Where to Start

Creating the optimal at-home learning environment.


It summer. You're probably outside all the time, enjoying the sunshine with the kids. Sun-kissed and Vitamin D rich. And even though so many things are different right now, there is a sense of normalcy because summer is the best time of the year! The kids get to stay up late and sleep in! There's no school to worry about!


I don't want to cut into your bliss, but with fall right around the corner, it's time to start thinking about what school is going to look like. Districts are changing on the daily, creating new plans and restructuring expectations. Despite everyone's best hopes, it's pretty clear we need to prepare for some form of at-home learning for this coming school year, whether it be part or full-time.


Teachers begin their process months before kids go back to school, and as an up and coming Quaranteacher, let me tell you, a little planning is going to go a long way for you. This doesn't have to be a ton of time, but starting now will set you up for SO MUCH MORE SUCCESS down the road.


Get your Quaranteacher hat on, and let's get planning!


I come from a Montessori teaching background. To give you the super brief snapshot, Maria Montessori was a physician who practiced at the turn of the 20th century (that's early 1900's), who basically invented modern education as we know it today. She created kid sized school furniture and materials, and an entire philosophy based on the science of how children learn. One of the fundamental tenants of her philosophy is "The Prepared Environment."


What does the prepared environment have to do with distance learning??


It means we need to stock the supplies! The prepared environment gives the child full access to every tool they might need for success. It's creating a mini-classroom with open access to all the good stuff.


WHY?


The philosophy is that if children have the materials they need to execute their essential work, their focus will be more directed to the work itself.


Simple enough concept, right? Here's how to get started.


Step One: Gather the supplies.


If we break this down for distance learning, what would you need to create a prepared environment?


The answers is entirely age dependent. Please reference any "Supply Lists" sent home from school, however, this is not essential to creating the most optimal list of supplies. You are very capable of creating this list, and most likely have many of these supplies already.


If your child is under 5, a short list might be:

  • chubby pencils

  • chubby handled paint brushes

  • water based paints

  • non toxic glue

  • big paper to paint on

  • fat lined paper to practice letters and numbers

  • construction paper to create with

  • kid's scissors

  • playdoh

  • work board or mat to protect surfaces

  • alarm clock


If your child is between 6-9, a short list might be:

  • pencils

  • erasures

  • markers

  • colored pencils

  • water color paints, brushes and paper

  • non toxic glue, bottled or sticks

  • fat lined paper

  • folders to keep different subject work (math, writing, spelling, science, cultural)

  • kid scissors

  • work board or mat to protect surfaces

  • alarm clock


If your child is between 9-11, the short list might be:

  • pencils

  • erasers

  • markers

  • colored pencils

  • water color paints, brushes and paper

  • non toxic glue, bottled or sticks

  • ruler

  • folders to keep different subject work (math, writing, spelling, science, cultural)

  • work board or mat to protect surfaces

  • personal planner or agenda to keep track of assignments

  • scissors

  • personal computer

  • alarm clock

If your child is between 11-14, the short list might be:

  • pencils

  • erasers

  • markers

  • colored pencils

  • water color paints, brushes and paper

  • non toxic glue, bottled or sticks

  • folders to keep different subject work (math, writing, spelling, science, cultural)

  • notebooks by subject matter

  • graphic calculator

  • ruler

  • work board or mat to protect surfaces

  • personal planner or agenda to keep track of assignments

  • scissors

  • personal computer

  • alarm clock


Step Two: Configuring the Environment


If you think about it, the environment we are in dictates the way we behave. For example, you would never yell across an art museum the same way you'd yell across a basketball court, right? And the way you behave in a library is much different than the way you behave at the zoo.


Before Covid, home was home, and school was school for most kids.


The challenge for us as Quaranteachers is going to be to create a school-like environment within our homes.

The simplest way forward is to pick a spot in your home that is going to be where "school" takes place, every day. Make sure the supplies you have gathered are out on display and are totally accessible for your child.


Once you have all of the supplies you think you'll need, it's time to figure out where they are going to live. They need to be available and immediately accessible for your child at home. Do you have an extra bookshelf or extra counter top space? Maybe one of those small rolling carts with different drawers?


In my house, we have given over the kitchen table to school. That's where my kids work. They also have work boards so they can stretch out and use the floor. I happen to have a hutch off the kitchen table where the supplies all live, although during the week, the supplies usually just stay on the table.


(Okay so where do we eat? There's a small kitchen bar that we use for breakfast and lunch, and we've taken to eating dinner in the family room, sharing something on TV. It's the exact opposite of life before quarantine where we religiously sat down to share dinner together every single night. We figure now, we are spending SO MUCH MORE time together every day, that by dinner, we can all relax and enjoy something funny on TV.)



The Takeaway


The Prepared Environment is creating a new boundary in your home. It's essentially a new place; it's school at home. This area will create a different kind of order and balance for your child. It will give them more independence to learn. Children thrive when there is order and structure. Creating your school environment at home and giving kids access to all the tools they need will help set the tone for this new year of learning at home.


“The greatest gifts we can give our children are the roots of responsibility and the wings of independence.”

Maria Montessori

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