In just a few weeks, my family will be starting our 5th year at HOPE Academy a University-Model® School. This school year will look a bit different than years in the past with COVID and a combination of on-campus and virtual learning for my rising 6th grader, 4th grader, 1st grader, and preschooler. One thing that I know that will be even more important this year, not just for my family, but for all who are doing school during our current times is organization. As a former elementary school teacher, mother of 4, business owner of Simply Organized and Staged, and having been at HOPE for 4 years, I thought I would share some things that have worked for my family on days when we learn at home.
How does your child learn best? Does he/she do his/her best work sitting at a traditional desk or is he/she able to focus better sitting in a beanbag chair or even stretched out on the floor? Would changing a chair to an exercise ball be a better option? My girls have their own desks, but we also have a lot of open floor space to play math games, read books, and stretch our bodies when we need a break. I have learned that when I let them choose where they prefer to complete an assignment, it creates a more positive learning environment.
Lighting can also have an impact your learning environment. Sunlight promotes feelings of wellbeing and can help lift moods. Setting up your home school space in a room with a lot of natural light is ideal, however, if this is not possible or on raining days, adding overhead lights or lamps will help your child see better and keep eyes from getting tired.
Our school room is in our playroom, so we try to keep toys on one side and school on the other. I have found when they have toys on our desks or open floor space; they have a harder time focusing. At the end of most days their desks are covered in Legos or art and the floor is scattered with toys, so we make sure to straighten up the playroom and homestudy area the night before homestudy days so they will have less distractions the next school day.
Wherever you decide to set up your learning area, it is important to have school supplies easily accessible for both you and your child. These supplies (pencils, erasers, markers, scissors, glue, stapler, etc) could be set up at individual desks or at a community table. Having easy access to school supplies is a time and frustration saver. Additional supplies that would be helpful to have on hand are counting cubes*, dice*, pattern blocks*, playing cards*, flash cards*, magnetic letters*, notebook paper, construction paper, index cards, post it notes, dry erase boards and markers, and a pencil sharpener. These types of items can be stored on a nearby shelf or closet. (*For elementary students)
The night before each homestudy day, read over your child’s lessons for the following day. Knowing what comes next with each lesson will help it flow smoother. Gather materials that will be needed, such as counting cubes for math games, new spelling tiles, lined paper for writing assignment. Make certain pencils are sharpened and workspace is cleared off. A messy environment can create a stressful environment. I can definitely tell a difference in how our at-home school days go (stress level, motivation, amount of time) when I do not prepare the night before.
Organizing Your Schedule
Starting school around the same time each day can play a big part in how your school day starts and how it flows. Children, like adults, like to know what is going on, so having a schedule will allow your child to know what to expect. Our at-home learning mornings usually start off slow with a little bit of tv watching, a later breakfast, and then a 10 minute reminder just before we start school. We start around 9:00 most mornings; sometimes still in our pajamas. Less stressful mornings create less stressful school time.
Another way to allow your child to know what is going on during school time is to display a schedule. For younger kids it could have pictures to represent each subject and a box to mark off when assignment is completed. For older kids it might just be a printed off list that they cross off when completed. Being able to mark off each subject when completed gives your child a sense of accomplishment and also lets him know what still needs to be done. You could also add snack and lunch breaks to your schedule. We usually do our snack break after the first two subjects have been completed; this greatly cuts down on the number of times they ask for a snack and gives them motivation to do their work. We try to be finished with school before lunch, but on days that take longer, we take a lunch break.
Focus and Motivation
Some days we have great homeschool/homestudy days and some days I want to pull my hair out. I have found that my attitude makes a huge difference in how our day goes, which is a big reason why I prepare the night before, create less stressful mornings, have a schedule, and pray before we start. If I am not ready for at-home teaching, my girls can sense it and it affects them. On the days where one or more of my girls lack motivation, focus, or needs a change of attitude, we have a few things we do to help make improvements: listen to music, take small breaks in between subjects, earn a small treat or extra tech time after school, plan something fun after school, or a change of scenery. Our favorite change of scenery is to go outside. Your driveway and chalk are great for practicing handwriting, spelling words, and solving math problems. While taking a walk, your child could count mailboxes, look for shapes, and study nature. A quick jog up and down the driveway can burn off some extra energy.
I hope these tips will help you as we begin this new school year. At-home learning days can seem overwhelming at times, but by organizing your school space, schedule, and thoughts, it can be less stressful and more enjoyable.
|Shannon Kempter is mom to rising HOPE 6th grader, 4th grader, 1st grader, and an adorable preschooler and the owner of Simply Organized and Staged. We encourage you to check out her site for more tips on how to organize your home and life: www.soscharlotte.com|
Feel free to leave a tip of your own or a question for Shannon in the comments below!