Back to school looks very different this year. I decided back in May that if I wasn’t comfortable with where things were with COVID-19 that I wouldn’t be sending my daughter back into a school building. I wasn’t counting on NYC Department of education to offer another round of remote learning since there were tons of complaints surrounding the first round. I had begun planning to put in a letter of intent to home school. Fortunately, our DOE is offering a remote learning option and since I wasn’t completely upset about how her school pulled it together I decided to leave her registered in her current school and continue to supplement her education at home.
When school buildings closed in NYC mid-March, we were all at a loss. Schools and parents had no idea what to expect. We were all scrambling to make it work. I feel blessed that JustaBXgirl is in a school that made sure to have live lessons daily. It still was a challenge but I felt like her teachers and I were on the same team. I know that made a difference. What also made a difference was making sure that JustaBXgirl had a dedicated space to do her work. When remote learning started we did this. She chose a place in the house to attend class daily. The thing is, she didn’t choose her desk and the reality was that after a while the newness of the experience ran out and she started jumping around the house with where she would work. I also was very overwhelmed with life and kind of let her lead the way because her work was getting done, even if she was no longer truly engaged with the experience.
Fast forward to this summer. Knowing that our new normal means that she will be learning from home for the foreseeable future we both knew that we needed to do better. We spoke about our options and decided to create a Classroom Corner. This was feasible for us because we already had most of what we needed. It simply meant rearranging things to give them a more dedicated feel. From perusing the internet, I know that many are looking for ways to keep their littles focused and thought sharing what worked for our tiny space would help. Do children need all of this to be focused and have a good at-home school year? Nope! Will they fail their term if you leave one of these items out of your little learner’s area? Not at all. The most important thing I think is that you find a routine and a safe space that allows your child to learn the way they need to learn.
Desk – I purchased JustaBXgirl’s desk from Amazon during her kindergarten year. She was no longer comfortable at her little kid table doing her homework and I wanted to purchase something that would be around for a while so I decided to skip the kid-sized desks. This mama stays on a budget and didn’t think buying a new desk after every growth spurt was what I wanted to do. I knew I wanted something with shelved because we were in need of new bookshelves but living in our one-bedroom apartment doesn’t leave too much room. This desk at the time was $110! I really should have ordered one for myself as well. We’ve tried shifting it around our living room a few times in the past year but turning it to create a designated learning corner seems to have been the sweet spot. She has sat and used the desk more in the past month than probably all year! We also decided that it would be best to have a wall at her back so that when she is on live instruction there won’t be any disruptions if JustaBXgranpda and I have to walk by.
Desk Calendar – Once upon a time we were very, very busy. We had school, work, after school classes, appointments, blogging events, social events, and more! 2020 has slowed things down a lot but they haven’t all gone away. I like teaching JustaBXgirl how to schedule her time. During the spring semester at home, we created a daily schedule so that she could check it and know what she should be doing. By placing a desk calendar on her desk, she gets to easily see what is planned for the day. We haven’t been using it much but with school starting and our world opening up a tiny bit, I look forward to helping her use it more often. She does check it regularly to see the moon’s cycle!
Perpetual Calendar – Even though she uses the desk calendar, I realized over the summer that JustaBXgirl still needs assistance identifying which month and day we are in. Let’s be honest, right now we all do! When I saw a perpetual calendar for $5 at Target, I scooped it up and we added it to her corner and her responsibilities. Every morning after she wakes up it is her job to reset the calendar. I am hoping that by doing this she will get a better grasp on the days and months of the year.
Whatsitsface – At JustaBXgirl’s school, they normally would start the day by dressing their weatherman. That would let the students know what type of day it is. At home, the weather outside isn’t mattering too much right now but our moods mean a lot! That’s why I was really excited when I got an email about these dolls. I think that they belong in every classroom and every home. They allow our little to let us know how they feel even when they can’t use their words. We have two. We have decided that each morning we will each set one so that we can be aware of how the other person is feeling. And just like us, our dolls’ moods might change throughout the day. They come with six emotions to be identified. We have a kitty and a bear.
Face Planter – This is so awesome and can fit so many places! While meant for you plant moms (and dads), we decided to use it a bit differently! JustaBXgirl has tons of writing utensils and other supplies that needed organizing so we decided this would be perfect for that. Now, let me tell you why I truly love this thing. JustaBXgirl is blessed not to need glasses…yet! I decided to order her a pair of blue light blocking glasses before school ended since her screentime was escalating. This child never knew where they were. I would find them in the most random places. Now, thanks to the Face Planter, they have a home. And she has decorated the home and can decorate it time and time again since you can use dry erase markers to write on the surface. This would be a great way for older kids to set their mood and intentions for the day!
Motivational Sign – I found a cute sign at our local Dollar Tree. We also, have gotten some cute posters in JustaBXgirl’s activity sets from Horizon Group USA (those still have to be hung up). I think any type of motivation and artwork helps create a space that says, yes, this is for work but also for you! JustaBXgirl likes color so we look for things that are bright and fun looking.
Classroom Buddy – When creating the space, I knew it would be important for JustaBXgirl to view it as a workspace. I told her that I didn’t want toys kept on her desk. She said okay because she knows that at times she can easily be distracted. We found a medium when she revisited the conversation later to ask if she could bring one “friend” to school time. She cleaned out the bottom shelf of her desk and created a learning space for her doll. She explained to me that it was a mini version of her that would be going to school too. Just as with her Whatsitsface being able to express her emotions, allowing her to have a mini-her living a parallel day allows me to learn about feelings and occurrences that might not be shared as easily through first-person narrative.
This year is going to be very different. As the adults in their lives, it is important for us to always set them up for success and victory. In my home, I know that working on social-emotional learning is going to be just as important as academic learning, if not even more important. Our littles are at a loss when it comes to understanding what is truly happening in the world right now. Sheesh, I’m at a loss. I know that by creating a space that feels safe, a space that feels like her own, by allowing her responsibility and choice in that space I am helping her find a sense of control. Creating the space helps me feel like I’m moving forward and finding a way to make things work. This is good for both of us!