Many schools are turning to distance learning this fall, but that choice has left a lot of parents feeling stressed out. It’s not easy to figure out a setup that gives kids a quiet, private space to do their school work, especially if you’re working your own full-time job or have multiple children to worry about. Leave it to a teacher to swoop in and save the day. Angelina Harper, a special education teacher and mom of three, recently took to Facebook to share a brilliant hack for creating custom learning spaces for kids without breaking the bank.
Harper, who teaches in Louisville, Kentucky, has an 8-year-old, as well as 6-year-old twins who will all be participating in their school’s nontraditional instruction program (NTI) this fall. Harper and her husband will also be working from home. Like many working parents, the mom has been fretting about how and where to create a workspace that can accommodate all three of her kids and still leave some quiet space for her and her husband to have their own meetings.
“I’ve looked and almost bought three new desks for the kids,” Harper writes. “I’ve thought about rearranging (again) our basement. My mind has been all over the place because, 1) I will be working from home, 2) my husband is working from home and 3) THREE kids in NTI. We have plenty of space in the basement, but they would have to move if mommy or daddy had meetings, and that would just be too much.”
Enter: individual workspaces created with poster boards.
“I saw this and thought, ‘YESSSS, this could work,’” Harper writes. “Individual workspace, limited distractions, visuals, portable (in case we need some flexible seating from time to time) and sooo cute!”
In a follow-up video on YouTube, Harper explains what went into making her kids’ workspaces in more detail. The mom says she used 36” x 48” foam display boards to create each workstation. The display boards should be cut in half, since they’re so tall, so you can actually create two workstations from each foam board you buy. The best part? A quick Google search shows many stores sell these kinds of foam display boards for less than $10.
Each of Harper’s individual workspaces also has a calendar page clipped to the top of it, stickers with motivational messages and the child’s name, a hook for headphones, a plastic tote for school items like notecards and markers, a pencil bag and a place to add a daily schedule.
Harper says most of the supplies she used to make the boards can be purchased at a dollar store. She also recommends turning the workstations into a family project to help kids get excited about going back to school.
Her only word of warning? Keep it simple.
“Less is best,” Harper reminds parents in her video. “Again, we want them to focus, so try not to put too many things. We want to eliminate distractions.”
Since Harper posted photos of her workspaces on Facebook, they’ve been shared more than 137,000 times. The idea is space-saving, easily customizable and doesn’t cost a lot of money to make. Those are all huge bonuses for most parents right now.
“I have three kids myself and ask myself how I’m gonna pull this off constantly without my kids falling behind,” one parent writes in the comments on her post. “I like this, and think I might try it. Plus, it will give me and the kids a project to do in the next few days.”
Most families are working with limited space and resources, so distance learning presents unique challenges. Creative hacks like this one can ease some of those burdens and help families make the best of what’s available to them. This school year won’t be easy for most people, but Harper’s idea is a welcome boost of positivity and ingenuity that will save a lot of parents’ sanity.