This post is sponsored by Staples but the opinions are our own.
While many classrooms are opening this fall, students are also spending more time studying at home, especially if their schools have gone partially or 100% virtual. Families need to find space for their teen, or multiple teens, to study quietly and also accommodate Zoom lectures and classroom discussions that are defining – and noisy- aspects of virtual learning. Adding to the room pressure are the needs of parents who also WFH, requiring their own well-organized spaces.
We asked our Grown and Flown community to tell us what inventive ways they have set up spaces for their teens and here are their suggestions. Two tips to keep in mind as you consider your family’s virtual learning space needs:
1. Enlist your son or daughter to help design their space with furnishings you already have, and then purchase key additions that can have a big impact on the quality of their academics, comfort and health. They will be more invested in staying organized if they’ve had a hand in the project.
2. Go school supply shopping (in whatever way is safe) with your teen. It’s a ritual that’s been part of every new year since your now-big kids were in kindergarten. With so many other familiar aspects of school cancelled, this is one reassuring tradition that you DO have control over. As one of our G&F members said, back to school represents “hope and beginnings each school year brings.” We all want to begin this year, in particular, on a note of optimism.
Staples has ALWAYS the back to school shopping destination for my family and it remains my go-to for ink cartridges, computer paper and supplies. What’s even more convenient is that they now offer curbside pickup or I can order online and pick-up in my neighborhood store. Most orders have free delivery, too. Now – $20 Off Your Online Order of $100+ with Coupon 94537 at Staples.com!
Note: We are a reader-supported site and receive compensation from purchases made through some of these links.
Top study space ideas for virtual learning
Having a quiet space with room for a laptop (and possibly a second screen – see below), supplies and books is step one in creating a study space. Design options and price points are numerous and include traditional desks, folding tables, and this clever rolling laptop stand. Several parents mentioned sit-or-stand desks (or adjustable laptop stands) that can be raised so students can stand intermittently during the day.
According to a recent article in the New York Times, “Set up School and Work Zones,” the writer recommends that “Comfortable chairs are worth the investment – for you and your kids – given the amount of time everyone spends seated now.” Just like with desks, there are numerous options – including kneeling chairs and ergometric designed chairs – with a wide range of price points.
Most teens have access to a computer that is their own or supplied by their school. This is obviously THE piece of electronics that is essential.
Students who use a second screen are able to take notes on their laptop while watching a lecture or reading an assignment on the monitor, without having to switch back and forth on their laptop. A larger monitor is also a big advantage in being able to watch teachers who are demonstrating things in the classroom. G&F members noted that their gamers are at an advantage as many of them already have this type of setup.
Headphones that your teen can use plugged into their computer to block out the noise of a teacher’s presentation and classmates’ responses will help keep your family’s stress level down. The Bose 700 wireless Bluetooth headphone gets top reviews and teens also love the Apple Air pods. There are numerous less-pricey options, too.
Getting your teen their own high-speed phone charging cable – so they never have to “borrow” yours, again – is a win-win.
“Dr. Luke Deitz, a Los Angeles-based pediatric ophthalmologist, recommends keeping digital devices about two feet away and at eye level, ‘or even preferably somewhat below to avoid them having to look up at the screen.’” Elevating a laptop on a stack of books can help. Another solution is a Bluetooth keyboard so your teen can view a screen at an optimal distance and height but type on a keyboard on their desk.
Having an adjustable desk lamp not only illuminates their workspace but can also help your teen appear well-lit for Zoom classrooms. With light coming from the side or their backs, students convey a witness protection program vibe….not exactly the image they want to project!
While assignments may be digital, there may still be a need for your student to print out worksheets to complete by hand or papers to proof before they hit “submit.” A compact printer that they can access wirelessly will be a benefit for them and something that can be easily shared with other family members.
With these many electronics, there is a great demand on outlets. Choose a power strip that will protect expensive computer equipment in the event of a power surge.
Some families have outfitted work spaces with mini-fridges, coffee bars and snack bins so their teens can take a break during the day. This comes in especially handy when their schedules are tight and they can’t easily stop to go to the kitchen to make lunch. We have also heard of some students who plan Zoom virtual lunch tables with friends so they can eat with their pals despite not being in school together. Having a sandwich and a cold drink to grab makes this easier to manage.
Organization ideas for virtual learning:
Teens can use a dry erase board to keep track of assignments or communicate with their family members when they are in class each day to prevent unplanned and unfortunate interruptions by mom or dad.
Having a place to store folders, pens, pencils, post-it notes, charging cables etc. at their desks can help them easily access supplies.
Older teens may have a well-developed system of how to keep track of assignments and virtual/real life events. For younger ones, or students who struggle with organization, this is an opportunity for parents to review and reboot their teens’ time management systems. Whether a paper planner, a digital calendar or some combination of both, teens should have some sort of system or assignments and deadlines might fall through the cracks.
Here is how one mom helped her son create an organized study space: Using a tri-fold foam poster board, she mounted his class schedule, a pocket for printouts, calendar with due dates, assignment tracker, and photos of friends, complete with a caption reminding him to get back to work!
Depending on the grade and subject, teachers may give out school supply lists at the beginning of the year. By middle school, students have specific brands of pens and pencils, erasable highlighters (who knew?), sharpies, binders and folders that they prefer.
We also know that many parents use BTS shopping as an annual time to replenish their own stash of supplies. Here is what some of the Grown and Flown community members have said about their love for this annual shopping tradition:
As soon as I smell a box of crayons I’m taken right back to my own back to school days. My kids are in college and I still need to stop by the back to school aisle and smell the crayons!!
SO MUCH LOVE for school supplies!! I absolutely adore planners. Specifically, Day at a Glance planners. With Dixon Ticonderoga pencils only. And I have SO many markers. Nice ones. Markers the kids aren’t allowed to touch.
My husband knows not to send me to Staples alone…
My 17-yr. old asked me yesterday at the store if I will cry next year when she is in college when I see the back to school supplies. I said nope I am going to buy some for myself.
Love all office supplies! Could spend hours at Staples.
What else to know about shopping at Staples:
Sign up for the Staples Rewards program to get up to 5% back for in-store purchases or 2% back for purchases made online. There are loads of great sales to take advantage of an app that makes online ordering super-easy.