homeschooled your child before (and most of us have not) this type of learning can be stressful for parents. While last year families got a taste of what distance learning was like, this back to school season has shown us that it may be here to stay longer than anticipated. We know just how hectic this time is for our families so we wanted to do some research on how to best set up your child's distance learning environment and condense it into an easy to read list. This article details 5 of the best places that you can look for distance learning supplies, 5 of the best and most creative ideas we saw about setting up your space, and 5 quick tips on how to best ensure success for your family while distance learning.
1. Facebook Marketplace- If you have a Facebook account you most likely have seen Facebook Marketplace. This is a way for people in your area to buy and sell secondhand items. Anything from furniture, to pet supplies, and much more can be bought and sold on the marketplace. Consider checking here first when looking for desks, desk chairs, storage options, and educational toys; basically anything you might need. This is also a great way for you to free up some space for your distance learning set-up, or make some money by selling your own items you may not use anymore. Simply go to the marketplace logo on Facebook, set up the perimeter of how far you are willing and able to go to pick something up and type in what you're looking for.
2. A Dollar Store-Back to school supplies can get expensive, especially this year if your child is learning 100% from home. You want your child to have all they need to succeed, but you don't need to break the bank. Before venturing out to Walmart/Target/office supply stores - check out your local dollar store. Here you can find school supplies, storage options, and different ways to decorate and organize your child's workspace.
3. Amazon- If you have someone with a compromised immune system in your house you might be limiting your time out of the house. Amazon could be a great place for you and your family to stock up on school supplies without ever having to pack your kids into your car. Amazon Prime is $119 a year and this comes with free 2-day shipping on many of their products. If your child has a school email you can sign up for Student Prime which is $59 (a year), and they are offering a free 6 month trial to all new Prime Student Accounts; that way you can try it out and see if it is worth the money before you commit. For more info click here.
4.Walmart- You can buy things from Walmart both online and in-store. They have many budget-friendly back to school items and it can be a great place to stock up.
5. Your Own Home- Setting up your child's distance learning setup does not mean you need to buy a completely new office. Think about what you have in your home and if any of it could be used in their setup. Do you have a desk chair you forgot about in your garage? A table that could be used as a desk for the time being?
1. Tri-fold Learning Center - Having your child learn from home offers a number of unique challenges, one of them being a plethora of distractions. From siblings to pets, to everyday operations of a household; your child may get distracted by what is happening around them. We found this idea here on Pinterest. By using a tri-fold presentation board you can both have an area to display important/inspirational information for your child as well as act as a barrier between them and the distractions around them. The mom who made this tri-fold learning center got clear pockets from Amazon so she was able to easily switch out the information that is displayed. Tri-folds could be found on Amazon, Walmart/Target, at an office supply store (like Staples), a craft store, or a dollar store. **This could be great if you have more than one child**
2. School supplies caddy/rolling cart - It is important to give your child an area in your home where they distance learn every day in order to help get them into a set routine. However, your child may also want a change in scenery once in a while and may want to do some of their schoolwork in a different space, or even outside to get some fresh air. One idea that we saw was to create a portable station for all of their school and learning supplies. We saw two great ways to achieve this goal. The first was to get a rolling cart and load it up with their supplies. Check out this blog on how one mother has set up her child's distance learning cart. These carts can be found at most stores like Walmart, or Target. The other option we saw was to utilize a caddy. By using the caddy your child can carry their school supplies anywhere they may want to learn. Check out this blog for more information. These caddies could also be found at stores like Walmart or Target as well as the Dollar Store.
3. Make-Shift Desk- You want your child(ren) to have the best possible distance learning environment but buying a brand new desk can be very expensive, and take up a lot of space in your home, especially if you have more than one child. Through our searches, we have found that some parents are finding unique ways to make desks for their children, you may even already have some of the supplies. One way to do this is to get two file cabinets of the same size (these will act as not only storage but also the legs of your desk), and a sturdy and flat top (the material can vary). As long as the file cabinets are the same height you can set them up where you want your child to learn, with a gap between them. Then simply put the top on and you have yourself a desk! Check out this blog on how someone found these materials at a thrift store and a salvage store and created an entire desk for around 15 bucks! After some cleaning and painting, it looks brand new.
4. Shoe rack storage- Do you have limited space to organize your child's school supplies? Not every apartment or house has an abundance of extra space to set up distance learning spaces. One way we found that can be helpful to keep your child organized while not taking up any room is to utilize an over the door shoe rack. You may already have one, or you can get a cheap one online or at any discount store. This way you can separate your child's supplies and keep them organized while taking up unused space in your home. Everything from extra pencils, calculators, and art supplies can be stored in your shoe rack. Once the day is over you can shut the door and hide away the school supplies for the night. It also will help protect their school supplies from pets or younger siblings. If your child is younger, or too short to reach the top section you may need to buy a stool or be there to help them reach less used items.
5. Lap desk- Like we mentioned before; your child may want a change of scenery. Consider getting them a lap desk so they could take their studies to the back yard, the couch, or their bed. Moving into a new space or getting some fresh air can help your child's mental health and help to prevent burnout. Lap desks can be purchased near school supplies in many of the stores listed throughout this article.
Here on some lap desks from Amazon that may work for your child:
2. Don't compare your house to others- While we found a lot of our ideas on parent blogs and Pinterest; looking through these web pages can be overwhelming. Some of the distance learning setups on those pages look like they have been staged for a magazine. Your budget, space, or schedule may not allow for you to have such an elaborate setup and that is okay. Do not feel pressured to make it picture-perfect, as long as your child is comfortable learning in it and it works for your family- it is perfect. Distance learning is not forever and you don't need to fully transform a room in your house in order for them to be successful. Besides, we know how often children can change their mind. That desk they long for may take longer to build than it's used.
2. Stay organized- This one may feel easier said than done. It is hard to keep a child's school stuff organized during a "normal" school year, let alone distance learning- but now it is more important than ever. When your child finishes school for the day, help them set themselves up for the following day. Get rid of any trash in their learning space, update any calendars they may have, set out the things they will need for the morning, and make sure all of the technology they use is charging. This way every single day they are set up for success.
3. Have your child in a distraction-free area of your home- Dogs bark, cats walk across keyboards, and siblings make a lot of noise. As you know, a household with kids is rarely a calm household. Try and think of the spaces in your house that sees the least amount of commotion and consider setting up your child's distance learning area there. Make sure it is still fairly close at hand or within shouting/texting distance in case they need help but do your best to avoid high traffic areas like kitchens and living rooms. Consider having your child's back face the wall to avoid others walking by and appearing on camera, it also limits other's view of your home as well if you're concerned about privacy.
4. Get your child headphones- In order to further help them focus consider getting them headphones. This will allow them to hear their teacher, or any videos they may need to watch, without being distracted by the noises around them. Depending on what is comfortable for your child you could get them headphones that go over their ears, or an ear-bud style. If your school limits the use of headphones but you feel it's a necessary accommodation for your child with a 504 plan or IEP remember you can reconvene the IEP team to discuss this necessary change. Find headphones anywhere from the dollar store to a pharmacy, to Amazon.
5. Don't be afraid to ask for help- Don't have access to a printer? Is your WIFI spotty? Don't be embarrassed to let your child's teacher or school district know, and ask if they can help you. While it may feel like it, just because your child is learning at home, it doesn't mean you are on your own. It may feel awkward to admit you can't afford printer ink this month, or you don't understand the technology your child is using, but chances are you are not the only parent feeling this way. Speak up and ask for help if you need it, your child will benefit because of it.
For more distance learning tips (specifically for technology-related challenges, and understanding your child's IEP or 504 plan) check out our tipsheet!
Are you having any challenges we haven't yet addressed? Reach out to one of our FREE and CONFIDENTIAL Family Support Partners for personalized help!