As “homeschooling” in mass reaches week one, I’ve been asked by many for my thoughts on how to make your home an optimal space for learning. My first reaction is that my heart is heavy for families taking on this burden especially for families that the stress of life didn’t need any additions. There are so many heroic parents that are trying their best to provide some structure, some learning, and some level of peace in anxious times. Here are a few of my thoughts about how to optimize the home space to make learning a bit more enjoyable and less stressful for all.
- Natural light is an amplifier of learning. In many places in the country, it remains too cold to open the windows, but pulling back the window coverings can go a long way to boosting the energy in the house. Looking at nature isn’t as good as going outside, but it does reduce stress and provide additional energy for the learning experience. Try to have your child do their seated work near a window when possible.
- Listen to your child. Many kids have practiced choosing where they learn best. They know where they read best and where they write best. If they have had this practice at school, and then they are forced into the same “office” space in the home each day, their attention, interest, and attitude will sharply decline. If your child is used to sitting in a desk everyday for all of their work, this is a great time to practice trying different places in the house to do their various assignments.
- Space and time are very hard to separate. Create vessels of time for getting things completed, but make them a bit larger than needed and allow for some flexibility. A tight schedule that dictates exactly when things happen doesn’t rely on learning science. Our students need brain breaks, the freedom to swap items around in the schedule, and some free range learning time.
- The right noise matters. Talk to your child about what learning they can do with and without noise. Support your child with the noise that they need. When can they listen to music and work? When do they need real quiet? Don’t forget to ask what in the house is distracting. Sometimes absolute quiet is the worst distraction.
- Support your child with the right supplies to learn. Students shouldn’t have to wander all around the house to find what they need. Discuss with your child what supplies are needed, and how can you get them as close to the learning as possible.
- Check the lighting. This may be something that you can’t control, but the lighting that works for your home office might not be right for student learning. Ask your child if they have enough natural light or which lights in the house are best for their learning. These little details can make learning easier and more enjoyable.
- Play both an active and passive role. In schools, students have a lot of time to explore ideas and concepts without teachers close to them. They aren’t used to someone being with them as a 1:1 tutor. This space for appropriate struggle is key for concepts to move from short-term memory to long-term memory. This is a nice way of saying give your kids some space to learn.
- Learning is experienced based. No matter the quality of the items coming home from schools, this is a great time to create experiences. Play games. Laugh together. Watch a movie. Listen to great music. Tell a story. Go for a walk. Teachers know that these moments matter in their classrooms as well. Create space for experiences.
- Grace. Days will go bad. Moments won’t be golden. Being in the same space through both the good and bad is a hard thing. Let your space breathe. If stress is up, create space. If frustration is rising, create space. If you need a break, create space.