Tips for Setting Up School-at-Home Learning Spaces

5 min to read
Elemetary School Student in Online Virtual School

When you and your student start thinking about creating a welcoming, inspiring area for their online studies, keep this adage in mind: A place for everything, and everything in its place.

Your student will spend a lot of time there, and how it’s organized will have an impact on their attitude and comfort, both of which support the learning experience. An appealing, student-centric environment stokes kids’ enthusiasm every time they sit down and turn on the computer.

Putting together a space in which there is "a place for everything” begins with a checklist of what you’ll need:

  • A desk and chair that fit your student (that is ergonomically correct) and will accommodate a computer and peripherals, a desk organizer for pens and pencils, and a lamp (more on lighting later).
  • Bookshelves and storage bins for books, work folders, and school supplies.
  • A system for color-coding folders and binders by subject. You’ll also want a scheme for organizing computer files and folders. 
  • A hang-up shoe organizer for storing flashcards, stickers, pencils, pens, and highlighters, calculators, sticky notes, scissors, rulers, and more.
  • A dry-erase board for brainstorming and a wall calendar for planning. 

You’ll come with more ideas for the list as you and your student plan it out. This stage is also a good time to remind your student to de-clutter the school at home setup regularly. Keeping “everything in its place” makes it easy to find things instead of rummaging around for them. 

What Are Some Ideas for a Homeschool Desk Setup?

  • Once you have the desk, chair, electronics, and other desktop items, organize it all and keep it straightened out. Re-organize. When you’re done with a book, put it back where it belongs. Papers? Trash them or put them back in their folders (that goes for files on the computer desktop, too.) Pens and pencils? They go in the organizer. 
  • De-clutter. Sticky notes everywhere and other clutter can be a distraction. 
  • Look. Don’t neglect legroom. Kicking cords and cables under your desk when you move your legs is at best a distraction and at worst a showstopper until you plug things back in and restart.
  • Clean. When you’re done for the day, tidy up and wipe down your screen, keyboard, and desktop. Sitting down at a clean, dust-free area is a great way to start a new school day.

Workspaces do not organize or clean themselves. But taking a little time to keep everything in its place creates a positive, distraction-free environment so you can concentrate on learning.

Why Is It Important to Create a Distraction-Free Learning Space?

Research has found that people who deal with constant, off-topic distractions often complete their tasks faster, but experience "more stress, higher frustration, time pressure and effort."

An online student working on at his school-at-home setup.

What Are Ways to Optimize School-at-Home Setups?

Preparing the space itself, whether a bedroom corner dedicated to schoolwork or a separate room, is every bit as important as deciding what goes in it.

Set Up Adequate Lighting.

Natural light and other sources of blue light increase productivity, improve mood, and support learning, according to research published by an interior-design engineering firm.

Keeping that in mind, position your student’s homeschool desk setup near a sunny window or in a room that gets plenty of natural light. If your home doesn’t have good exposure to the sun, blue-enriched LED lightbulbs are also effective.

Office design professionals recommend using LED lights for a variety of reasons: 

  • They mimic natural light.
  • They are not overly bright and can be adjusted  depending on the natural light available.
  • They produce light in the spectrum range that improves productivity and learning.
  • They are energy efficient, emit less heat, and last longer than fluorescent or incandescent bulbs.

Turn down direct lights or use diffused sources to reduce glare on computer screens and desktops. Supplement room lighting with desktop task lamps to properly illuminate books and papers.

Establish a Quiet Area.

Noise is the great distractor when trying to learn. It interrupts focus, engagement, and overall learning. Children are much more vulnerable to the impact of noise. Studies have demonstrated that the quieter the space, the better optimized it is for learning.

Having said that, certain types of background music can stimulate learning. It can improve memory, focus, and cognitive development while studying, as well as ease anxiety and boost the immune system.

A few tips on choosing the right music for your learning environment: use instrumentals— lyrics are distracting—and a diverse playlist set at a reasonable volume. There is one exception: punctuate the study soundtrack with some funky stuff to lighten the mood during breaks. 

Share the Planning.

An important consideration in making a student-centric learning space is to give your student ownership in the design of the space. Letting them personalize the room will motivate them to use and care for it.

Another idea is to let them choose the paint. Color psychology asserts that orange promotes motivation, green is calming, yellow energizes, purple sparks creativity, and blue supports productivity.

If you have room, set up a maker space where your student can build projects that complement their STEM schoolwork. Stock with arts and crafts supplies, Legos, and kid-safe, age-appropriate tools and electronics, and turn them loose. Maker-space activities put students on a path to mastering critical life skills such as innovation, critical thinking, and creative problem-solving.

An online student works on a STEM project in her at-home learning space

What Are Some Small Homeschool Setup Ideas?

If you’re thinking that your student’s learning space should be spacious and solely dedicated to online studies, think again. 

You may not need as much space as you think to organize a cozy, inspiring home classroom. 

Think about setting up a couple of dedicated study spots. For instance, put the computer in one area and dedicate another to the work desk. In fact, they don’t even have to be “rooms.” A spot under a lofted bed or a closet big enough to accommodate a desk.

Be creative when looking for ways to organize a classroom in a limited space.

Your School-at-Home Setup Is Ready to Go!

Once you’ve finished your child’s homeschool setup, it’s time to review what’s on your back-to-school shopping list in preparation for the first day of virtual school.

Check out more ideas for helping kids start their online learning adventures successfully by visiting the Connections Academy’s tips and resources page for families. 

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