Youngg boy on a student video conference e-learning with teacher and classmates on computer in living room at home.

Why create a distance learning environment? Virtually every school will implement some form of distance learning at some point: whether it’s a long-term (but hasty) solution to a larger problem or a district’s attempt to better leverage technology. Most parents feel totally unprepared when they’re faced with the concept of facilitating their kids’ learning at home– but it doesn’t need to be difficult.

There are certain steps that parents can take to create the optimal distance learning environment at home. That way, no matter the reason, their kids can always feel empowered and capable when they’re working from home. 

How to Set Up Your Distance Learning Environment

Maintain a neutral, shared family space

Time away from the family in a quiet place is important during distance learning; but most parents underestimate the benefits of a designated, totally neutral, shared family space. 

It’s true that most functional families are likely to enjoy a lot of neutral family space throughout their homes. A neutral family space should be a little more functional in distance learning applications.

Two young sisters doing homework sit in kitchen at home in their distance learning environment. Holding felt-tip pens writing essay on workbook, thinking on common task.

Neutral Space Checklist:

Select a space in the home that is:

  • Easily accessible by everybody
  • Somewhere that parents can spend all or a majority of their time during school hours
  • Well-equipped to allow support

That means that parents should aim to stay put if they think their kids might need their help during learning hours. It makes it easier for kids to ask questions, helps them feel secure and supported, and expedites schoolwork. Many parents have started shifting their working hours when possible to clear out a little time to dedicate to school.

Create a “zone” for studying and learning

Just like there should be an area where everyone feels comfortable coming together to ask questions, there should also be a “zone” for kids to study and learn. Most children do not receive information well when they’re overstimulated and surrounded by distractions. It follows that an optimal distance learning environment will not involve those things.

Selecting the Quiet Zone

It’s important to come to a family agreement over where, exactly, is considered the “Quiet Zone.” Arguments or misunderstandings around this topic are only going to lead to frustration and inefficiency; it’s crucial that everybody is on the same page.

The area where kids study and learn:

  • Should be free from distraction
  • Should (in most cases) not be directly in a child’s bedroom
  • Should be low-traffic
  • Should become the space in the home where learning expectations apply
Serious girl learner working on her computer, having a virtual lesson via the Internet while social distancing at home

Place resources somewhere consistent and accessible

One of the most critical steps to effective distance learning involves resources. When kids head off to school for the day, they use a wealth of resources to help them learn. They might use textbooks, art and music supplies, mathematical tools, or other things to solve problems or share ideas.

In a classroom, these resources are almost always easy-to-access. Lots of teachers have cupboards filled with supplies or pass out required materials during lessons. Nobody is expecting parents to transform into seasoned educators overnight, but this tip might just convince them that they have

It’s surprising how much smoother distance learning flows when kids have consistent access to the resources they need. If kiddos are old enough, these resources can probably be kept in their study zone of choice. Younger kids might do better with resources kept in the monitored (neutral) family space. This keeps little hands out of trouble when nobody is watching. 

The following post is about organizing children’s toys, but could easily be switched to school supplies. A rolling cart or short plastic bins are useful for holding school supplies.

Use appropriate seating and work areas

When your distance learning environment and seating are appropriate, kids are less likely to be distracted by their surroundings. It could mean less scooting and spinning around in an office chair– it might mean doing more work instead of getting distracted pulling out the Nintendo Switch.

Student sitting in her distance learning environment

Distance learning is only effective if students are prepared and willing to learn

Nobody is prepared or willing to learn when they’re uncomfortable, distracted, or bored. Distance learning students should always have comfortable and appropriate seating with a work area to match.

Nobody can dictate the ideal distance learning environment and seating combination. Every person– every student– is different. Some kids may actually work better when they’ve got something nearby to doodle on and keep their mind active. Some children might struggle to focus and experience lapses in their learning when presented with the same opportunity. The perfect “one-size-fits-all” solution does not exist.

The same advice applies to every aspect of distance learning. There are no perfect solutions. Most parents, however, can abide by some loose “rules” to help them get started on creating the ideal distance learning environment. The ideal distance learning setup looks different for every family– let that remove a little pressure.

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