Tips for getting your home ready for a virtual school start

If last spring’s sudden stay-home orders taught us anything, it’s that most parents know they don’t want to be teachers. Many felt like they were as they struggled to tap into homework lessons, virtual classrooms and tutoring, and simply finding a way for parents and children to coexist in the same home all day long — with everyone getting their own work done.

Here are tips to get your home ready as children return to school while the coronavirus pandemic is still underway.

We’re all adapting: How to get ready for a new, virtual school year.

1. Address technology issues. If several people — adults and children — need to be on electronic devices and maintaining an internet connection at the same time, you may need to improve your internet speed and add range extenders or a mesh network system so your internet service will reach every part of your home. It isn’t as hard as you think it is. If downloads are slow and internet streaming is spotty, start by calling your internet provider and increase your service. Just taking it up a notch or two will likely cost another $15 or $20 a month but it’s worth it. If some rooms in your home cannot maintain a connection, it’s because your router and service cannot reach them. Buy a mesh network system or range extenders that will pick up wifi and extend it into other parts of your home. If people are studying or doing work in various rooms all over your house, everyone will likely need an internet connection.

2. Interior designer Emily C. Butler recommends that each child have an area — maybe a shelf in a closet — where they keep all of their school books and essentials, with open storage for things that need to be accessed easily and closed storage for other things such as art supplies. Boxes and other containers are available at a variety of price points, from dollar store finds on up. Not only will this keep your home more tidy, it helps your children learn organizational skills and give them a sense of control over their surroundings.

3. Butler noted that children should get out the schoolbooks they’re using at the moment and put them away when they’re done — just like they would with lockers at school. That will help keep things tidy and keep children from being overwhelmed if they’re surrounded by stacks of books.

4. If your child works well all day long sitting at a dining table or kitchen island that’s fine, but many need private, quiet time in their own room. You may want to consider purchasing a desk for their bedroom. Yes, someday they’ll be back in school, in person, full-time, but they’ll always be able to use the desk for homework — which likely will never end. Right now it’s easy to find smaller-scale student desks that take up less room.

5. If space is tight, create a quiet zone in the home and schedule who gets to use it at different times of the day. It could be used when a child or adult needs to be in a virtual class or work meeting, or it could be for quiet study time when others are noisy, recommends Delilah Davis-Gonzales, director of field experience in Texas Southern University’s College of Education.

6. Davis-Gonzales also said that all of us have our own learning modality, starting as children and lasting through our adult years. Today’s generation of children likes to multi-task, so listening to music, studying and walking around all at the same time might be OK for some. Others want to lay on a sofa and read — OK, too. And still others may want to sit on a cushion on the floor. As long as they’re productive and learning — and not disrupting others — let your children learn their own way, she said.

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