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.
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.
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.
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.
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:
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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