Since we decided to keep our son home for eLearning for the first term of 4th grade, I’ve been racking my brain and the internet for how to set up a learning area for him. I work from home already, but we quickly learned during the pandemic closure and 4th quarter of last school year that it is impractical for us to share my office. Between my phone calls and zoom meetings and his zoom meetings and lessons, we were a constant interruption to each other. We needed someplace for him. But where? And how? And his school has the students following their school day schedule, meaning he will need to be logged in to a certain place at a certain time for his lessons and for attendance, so we needed it to work with little effort or supervision on our part.
I realized quickly I was not going to be one of those Pinterest or YouTube moms that went all out. No offense to them, it looks amazing, but that isn’t his learning style, our family’s living style, nor did it fit our budget for what we hope will be a short-term situation. We needed simple and easy. I also didn’t want to use the dining room table since that would mean having to put it somewhere when it was mealtime, and he would have to get up to get things when he needed them—way too inefficient for my taste.
I also made sure to include him in the decision-making process—what he wanted and didn’t want in the space, where he wanted to be in the house, decorations, etc. With his input and my experience as both his mom and a teacher, we were able to come up with a plan.
What resulted was a compact area on a small wall in the dining room that has everything he needs in one location and is organized in a simple to use fashion that already embraced the toy system we use—cubbies that are taken out, used, cleaned up, and put away when finished. It was also low on budget—including the school supplies he needed, we spent under $100.
Here’s a breakdown of our e-learning center.
DRY ERASE MESSAGE BOARD This will be used to post the date/day of the week, as well as daily quotes and inspirations for him each day. There are all sorts of websites with quotes for kids and we can tailor them to him or to what he has going on for this day. Having the day and date will also replicate the classroom and help him in finding what the online resources and dates are.
DAILY SCHEDULE This schedule came from his school with what time the classes are and where he should be. It is color-coded to match the bins since he has two academic teachers this year so it will help him keep up with who is when. Our school gave us a general version and the teachers were really awesome and had one ready, so all I really had to do was adapt to fit on a clipboard (their version was landscape layout, I preferred portrait so that it would hang on the clipboard for easy reference.
COMPUTER He is going to be sharing my personal laptop with me, but we created his own profile and have been working with him, so he knows how to access his school’s site and the sites needed for his lessons.
IPAD & STAND The iPad is programmed with alarms for each of the start times for his schedule just in case he gets distracted—he is nine after all! The stand we already had, but it gives it a home to sit on his workstation and be out of the way, and he has a clock and timer ready, if he needs it.
SUPPLIES CUBBY This is a top shelf for easy access. He has a cup with pencils, highlighters, and scissors in the bin, as well as his paints, markers, crayons, color pencils, ruler, and whatever other supplies he may end up needing. We also have a binder with notebook and plain paper for whatever they may need.
CLASS CUBBIES He has one for electives, one for his morning classes and one for his afternoon classes. The textbooks and other materials will stay in here so he can find it quickly and easily or pull out all materials from it. We have his notebook and folder for each subject that will be during that part of the day, as well.
LUNCH MENU He will have the same amount of lunch time as the students at school, so we needed a way to eat quickly that would allow him time to relax. He and I sat down together and decided to create hot and cold options for Monday through Friday, make them slips, and he can fill them out on Fridays so we can grocery shop and restock. Every option can either be prepared in the morning before school or they are thing he has experience making or preparing independently, just in case our work schedules don’t allow us to break away at the same time, although we hope to be able to eat with him and socialize each day.
UNIFORM Yes, we are going to be those parents that make him wear a uniform each day—at least his school shirt. We want him to keep the routine and have a “work mindset” by being dressed for the role he will be in. As someone who works from home, I know that this routine and getting ready element helps me to mentally prepare for a workday instead of a personal day, and it makes a difference.
PRIZE BOX This was a must—he is in elementary school, and our school is a part of the PBS (positive behavior system) so we wanted to continue promoting that at home, again trying to maintain and simulate the routine for him. He isn’t much on toys, but he can get a piece of candy or a Molly Moo-lah at the end of a good day.
MOLLY MOO-LAH This is our version of school bucks that our school also uses for PBS. The students can earn them for various actions of responsibility and good behavior. Our dog’s name is Molly, nicknamed Molly MooMoo, so she became our mascot. We then created a list of items he can redeem them for. At school, they can use them at the Bucks Store for various items or even dress down days. We created ours to include dress down days, as well as prizes we can easily give including ice cream dates, dinner and a movie night, an extra week of allowance (he is saving for some bigger items) or an extra piece of candy from his daily prize box (we don’t do a lot of candy in our home, so this is a treat).
It isn’t a perfect plan, and it may adapt as we go and find flaws or at least adaptations. But he is set up to be independently successful in his day. If I happen to be busy and can’t break away or dad is working outside of the house that day, he is set up for self-guided success. He may miss something or be late sometimes, and we will figure out why and it will be okay. Our goal is for him to learn to take responsibility for his learning and to be a part of his routine and actively contributing to his own success.
I hope this helped inspire you for your e-learning station and helped you realize it doesn’t have to be fancy or take up a huge amount of space. Good luck in your project!