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Got questions? Here are some helpful tips for parents navigating at-home learning

How do I create a classroom-like setting at home? What’s the best way to handle virtual learning? What kind of classroom supplies do I need?

DALLAS — When it comes to the start of the new school year, plans for fall semester 2020 seem to be changing every day.

Parents, students, teachers -- everybody is just trying to keep up.

So how do I create a classroom-like setting at home? What’s the best way to handle virtual learning? What kind of classroom supplies do I need?

Here are some solutions: 

Buying classroom supplies 

Many big retailers are trying to make life easier by organizing helpful items under “At-Home Learning” sections on their websites.

Walmart organizes supplies by grade-level: https://www.walmart.com/cp/back-to-school/1071204

Target has a section called, “Set up your ‘classroom’ space:” https://www.target.com/c/at-home-learning/-/N-wiae5?Nao=0

Hobby Lobby has divided their supplies into sections called, “Classroom supplies;” Science & Educational;” and “Classroom Decor:” https://www.hobbylobby.com/

How to transform a space in your home 

Sandy Jones founded Someday Organizing. She’s what you might call a “professional organizer.” 

First step…identify your family’s specific needs.

“Everybody’s home is different,” Jones said. “You also have to identify and know your children. Are they the type that need structure, and they need supervision? Or are they independent learners? Can they have an independent space?”

Once you identify a space that best fits your family's needs, transform it… and consider having a second learning space in the house, too.

“What you’re really trying to do is create a space where you’re telling the brain, ‘It’s time to learn. It’s time to focus,’” Jones said. “You obviously need a place to write and to draw and to do projects. And then you need a quiet space to read, study, listen, pay attention. Whether that means comfy pillows, comfy chairs, earplugs if needed.”

And finally, consider all the stuff – the classroom supplies, the paper, the homework, the art projects – that you need to store.

“Converting one of your bookcases into a storage area for books and supplies – taking some books off the shelf temporarily. You may want to consider a rolling cart that contains the supplies (that) you roll out for the need and then roll away when you don’t have need and your room is still a room,” Jones said. “So making things really portable.”

Tips for virtual learning

Stephanie Epps is the director of programs for Education Opens Doors.

“Education Opens Doors is a curriculum program that focuses primarily on middle school students and the bigger ‘why’ behind school, college, career, etc. We predominantly focus on low-income students of color and potential first-generation college-goers. And we really want to have middle school students be informed about their potential decisions for high school, career and college,” Epps said.

Below are some tips for at-home learning that Epps shared with WFAA:

Establish the classroom atmosphere: “Sitting in a chair versus on the floor, for instance. Things that can make it feel as close to a classroom setting as possible. So maybe changing what you see on the walls – just so you know that this is the place where I’m supposed to focus.”

But at the same time, create variety: “Take advantage of flexibility that the classroom does not have, like being able to go outside and switching it up where you can.”

And have comparison: “Another thing is leading with empathy and grace. Students are going through a lot, because the world is going through a lot. So check in with your student.”

Free online resources

New to at-home learning? Want free resources? Check out the websites below:

Education Opens Doors: https://educationopensdoors.org/eod-resource-hub/

The Texas Homeschool Coalition: https://coronavirushomeschooling.com/

More on WFAA: