Prepare Your Home Office And Wifi
We haven’t officially started school virtually, yet this year, but it’s looming in the much too near future. And we are doing everything we can to prepare ahead of time to try to make this online round a whole lot better than the last! I decided to take a good long look at our home setup and make some improvements. Our main issues were: 1. The kids have a shared desk, but in a room with a poor wifi signal. 2. Kids took over the whole house. 3. Parents had uncomfortable office furniture and almost lost their ever-loving minds trying to teach, work full time and parent.
Something had to give. Over the summer, it dawned on me that we each needed our own personal space.
The “Sanity Room”
Growing up, my mom always kept a “sanity room” or two in our house. Much like the age-old parlor room, our formal living room was off limits to the kids and my dad, so that there was always at least one clean and nicely decorated room in the house. This was the one room free from the mess of toys, books, newspapers and school papers. As a kid, I would sometimes sneak in there to sit quietly and daydream or practice somersaults on the clean floor. The dining room was sometimes a sanity room, but was often converted to a craft table, a dollhouse-building table, or a place to do school projects. You know you cricket or craft at your dining room table, too!
When I had twins of my own, I soon realized that this really was a great idea to have one room that you could always walk into and be at peace from the constant clutter and cleaning. We don’t have a formal living room, but I designated the dining room as my sanity room. Until COVID-19.
Virtual Schooling Take One
When the pandemic hit the U.S. and our young children started virtual schooling, the best place for them to access our wifi turned out to be… you guessed it, the dining room. It became their home office and soon filled with pencils, markers, papers, artwork and science projects. I had lost my sanity room. I know, I know, first-world problems. And of course, I am so incredibly grateful that we remained safe from contracting the virus and from family tragedy. We are very fortunate. However, I think we can all agree that this past spring was a very stressful time for everyone, one way or another.
Not only were my husband and I both working from home full time, we also took in his grandmother who lived alone in central New Jersey. We stayed home. We didn’t see a soul outside our family, aside from weekly masked grocery store trips and Zoom calls.
To say that virtual school was a struggle is a huge understatement. Someone or everyone cried pretty much every day. Links didn’t work, online work was accidentally deleted, emails with questions on schoolwork went unanswered, and wifi was unstable and often couldn’t handle four laptops, three cell phones and two tablets operating at once. We were all stressed and getting depressed. But we got through it and eventually summer came. Thank God!
Virtual Schooling Take Two
Now our school district has decided to start virtual once again. But we are hopeful. And we are taking proactive measures. Instead of the kids using the dining room, we are converting their playroom into a school room, complete with two desks for them to each have their own space to do schoolwork and even bean bag chairs for reading time. We are also working on boosting our wifi throughout the house and setting up a better home office for us. I have my sanity room back. But with your kids home 24-7, how do you manage the mess?
Take A Cue From Teachers
As a former substitute teacher, one great tip I learned from teachers is to make sure your kids clean up as soon as they’re finished with that particular lesson. If you keep up with it, it becomes routine and they’ll automatically start to clean up when that portion of the day is finished. After each live session or video subject ends, have them put those materials away to prepare for the next lesson. At the end of the virtual school day, make sure to set aside a few minutes to have them straighten up their desk and clean up anything left on the floor. Everyone will benefit from a clean home—clutter causes anxiety and can add to an already stressful situation. When I subbed mid-year, I didn’t even have to ask the students to do this, it had already become an automatic daily routine.
Set A Routine
One of the most important aspects of virtual schooling is to have a set routine for the day. Try to have your kids attend the live teaching sessions as much as possible, so they feel connected to their new teacher and classmates on a set schedule. Last spring, my kids told me that they didn’t like not being in school because they missed their routine. So my husband and I created a schedule for them that remained posted on the wall each day to check, so they’d know what to do if my husband and I were in Zoom meetings. We would interchange schoolwork with time for exercise, chores, reading, technology time, and playing outside to break up the day.
Be sure to also treat each day like an actual school and work day if you’re working, too. Have your kids eat a full breakfast and get dressed like they normally would. I know it’s so cozy to work in your pj’s, but you do start to feel like a slob after a while and not prepared to do your best.
As for routine tips, I would recommend saving technology time for the end of the day when they’re more tired and chores for the morning. I’ve read numerous studies that screen time can cause irritability, so we’ve banned it in the morning—who wants to start the day out with a grumpy kid?! And it’s actually made a difference.
If you have multiple children who will be doing virtual school at the same time, I recommend purchasing headphones with a microphone if they need to ask their teacher a question. I found some that even glow in the dark at Five Below.
Give Yourself Some Space
Don’t feel guilty taking some time to yourself! Create a clean, quiet, peaceful space to relax and recharge for an hour each day. Also, make sure that your space is comfortable and has a relaxing ambience. Soft yellow accents, like pillows and throw blankets infuse happiness, while muted sage green walls create a peaceful setting. Round out the room with cream or light gray furniture to create a calming effect.
Relax & Recharge!
If you find yourself suffering from daily aches and pains, some recliners, such as UltraComfort’s Eclipse collection offer zero gravity weightlessness, as well as head and back support to rejuvenate your body while you experience total relaxation. These chairs are the perfect ergonomic fit when working from home or to take a load off after a long day.
Thanks to the few changes mentioned above, not only will my kids have more structure and organization, I now have my sanity room back. As for the rest of life in general, I’m sure nothing this year will go as planned, but we’ll keep rolling with punches, and if nothing else, at least this pandemic will teach our kids how to be flexible and resilient. To all my fellow virtual-schooling parents, good luck and Godspeed!