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How to Set Up A Portable Homeschool Space In Your Living Room


Back to school shopping looked really different this year. For us, it resembled more of an office make-over. I really wanted to get this post out before school started. But to be honest, our home learning space was not ready. Even after school started, we had problems, needed to troubleshoot, figure out solutions, wait for new purchases to be delivered, then try again. Our space is by no means perfect. But it works well for us, and I’m glad we kept adding small improvements to make it into the functional and space-saving remote learning hub that it is now. I’m also glad I waited to talk about our space because now I can share the thinking that went into the choices I made and my opinions on the products we purchased. Due to the many factors involved in setting up a home learning space, I divided this post into 5 categories. You can continue reading or click a topic to jump to that section.

  1. Choosing the Room

  2. Furniture and Technology

  3. Staying Organized

  4. Actual School Supplies

  5. A Note on Environmental Print ​


Choosing the Room

​I have been swooning over the beautiful “Pinterest-worthy” spaces everyone has been sharing. Part of me was feeling pressured to put something together like that in our home, but in the end, I realized we simply did not have the space to do something like that for two children. We ultimately decided to put my first grader in the living room and my preschooler in the playroom (aka converted bedroom/guest room). We wanted them in two different rooms, so they would not feel inhibited or distract each other when talking/singing during class and doing movement activities.


​The reason we chose the living room as the other “classroom” is because we wanted to use the television as a computer monitor for a couple of reasons:

  • Larger image to display teacher and classmates, to give the feeling of being in a classroom space, rather than squinting at small faces on a laptop screen.

  • Allow my daughter to sit with her body upright and “opened up,” to alleviate some of the pressure and stress on her body that would come from sitting more hunched over looking at a computer screen or iPad all day.


Furniture and Technology


​Choosing to use the living room as a homeschool space came with its set of challenges. First and foremost, I wanted to still be able to use it as a living room. I did not want to have it taken over as a classroom. Because of this, I needed furniture and technology that would let us set up a functional learning space when we needed it, then easily convert back to a living room when we did not. Our big splurge was the technology. We decided this was worth the investment for us for a few reasons.

  1. We wanted the teachers to be able to see and hear our children clearly, especially in the context of being in a virtual sea of children’s faces.

  2. We wanted our children to be able to hear their teachers’ voices as clearly as possible, without having to blast what they were talking about for the whole house to hear.

  3. This was equipment both my husband and I could reuse for our work.

Here is a snapshot of the equipment we used, as well as a list of those I would recommend:


* Please note this post may contain affiliate links, which means I may receive a commission if you purchase through these links. I only link to products I've used or think will be a helpful resource to you. Thank you for your support.


Table Rolling Cart: If you need a portable workspace, I cannot recommend this Table Rolling Cart enough. The materials are sturdy. The storage space is generous and is magnetic if you want to add magnetic organizers. It has a clean, minimalist look. When both sides are propped up, it can easily accommodate at least 2 people.


Chair with Footrest: This Ikea Langur seat is the perfect height for this table. I love that it is made with children in mind, with footrests at two different heights to catch those dangling feet that can sometimes trigger kids to become more distracted. They are also stackable, which is an added bonus if you are creating a convertible workspace. Please note, the seat cushion, which I would recommend for long periods of sitting, is sold separately.


Microphone: This Blue Snowball USB Mic came highly recommended, and we have been pretty happy with it. I like that the “plug and play” feature makes it pretty easy to use, and we felt that the round design, was a little more “user friendly” than a directional mic, that might pick up sound unevenly if children were not facing it correctly. While not an essential tool by any means, this was an important one for us because my daughter speaks quietly, so we didn’t want the teachers misunderstanding what she said or not hear her and think she was not participating. We tried using a headphone with a mic first, but felt the sound quality still sounded muffled, and decided to use an external mic instead.


Webcam: We originally were on the fence about getting a webcam. However, I noticed our laptop camera was really wide, and since it was placed in the living room, it captured evverrrything that was happening in the background all the way to the dining room and hallway. This need for more privacy, along with wanting our daughter’s face to look clearer and larger on her teacher’s screen is what made us decide to get the webcam. However, since we hesitated, all the more affordable options were sold out and prices were increased for what was left. My preference was the Logitech C615, which was sold out everywhere, so we ended up buying this Logitech C922 instead. I admit, this is a splurge we made on a late night after a long day of troubleshooting technical difficulties, so our heads were a little loopy, but we have been happy with it. It came with a little tripod that we use instead of mounting it on the laptop, so that our daughter's sight line can be better aligned with the TV.


Headphones: Headphones felt like an essential purchase, since our daughter was going to be doing her classes in a shared space without doors. I wanted to get her a cordless one in case her teacher did movement activities with the class. I found these highly rated ones on Amazon. The only issue I had were that we felt the microphone did not sound as clear as we would have liked. We got my son a different set of headphones and prefer these. We like that the on/off is a switch, which was a little easier to use than a button in the headset.


Blue Light Glasses: This purchase is more for peace of mind. I have heard mixed things about whether blue light glasses make a difference. I also know a lot of kids who find it uncomfortable to wear both their headphone AND glasses at the same time. My daughter says it does not bother her, which is interesting because she is very sensitive to how things feel on her skin. I’m not sure if it is because the specific headphones and glasses she has her “fit” better together, but I’m glad it’s not an issue for her. Update: after hearing me talk about the glasses bothering other kids, they now bother her too, so she only wears them occasionally.


External Keyboard: This is actually a keyboard we purchased years ago. I personally find it easier to type on a regular keyboard with a number pad, so I got this one to help my kids learn how to type. The keys can feel chunkier compared to a laptop keyboard, but I like the visual color coding to help the kids find and memorize the keys more easily.


Computer Mouse: I really like this mouse for children. The smaller size fits more comfortably in their smaller hands, and I like the standard design and that it has 2 different colored buttons with a scroller.


Mouse Pad: Nothing particularly special about this mouse pad except my daughter absolutely LOVES it and thinks it’s so beautiful. So I just wanted to share it in case anyone else appreciates it as much as she does.


USB Splitter: Between the microphone, webcam, keyboard, and mouse, the laptop does not have enough USB ports. Something to note is we actually opted to use the laptop instead of the iPad also because we were having trouble connecting the mic, webcam, and television to the iPad. I purchased this USB Hub to connect everything. Having all the cords in one hub also makes it easier to disconnect and connect the laptop when I need to move it off the table.


Table Protector: With all the coloring and drawing one does in first grade, I also got some clear place mats to make it easier to keep the white tabletop clean. This was the largest one I found on Amazon. Something to note is I originally got softer silicone ones, but my daughter’s pencil kept poking through the paper. So if you go this route, make sure you get a firm material, such as plastic.


Staying Organized


Okay! So with all that tech stuff out of the way, Let’s move onto organization. Although our home learning space is designed to be portable, I still felt it was important to keep everything organized, consistent, and functional. I was pleasantly surprised with how many things I could store in the table cart. I love that all of my daughter’s school workbooks, notebooks, and materials are easily accessible, literally right under her nose! This picture is pretty self-explanatory, but I wanted to share some additional details for the organizers I used and how everything is arranged.


* Please note this post may contain affiliate links, which means I may receive a commission if you purchase through these links. I only link to products I've used or think will be a helpful resource to you. Thank you for your support.

Magnets! I took advantage of the magnetic surface of the cart to add additional organizers.

  • Magnetic Clips: I laminated important information, such as school contacts, daily websites, personal log-in details, etc, and stuck them on the cart with these adorable inspirational magnetic clips.

  • Mesh Cups: What I love about these cups are that they stay upright when placed on a table. I use this to store “daily use” supplies, such as pencils, an eraser, scissors, and a glue stick. I love how easy it is to move the cup from the side of the cart to the table whenever she starts a class.

  • Mesh Basket: These little baskets have come in handy as a catchall for random things, ranging from magic playdough made during Science to weekly Chinese flash cards.

  • File Holder Organizer: The size of this file holder is perfect for storing paper packets. I use the mesh section to keep small objects such as dice and cards, so I can still easily see what is in the pockets.


School Subjects: In the upper cart, I store her Math and English Language Arts workbooks, notebooks, and folders. Also in this bin are art materials, including construction paper, printing paper, and writing/drawing utensils. In the lower cart, I put her Chinese materials, a whiteboard, and miscellaneous items like a pencil box and her charger cords. Then, on the side pocket, I put her Science and Social Studies materials, as well as small items, such as playing cards and dice.

  • File Sorter: I used this mesh file sorter in white for the top cart, and then used this wooden dish rack and an old file sorter for the bottom.

  • Art Supplies Caddy: I used cups from an old Art Supplies caddy I had from my teaching days and decided to save some space by not using the caddy holder.

Actual School Supplies


​I figured while I am listing all my product recommendations, I might as well include an easy reference list for basic school supplies to help you make sure you have everything covered, as well as a few additional fun finds.


Pencils

Erasers

Scissors

Glue Stick

Dry Erase Markers

Highlighters: cute and regular

“Erasable” Rainbow Gel Pens

Notebooks: college ruled and wide ruled

Composition Books: wide ruled and primary (3 lines)

Twistable Colors:Crayons and Colored Pencils

Markers

Colored Pencils and Watercolor Pencils

Crayola Crayons + Markers + Colored Pencils Pack

Construction Paper


For all the parents finding themselves becoming home teaching assistants this fall, I highly recommend you look into these items as well:

Paper Cutter

Pencil Sharpener

Sheet Protectors

File Folders

Laminator (don’t forget pouches )

5 in 1 Laminator/ Trimmer/Corner Rounder


A Note on Environmental Print


Wow, thank you for still reading! As I wrap things up, I just wanted to leave a final note about environmental print. These are the eye-catching wall decorations and reference materials you often see set up in classrooms. When I first started teaching, I had visions of how amazing my classroom space would, and my walls were COVERED in this vision. However, I soon learned, brain-based research found that having unnecessary “visual distractions” in the classroom environment was not only NOT helpful to student learning but could be counterproductive. That is not to say all environmental print is bad. Resources that reinforce new skills and concepts your child is learning can be a great help. However, keep in mind that some drawbacks of environmental print include distracting children and causing them to become off task and offering too much scaffold by helping them in areas where they do not need help. While we may see a beautiful surrounding, the child’s growing brain might only see a lot of distraction and clutter. Here are some tips when deciding what environmental print to put up in your learning space.

  • Less is more: Only put up what is relevant and necessary. Avoid putting up information about things they already know (e.g., the alphabet and numbers if they have mastered those). You want them to access that information from their brain, not the wall.

  • Let Purpose, not Aesthetics, determine your choices. Remember the resources are there to HELP your child build a stronger understanding of concepts. They are not there to give them all the answers, nor are they there to simply make the space look pretty.

  • Not sure? Check In and see if your child references and uses these resources. If not, take them down.

  • Add as you go. Think of it as an ongoing project. If you are not sure what to put up, follow your teacher’s lead. Best things to add are materials the teacher gives you, so that you are using the same references to reinforce their learned skills and concepts. Also consider just printing out the teacher’s materials and keeping them in a file folder. This can actually be more helpful for your child’s learning, while making things easier for you.

  • Avoid placing visuals directly in front of their sight line. Place them to the side, so your children will only access them when needed.


You Got This!!

It's been a week of distance learning for us, and I would be lying if I said it has been all smooth sailing. However, what has been helpful is reminding myself things are not fixed. All of this is new territory for everyone, teachers included. When something is not working or feeling unnecessarily stressful, I try to think of what changes I can make to help things go more smoothly. I admittedly am coming at this from a place of privilege, where we have the flexibility and resources to make these modifications. My heart goes out to everyone out there who is struggling. While I definitely don't have all the answers, if you're ever needing someone to spitball some ideas, feel free to shoot me an email, and I would be happy to talk about some ideas with you! Good Luck!!




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Hi! I'm Erin

This blog is a digital scrapbook of my adventures in modern parenting. I am a mother of two and former teacher sharing my  favorite resources and lessons learned because I believe parenting is easier with a village, and no one has time to reinvent the wheel.  

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