We were all hoping for a miracle to avoid it, but the harsh reality is that another school year has rolled around, and we’re still dealing with a pandemic. Here’s how to create a productive home-school environment for kids this year.

Many kids will be starting up classes this semester from their computers while at home, as many parents also continue to work from home.

With this realization, some parents have adjusted or created new plans for home renovations that account for school space for kids.

How real estate agents are changing up the house to accommodate

Paige Schulte

Paige Schulte, a Realtor at Windermere Professional Partners in Gig Harbor, Washington, and her husband have decided to repurpose their existing office in their home for the “Schulte one-room school house” for their three kids between the ages of 7 and 11.

They’ll also construct a 800-square-foot building in their back yard that will include space for a gym, kids’ hang out area and an additional office for the adults. Although they’re still in the planning process, Schulte and her husband anticipate the entire project costing about $160,000.

“We went back and forth on if we should move and just get a bigger house … looking at home values where they’re at, and we really like our location, but the market in our area has gone bananas,” Schulte told Inman.

“And we decided, we have the big back yard, we’re just going to add — it’s not technically a guest house, we’re not adding any bedrooms — but we’re basically creating like a studio gym that will have a gym on the ground floor, and then upstairs will be a media room for the kids and like a hangout space. And then another office will be on the ground floor off the gym.”

Dan Smith

Speaker and author Dan Smith, who is based in Mission Viejo, California, is also adding on some space to his home with his four kids and dad now all living and schooling at home with him and his wife. They’re currently drawing up permits to add a third office to the home, covered California rooms in the front and rear of the house, and an addition for a home gym. Smith anticipates total construction costs to reach about $300,000.

“[The additions] allow everyone to ‘work’ in separate spaces, outdoors,” Smith wrote to Inman in a message. “Not just in office boxes.”

It doesn’t have to be a multithousand dollar project

Although it’s great to undertake a renovation project if you’re in a position to do so, many don’t have the resources right now or don’t feel comfortable investing so much money during uncertain times.

The good news is: There are many ways to take the space you currently have and reorganize it in a new way to carve out some designated home-school spaces — without breaking the bank.

Inman gathered tips from experts and novices alike for how to create a home-school space to set your kids up for success this year. Here’s what we found.

Tips from the experts

Marissa Mead and Julia McFadden of architectural firm Svigals+Partners specialize in designing education spaces. The duo recently recommended that parents aim for three different kinds of spaces in their home for kids to learn in:

  1. A focused academic workspace for studying or tutoring. This should include a desk or table at which to work, and it should be in an area with minimal distractions.
  2. A comfy reading nook. Think indoor fort, a pillow pile or bean bag chairs.
  3. An open space for hands-on projects. You’ll want a big table that’s OK to get messy.

Mead and McFadden also recommended making sure to incorporate time outside during the day, and using feng shui principles to declutter your home, as well as designate different areas for stimulating activities and calming activities.

Tips from moms who are getting crafty

Jillynn Fisher, Dieanna Estes and Kaitlin Stearns are all mothers who opted to home-school their kids this year. In preparation, each mom got crafty in her own way and made some functional, comfortable spaces to help their kids focus on school work.

Jillynn Fisher’s basement transformed into a school space. | Photo credit: Jillynn Fisher

This is Fisher’s fifth year of home-schooling her kids. Although she says, “We do our schooling throughout the house,” this year, she made an updated school space in their basement “where everything goes.”

“It was important to have a space that was out of mind, out of sight when not in use,” Fisher told Inman.

Tips Fisher offered for parents who are new to creating a school space at home for kids include having separate bins for each child to corral their school work, keeping a larger white board or a few small ones so that kids can work out problems, creating a wall area where kids can hang up their work, and aiming for a space with natural light (she used her basement out of necessity).

Kaitlin Stearns’ school space for her two boys. | Photo credit: Kaitlin Stearns

Stearns started home-schooling her two boys in January of this year — in the nick of time before the coronavirus outbreak went into full-swing. For her home-school area, she ended up moving her boys into a shared bedroom, and then transforming the vacant room into their “home base” for home-schooling.

To encourage her kids to read, Stearns made sure that their school room had a large book presence.

“As a former teacher, I know the importance of both children reading and reading aloud to children of all ages,” Stearns told Inman. “That’s why we decided to create a full library wall in this room … two cozy blue chairs are a perfect spot for our boys to snuggle up with a book and read.”

Stearns also repurposed some of their existing furniture by incorporating cube organizers to divvy up different school items. Then, she purchased a very basic table from Ikea so that the boys would have a flat workspace to work on.

Dieanna Estes made a designated school space for her two boys this year as they start their first year of home-schooling | Photo credit: Dieanna Estes

Estes, who just started home-schooling her two children this fall, likewise made a designated school space by moving her boys into one bedroom and creating a study space in the freed-up bedroom. She noted that not every family might even need a separate space for doing school work, but it will depend on the family dynamic.

“Not all families have to do what we did,” Estes told Inman. “But, personally, I don’t feel we would have been able to have been as focused at the [kitchen] table with my children at this age.”

For the big kids

For those who have college kids staying home this semester, consider giving their bedroom that classic dorm room design.

Adding to their bedroom a standalone or some kind of drop-down wall desk, as well as a comfortable and supportive chair, will give them their own space to get some work done and focus on studies. Inspirational wall art and a pin board where they can hang photos of their friends will help create a positive atmosphere, even if they can’t spend much time with friends in-person this semester.

Although it likely depends on each kid’s particular schedule, some parents might even consider putting a small mini-fridge in a college kid’s room to store beverages or snacks to sustain them during those late-night study sessions.

Need more kid office inspiration? Check Pinterest for hundreds of ideas.

Email Lillian Dickerson

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