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By Juanita Zwaryczuk
Contributing Writer 

Tips for Parents: Creating an Optimal Remote Learning Experience for your Child: Creating the Space


Last updated 1/21/2021 at 9:18am

Annie Spratt

There are many components that combine to create a successful virtual learning experience for your child. Navigating the change from in-school learning to at-home learning requires that children receive a wide range of support from academic to technical, from motivational to psychological, and beyond.

For those parents forced to navigate this changing learning environment, creating a separate quiet workspace for their children, conducive to focused, effective learning, is the first challenge. How to create this environment without breaking the bank takes some creative thinking and a little ingenuity.

Being able to devote a separate room, like an extra bedroom, would be the ideal but this is not an option for many families, especially those living in smaller apartment settings or in multi-generational households. Besides, there are usually siblings of various grade levels to provide for.

Lying on a bed or on the couch with a laptop or tablet might be OK for gaming but is not sustainable or productive to school work. Here are a few suggestions for creating the learning spaces required to get students off to a good start every day.

First of all, think creatively when considering the word "space." A shelf in a linen closet could be cleaned out to become a desk. A long shelf installed along a bedroom wall, adjusted to the appropriate height, or a board held up by saw horses could be spaced out with dividers to accommodate more than one learner. Make sure that there is access to an electrical outlet nearby, or within reach of an extension cord for the computer.

Staying focused on the learning task at hand in a busy home is one of the main pitfalls that sidetrack virtual learning students. One solution could be to encourage students to make free standing, three sided dividers from cardboard boxes, Science Fair style.

Dividing the workspace into individual cubby-like stalls, creates a feeling of privacy for each child. Here is an opportunity to let your children plan their own workspace. This will give them a feeling of stewardship for the area and will encourage them to feel invested in their learning situation.

Students could decorate the dividers with markers or wrapping paper to their liking. A wall calendar stapled on one panel with spaces to write in dates for future assignments or activities could help to organize the student.

Depending on the grade level, learning aids like multiplication tables or motivational charts could be displayed on the other panels. The divider could provide a wall for post it notes or, with the addition of push pins, could become an inexpensive bulletin board. These dividers could also be put to use on a kitchen table if that is the only option available.

Don't forget to provide good lighting in the form of a desk lamp or pole lamp if overhead lighting is not sufficient. Classroom teachers know that students love to have their work recognized by displaying it in and around the classroom. You can duplicate this learning incentive at home by running a cord over or behind the workspace and using clothespins to hang work of which the students are most proud.

Depending on grade level, each student will require specific supplies. Check the dollar store for a large plastic cosmetic organizer with handle, which can be repurposed to hold tools like pencils, pens, scissors, markers, etc. Each child should have his or her own holder with supplies to prevent wasting time arguing over who gets to use what. Once again, the dollar stores are a gold mine for these sorts of supplies. Shoe boxes and boot boxes can be stacked and used to hold larger supplies like paper and folders. These too can be covered and decorated by the student to personalize and liven up the work space.

A dedicated chair of appropriate size is a plus. Check your local thrift store for either a student sized chair or a straight back chair whose legs can be cut down if necessary. Proper height at the computer will keep the student focused and reduce fidgeting.

For older students, a computer chair also available in abundance at local second-hand stores would serve with just a little screw tightening and cleaning up. It is important for students to associate sitting in this chair with learning so it would be best to have it used only for this purpose.

Some experts suggest that focusing in this unorthodox type of learning situation can be enhanced with a sound machine in the background filtering out normal household chatter. These can be purchased inexpensively online or you might have one already as part of an alarm near your bed. There are apps on your phone that will also provide this kind of white noise.

Creating an optimal work space for your virtual learner doesn't have to be a daunting or expensive task. Scouring the garage or basement for materials, repurposing items you already have at home and a few trips to the local thrift stores or yard sales might be all you need to make the task doable. Remember that local service clubs are often willing to help meet the need for supplies for families who might be feeling the pinch of this shaky financial environment. Once you have created a great space, check back for more articles with suggestions about how to successfully manage your child's Virtual Learning experience.

This series of articles is provided to readers by the GFWC Woman's Club of Lake Wales Education and Library CSP. Ideas are a compilation of research into suggestions for creating inexpensive work stations and tips gleaned from interviews with several teachers and parents who are members of the CSP. The author, Juanita Zwaryczuk is a certified teacher who holds a M.A.L.S. from Stony Brook University and taught grades K through 12 for twenty years in the NYS Public Schools


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