When COVID became a global pandemic in 2020, parents had no choice but to accept home learning as the new normal. And even with the Ministry’s aim to have all children physically return to school by the end of January, there’s simply no telling if this will materialise.
With the possible prospect of more home learning, parents must ensure that the home setup can provide a holistic learning space for their children. Of course, it will never compare to being in a classroom setting, but there are ways to replicate this to increase your children’s focus and motivate them to study. Here are 8 ways to help you set up the best at-home learning environment for your children.
- Designate a space
Ideally, it would be great to have a dedicated study room away from all distractions, but realistically speaking most families do not have the luxury nor the extra space for a home office. So the next best bet is to make do with whatever you have. You don’t always have to find ways to create extra space for everyone. As long as it is a functional space that your children can routinely use consistently, that could work too.
So if the kitchen table works best, then designate that space and keep all other distractions surrounding that area to a minimum. More than one online lesson happening at the same time? No problem, they can still remain side by side and at the same table unless the class requires your child to be always engaging. As long as each child has their own set of earphones and is muted until they are required to answer, it shouldn’t be too distracting. If you find sharing a designated space too distracting, you can always assign your other child to another suitable area.
- Clear and declutter
Clearing and decluttering may not be everyone’s cup of tea, but it needs to be done since all your children’s school supplies are now at home. Not only will you need to clear away old school books, but you may need to consider making space for new ones if children are required to continue online learning.
If investing in another bookshelf is totally out of the question, then consider a temporary makeshift shelf or a storage box to store frequently used books so that it is always in one place and within easy reach. It is always better to organise your children’s school items instead of allowing the mess to pile up. Too much clutter on and around their working space can alleviate stress and distract your child’s focus. An organised and cleaner open space is always better for a more conducive study area.
- Comfort and practicality
No one can pay attention in class or work in an uncomfortable space. Comfortable is good, but just make sure it is not too comfortable so that your kids don’t doze off mid-class! It is proven that temperature, air quality, lighting and noise conditions can affect work concentration and productivity. Even chairs and tables play a role too, but you don’t need to be a human ergonomics expert to know if a chair is comfortable or your child’s right height.
If your child’s lessons are long, make sure that the device they are using is elevated to reduce strain on their necks and shoulders.
Teach them to organise their school supplies and books so that they are visible and easy to find. File their physical work into the respective subject folders if they are required to hand them in when school reopens. Alternatively, you can also take a picture of their work and email a soft copy to their teacher.
- Inspire them at home too!
Have you noticed inspiring posters and messages in classrooms? Do not undermine the power of positive reinforcement to encourage your child to stay motivated! You can recreate this in their learning space as well. Not only will this give your children a sense of familiarity despite being away from school, but it will also provide them with a sense of ownership towards their workspace.
You can also visually inspire their learning area with posters of what they learn that week as an added stimulant. To you, it might look like a small corner in your home, but for your children, it can potentially be a place for them to unlock their creativity and to draw inspiration from.
- Ensure the space is well lit
Lighting plays a huge role in creating an effective learning space. The right lighting reduces eye strain and sets the right atmosphere for studying, making the whole process easier on your children. While it is not always possible, parents are encouraged to incorporate as much natural light, as it is proven that this provides physical and physiological benefits while studying.
Low lighting has been linked to slower reading, reduced concentration, poor posture and long term weakened vision. Whereas excessive glare, flickering and the wrong coloured lighting can strain the eyes, irritate and cause discomfort. If incorporating natural light is not possible, and existing lights are too dim, it is probably best to consider investing in a reasonably good study table light.
- Timetables and schedules
Your child might still be adapting to the new norm, and parents can help by keeping a set schedule for them to follow. Children thrive on routines, so set the time to wake up, time for classes, and schedule breaks and exercise sessions in between.
Print out the timetable clearly or write it out on a larger poster. It’s essential to set some rules so that your children have the discipline to follow their schedules consistently. Having set schedules will also make learning from home feel a little more like going back to school.
- Encourage independence
Unless your child needs constant supervision to get things done, try not to hover. Instead, encourage them to be independent during this season, and you might be surprised by how resilient today’s kids are. It is normal for younger children to lose interest and be restless during online classes, but it doesn’t mean they cannot learn to do things independently if given a chance.
As long as they are not far behind in their homework, parents can continue to guide and encourage interest. Guiding in this sense doesn’t mean we smother and practice helicopter parenting for every subject. However, it would be prudent to take an interest in their school work by tracking their progress and being accessible when they need your help. If you’re also struggling and juggling working from home, agree on a mutual time so you can sit down and look through their work with them. Even if you’re allowing them independence, you are also showing that you care about how they are faring in their studies. Besides, they would also appreciate the short one-to-one session with you.
At the end of the day, online classes are as tiring as they sound, especially if your children are doing full online sessions according to the school timetable. When it lasts all day, even with breaks in between, it can take a toll on children.
If you’re working from home, you will also know that it is tiring to be sitting all day, staring at a computer screen with back to back meetings. It is easy to lose focus and get bored. So be sure to remind your child to take frequent breaks that are spread out throughout the day. If they cannot leave their workstations, there are plenty of sitting and stretching exercises that they can do to loosen up their shoulder and neck muscles.
If classes end early, get them to walk away from their stations so that they can take a proper break from school work. Breaks can help recharge and clear their minds so that when they go back to their classes, they will be able to absorb the information they learn much better.