Right now, families across the country are sheltered-in-place to help stop the spread of Coronavirus. This means many parents are working from home and children are doing all of their schoolwork at home, too.

This isn’t an ideal environment for anyone; none of us chose this. This is something that was put upon us and we don’t have an option aside from making the best of it.

So, let’s talk about distance learning — using the term “homeschooling” doesn’t seem quite right, because that involves co-ops, enrichment courses and interaction with others. Children are doing distance learning while parents are also working from home. How do you set up an environment that’s conducive to all of these things happening at once?

Let’s follow the EMEND method to resolve this:

Explore: What Works and What Needs to Change?

It’s been one month since shelter-in-place began and the Governor of Louisiana recently announced that it’s going to be another month of distance learning — no one is certain about what it means for individuals working from home yet.

But, now is the time to take a look and evaluate what’s been working and what’s not working. Only address what isn’t working. Make it a point to avoid looking at what everyone else is doing and mimicking something you found on Pinterest if you already have a structure that works for you.

If something isn’t working, that is what you need to address.

Merge: Put all of the Necessary Supplies in One Place

If you are setting up an environment for distance learning, you need to get the necessary materials that each person needs and put them in one place. This goes for creating a home office space, too.

In this step, you are trying to prevent someone from having to get up every five minutes to get something. Getting up leads to distractions, children wandering all over, and then everyone distracts each other.

Some of the essential items to gather might include a computer or a tablet, paper and pencils, pens, headphones, and an analog clock. Why an analog clock? An analog clocks allow you to see where you are in relation to time. You can see what 10 minutes ago looks like and what 10 minutes in the future looks like. A digital clock only allows to see what time it is currently. This is especially important for time management.

Edit: Remove the Distractions

Now it’s time to remove everything you don’t need from your distance learning space or work environment. This step is to keep the child (or the employee) focused. If the child has to sit in the dining room having to listen to his math teacher, anything in that environment will become a play toy — even if it’s just a paperclip!

Take away everything that could be distracting. However, if your child has ADD, a fidget cube or a spinner could help him or her focus on what they need to.

Nest: Create a Space for Each Person

This might mean that every person gets a desk, a corner of the table, or some could sit at the kitchen counter. It could also be something non-traditional, such as sitting in a hammock, on a trampoline, or in a swing.

If this is our new reality of learning and/or working from home, you don’t have to sit at a desk. You can do something a little more fun. Could you be on an exercise bike listening to your teacher talk about grammar? You could. Think outside of the box, but make sure it’s something that is going to work for you or your child.

Now, you cannot say you are going to work in the hammock and then fall asleep. I’d also advise against having children in their bedroom — for many reasons — but it is a lot easier for them to get distracted and not stay on task if they are in their bedroom away from everyone.

Develop: Stay Motivated

Being at home is starting to get to all of us, so keeping your children and yourself motivated is key. How do you keep kids motivated? Consider different rewards you could offer kids or yourself if you are working from home.

You could do a bike ride, a family game night, a fun snack, FaceTime with friends, or have a movie night. The trick is to reward with experiences and not with stuff. Stuff is just going to lead to more clutter.

The experience will be a reward that is lasting with your kids. They are always going to look back at this time and they will remember some of the fun stuff they did as a family if you reward them with experiences.

Also, consider ways that you can incorporate tactile learning to help keep a child focused. Is your little one practicing counting or graphing? Wouldn’t this be more fun if you allowed him to use candy or goldfish crackers instead of paper and pencil and a computer? Keeping the learning active will create an environment conducive to holding your child’s attention and keeping them motivated. I save this strategy for later in the day when they are mentally exhausted.

This is a broad guide on how to organize your space during the shelter-in-place order. If you have specific questions about this, I’d love to address them. Please leave a comment or send me an email at: alyssa@myemend.com.