How To Make Remote Schooling A Positive Experience For Your Kids

Professional Organizer By Maeve Richmond
Professional Organizer
Maeve is the founder and head coach of Maeve's Method, a home organization firm.
Little girl doing school homework at home

Image by Marco Govel / Stocksy

This week, the reality of remote schooling settled in for families across America. I reached out to a few friends who have kids in all age groups—lower, middle, and upper school, plus one preschooler. Some are in apartments while others are in homes with yards and basements. 

I wanted to know, how are you handling school at home? What issues are you facing? And how are your kids handling the change? I was amazed by the answers and felt pride for our younger generation. Kids are amazingly resilient—as are our teachers. Here are some remote school issues facing parents and kids, and their creative can-do solutions:

We know we should create a classroom—but where?

The biggest question facing parents is where to create the classroom. As an organizer, I have long advocated the importance of creating a workspace at home for kids. A simple table, desk, or cozy nook where kids can do homework, relax, or read a book. Under normal conditions, the bedroom is ideal. But does that work at a time like this? 

The answers I got were wide-ranging, delightful, and funny. One mom said they started their fifth grader off in the home office with dad, but this didn't last long. Another parent shared that school was the bedroom with the door closed, her husband's office was their bedroom with the door closed, and everyone stayed put until it was time for a break.

One New York City parent with teenage daughters said little had changed in their home, as her kids have been sharing a bedroom for years. Her girls were already equipped, ahead of the game with private desks, and a routine of hanging out under headphones for personal space. 

But the story that warmed my heart was some adorable monkey see, monkey do action in Atlanta, Georgia. My friend shared that school with her youngest began casual, but soon after she shared a photo showing her 6-year-old sitting at her very own desk.

My take-away: There are no wrong answers here. Just figure out what works in your home and make it so. Next week might look different, so dive in and get creative. And remember, if older kids in your home have desks, your little ones might want one too. No one wants to be left behind. 

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Routine is a foundational part of school, so try to stick to one.

What surprised me most is there is less structure to remote schooling than you might think—at least for now. One mom told me her child's school encouraged students to take charge of their own schedules with each student receiving a guide on what to do: Wake up, check the calendar, plan your schedule, include breaks. Another mom said, "The kids sign up for a Google Meet period the day before and build their own schedule around that." 

I wondered how this works with the younger crowd. Is this a lot for a grade-schooler to take on? Not in today's world. Turns out many schools—even elementary—already have a lot of work online, so the switch to more online work isn't that big of a deal. 

What is different, though, is that the school day is shorter, so be prepared. One eighth grader shared, "We start on our work, and we can do it at our own pace, so once you finish your assignments for the day, that's it."

I was cracking up as this fast-paced kid got her schoolwork done early and it was only 11:20 a.m.  

Remember, a usual school day includes traveling to school, moving through hallways, and after-school activities. There's also checking in at your locker and giggling with your friends. Without these bits and pieces to expand time, a remote school day can feel condensed. So prepare for kids who have more downtime than expected, and work with your child to create routines to fill the gaps. 

Trust your kids to figure some of it out themselves.

When group learning is done, kids are left on their own to complete the work. I found this amazing—it's hard enough for adults to self-motivate, so how are kids meeting this challenge? 

As one middle schooler hammered home: "It gets pretty boring when you are doing it all alone." 

Here I was thinking remote schooling meant sitting all day in a virtual classroom with your friends, but in reality, online classes are short and solitary, and this smart mind found a solution: video chatting with friends to do the work together.

So keep learning isolation in mind and chat with your kids to see if they'd like to extend class time beyond the morning meet, and then connect with parents to create virtual study halls with friends.

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We've just gotten started: Here's what to plan going forward.

My advice for the coming weeks? Keep things fluid at home and spirits high. The newness and novelty of remote schooling will fade as the weeks go on and routines will need to be tweaked to keep things moving forward in your home. Start thinking outside the box—have kids go into yards or into the hall "between classes," stretch and bend their legs, and then reenter the home. If that's not an option, do jumping jacks, pushups, or get silly and spin in circles for a bit to reset the stage. It might temporarily hype them up, but the release of energy will be great for their brains. 

Or make things fun by asking them to step outside the front door each morning then back in again, as if they are entering school. They can even don their coats and backpacks, visit at-home lockers, whatever makes them feel connected to school again.

And when all else fails, change up their space. Move artwork from the living room, or hang posters in their rooms for inspiration, or swap out the décor. Classrooms tend to be simple spaces that change looks seasonally or based on project. Kids are used to going outside for a visual break. So you may need to reverse this for a bit. If you can't change your child's outside world, change the inside.

And as always, work together to organize or declutter. This is an ideal time to start conversations about how your kids feel about their desks and clothes and empower them to make changes and choices—put them in charge. As one parent said, "My daughter went through her drawers before school so she could decide what she needs, and she cleaned her desktop as well. We agreed it is key to have her clean up her desk each morning so that she has a blank slate." There are great habits to instill here and lessons to be learned.

Finally, let's smile and focus on the future. With everyone working remotely, it's important to carve out workspaces for everyone and to stay connected, even while social distancing.

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