With the “back-to-school” season just around the corner, this annual occurrence will certainly look and feel different this year because of COVID-19. Some U.S. schools are planning virtual starts to school that will be followed by on-campus teaching with various measures in place. Others are allowing families to decide if their students are best served by learning virtually or in person. Still others are pursuing a back-to-campus return in August or September with plans to go virtual only, if and when coronavirus symptoms arise in the student population. With all these variables in mind, many parents find themselves not only purchasing the traditional school supplies, but also preparing for extended learning from home. While there are some similarities with establishing a home office for adults, we’ve prepared a list of design preparations that address students’ needs first and foremost.
First, keep in mind that an area suitable for after-school homework may not be adequate for a full day of learning via Zoom. Even the space that you coddled together last spring as families helped students complete the school year from home may not work this go-round. Armed with a bit of experience on what to expect in this scenario, dedicating a schooling area for your child(ren) is ideal. If it happens to be a room with a view outdoors where natural light shines in, even better.
We realize that not every home has a separate office or guest room that can be transitioned into a 2020 study hall. This said, a dedicated study area, even a section of a room, is important to help students mentally prepare for the work ahead. It “sharpens the mind and improves concentration… The student in a dedicated study space is much less likely to be under disturbance by other people at home.”*
The age of the student will also impact their need for a desk or table. Parents may struggle to find smaller desks for younger children, so look for a table with a suitable height that allows the young student to reach his/her work with ease. (A chair with adjustable height is another factor discussed below.) For older children who don’t yet have a desk, we recommend considering options that allow the student to modify how the desk is used as his/her education continues. While younger students in upper elementary and middle school may have little use for multiple desk drawers and shelves, high school and college students seem to accumulate more supplies that require storage space, even with many using eBooks and apps to supplement learning. Many desks, at all price levels, have coordinating storage pieces. Modular office furniture that can be pieced together to fit your space and needs may also be a good solution.
As mentioned above, chairs with adjustable heights allow students to position themselves correctly in relation to the desk or table. We recommend chairs with casters or wheels for older students and adults to allow them to easily move about their workspace. However, the wheels can become a bit of a distraction for younger children. A better bet may be a chair similar to what your child uses at the dinner table.
Lighting is an important element to address for studying remotely. Many of our homes feature inadequate overhead lighting via a ceiling fan or recessed lighting. If you find yourself in this situation, brighten up the student study space with a desk lamp in a fun, bright color. OttLite provides stylish lighting solutions through Lamps Plus that also reduce eye strain. . Pamela has this light in a stainless steel finish on her writing desk and loves how she can move it around to study floor plans or check colors. Proper lighting also helps energize students. Check out the desk lamps for kids and teens. Remember: The décor can be festive and conducive to learning simultaneously. Encourage your student to participate in the design of the space, so he/she embraces the idea of remote learning a bit more and feels comfortable in the new space.
When arranging new or existing furniture for student use, look at the placement of the available electrical outlets. Since an electrician is required to move an outlet, it’s much simpler to place office furniture within reach of those plugs. Parents of younger students may be able to secure printed copies of the work from the schools or print the pages themselves in advance. However, middle school and older students will need access to computers and printers for ongoing use. Consider charging stations for computers, tablets and phones in common areas that can be shared amongst family members. A home printer could be placed in the same location. While these tools may seem outside the realm of interior design, they are critical for learning today and careful planning on their placement plays into the overall look and design of a learning environment at home.
Reliable Internet access, especially when multiple family members are working online from home, is a tough subject. While one child watches a video for a class assignment, another student connects to teachers and classmates via Zoom and a parent or two uses the Internet for various work tasks. That’s a lot of demand on your Internet bandwidth. We recommend talking to your Internet provider and running some tests at home before everyone is called to task at the same time.
Lastly, don’t forget to address the need for storage. Students need a pre-set place to keep classwork when not studying to avoid misplaced assignments. Mature students with more practice under their belts may be able to use file folders and file drawers in their desks for different subjects and projects. Younger students are likely going to need more help in this area. Families can identify a place on the desk or table for completed work and another area for in-process projects or books used daily. Shelves and cubbies that are either part of the desk or are located nearby can store books for students of all ages and help clear the clutter at the end of the school day.
A clean slate helps all of us feel and stay organized. Let’s jumpstart this school year right with carefully planned space for our students learning from home. Remember: Pamela Hope Designs is here to help. Contact us for a free consultation.
* March 25, 2019, “Tips To Create A Dedicated Study Space,” Pacifica Companies, https://www.pacificacompanies.co.in/healthy-lifestyle/why-should-you-have-a-dedicated-study-area/#:~:text=One%20of%20the%20most%20important,by%20other%20people%20at%20home.
** “5 Lighting Ideas for Teen Study Spaces,” Lamps Plus, https://www.lampsplus.com/ideas-and-advice/five-ideas-for-creating-a-teen-study-space/