I’m joining in with a few friends for a back to school (at home) blog hop today! Read on to see all of the details of how we’ve set up a virtual learning station for our first grader.
When does school start for you?
For us, it starts tomorrow (!!!). I know every school district is approaching things a bit differently – our district is all virtual until September 8th, and after that we have the option of choosing virtual or in person learning. We’ll likely be choosing virtual as long as masks and social distancing are required on campus (which means we’re fully prepared to be virtual all year long).
So, that meant we needed to come up with a space in our house to dedicate to virtual school – and quickly.
Thankfully, we just recently completed a big makeover of our upstairs family room and it has a really great built-in desk that’s the perfect size for a first grader to do his school work. I love it when a plan comes full circle.
We’ve never done homeschool or virtual schooling of any kind (I mean, let’s be real – how many of us have?!), so this should be an interesting venture. But you know I love a good challenge, so I’m pretty excited to jump right in and see where things lead us.
The best part is, today I’m teaming up with a few other friends and we’re all sharing some tips and tricks for how to get the school year started! Be sure to read all the way to the bottom of the post for all of the links to the other posts, because you won’t want to miss it!
Consider today’s post a little primer on how we are personally planning on setting up our school-from-home situation this year (not homeschooling, because we’ll still be guided by our local district – I think it’s an important distinction!) and a little resource guide for everything I have here on the blog that might help you on your own virtual learning journey.
If there’s enough interest, I might be back a time or two throughout the year to update you on how things are going and how we tweak things…because goodness knows this is going to require some flexibility on all of our parts!
the new school zone
We’ve turned our game room into the school room for now – I’m hoping that it works out for us long-term to use this space because it’s a super flexible space that should allow Jackson to work at the desk while I keep Grant busy elsewhere in the room (and while he’s napping, I can curl up on the couch to do some work of my own!).
The DIY floating desk that we built will be Jackson’s work space. I’m leaving things pretty flexible for now to allow for change as we figure out what works best for us, but the way I envision things, he’ll sit here to do his video calls with his class, and he’ll have the choice of doing his independent work here or over at the coffee table (or, of course, we could always take it out to the backyard some days – what’s the fun of working from home if we can’t be flexible with where we work?!)
I brought these plastic drawers up from our closet (we don’t need them anymore with our new setup) and each boy will have a set dedicated to all of their supplies (more on Grant’s stuff in a minute).
It’s important to me for this to feel as much like “real” school as it can, so we got school supplies just like we would have if he was heading into the school building, and we’ll be keeping them organized at his desk just like he would in his classroom. The more I can bring little glimpses of normalcy to this weird situation, the better.
I’m sure over the year we’ll add little touches to this corner to make it feel even more like an actual classroom, but I think it’s a great starting point for him!
So, I’m sure you’re all wondering – what about Grant?!
Probably the most overwhelming part of doing virtual school is figuring out what in the world we’re going to do with our two year old when Jackson is working…and also, how I’m ever going to get any work done!
After tons of deliberation and research, we decided to try out a homeschool preschool curriculum with him. We found one that offers a toddler program and I think it’s going to be a really great fit – it’ll keep him busy in the mornings while Jackson is doing work, then he’ll go down for a nap and I can get some work done.
I’ll be sure to share more information once we have some experience with it (this is the curriculum we chose, if you’re curious), but I’m a big fan of anything that will help me keep him busy and engaged without any additional work or planning on my part. Our first month with the curriculum will be September, so I’ve reserved one set of drawers for us to keep all of his stuff in, and we’ll work over at the coffee table while Jackson is at his desk working on Zoom calls and school work.
He’s two, so I’m going into it with low expectations about actually accomplishing much, but I think it’s worth it to give it the ol’ college try. We’ve signed up for a subscription through November, so in a couple of months we should have a better idea of if it’s worth continuing or if it’s just not working for us. Either way, the subscription costs less than what we were paying for his childcare before, so we’re saving money no matter what!
In my head, this all feels like a totally feasible setup that should work well for us all year if it needs to.
But also, we all know that reality can be different than what you plan for!
I’m trying my best to stay positive and think of all the potential this year has given us to bond, try new things, and live a slightly more flexible life. Here are a few other ideas I have for how to make this school year special that we’ll be trying out for size:
- I’ll be teaching some “extracurriculars” like gardening (with his very own garden bed) and we may even try some simple woodworking stuff! I’m also eyeing a Raddish subscription for him to see how he likes it.
- We’ll come up with our own morning “circle time” routine that I can do with both boys. Grant’s curriculum will come with materials for a daily circle time, so my plan is to loop Jackson in on that and have a really fun, dedicated routine to kick off the school day each morning. With a four year age gap, finding things they can both meaningfully participate in isn’t always easy, but Jackson is generally good natured and loves a routine, so I don’t anticipate much struggle here.
- I want to build in some intentional family routines into our schedule while we have the opportunity. Things like a weekly family movie night, maybe evening walks before bed, and regular game nights. Summer has been pretty loose when it comes to the schedule, but the start of the new school year is the perfect chance to try out some new family rituals (that will hopefully stick once in-person learning resumes!).
- And finally, I bought Jackson a planner that I intend to be really consistent about using with him during virtual learning. It’s going to be a lot to manage all of the video calls, assignments, and other things we’ll have to be juggling so I’m trying to look at it as a really great chance to teach him some responsibility and organization!
I did some digging through my archives to pull up any posts that might be even slightly helpful to you as we all embark on this school-at-home journey together. We can do this, friends!
these posts may be helpful…
- Tips for keeping kids busy while you’re stuck at home
- Preschooler chore chart ideas (great for younger siblings and school-aged kids alike!)
- How to build a DIY floating desk
- Easy DIY acrylic lap desk
- DIY elevated garden bed
- This DIY vertical herb garden would also be great for gardening class!