I picked up the kids’ textbooks and laptops from school this morning, my lone car sitting in an almost empty parking lot that is usually a bustling carline this time of year filled with teachers and students finding their places during the first week of school characterized by nothing less than electric anticipation. It took me a minute to recognize the face of the masked assistant who took my paperwork from the window and passed two laptops and two large bags filled with text books and materials that have been carefully organized by teachers. I’m sure the school staff is weary of replying to all the obligatory comments–“This is so weird,” “I’ve never seen the school so quiet!,” “2020, eh?“–but I couldn’t help myself: “I can’t wait until we’re all together again,” I mumbled. “You guys are working so hard. Thank you. We miss you all!” And then I drove away and cried.
It is what it is, and we will make the best of it. We have chosen the option to stay home, following the kids’ regular curriculum online. We opted out of a full live virtual experience because my kids will tap out with that much screen time. Everything is fluid though, and we have the option to change plans if our current situation isn’t working. We look forward to our kids being back in their classrooms with their friends when we feel enough has been worked out for them to safely and comfortably do so in a setting that doesn’t cause them stress. My heart goes out to all the teachers and administrators working so hard right now to fit a square peg in a round hole. Our teachers are heroes, and we fully support them and can’t wait to hug them.
So what do we do with these moldy old 2020 lemons? We make the best damn lemonade we can. I’m pouring all the love and attention I can into supporting my kids’ at home learning, and it begins with a designated space–a learning home base, if you will. The kids will probably move around several times throughout the day, and Lainey will probably do a lot of her work in her bedroom; but I wanted a central area where the little ones can at least begin their school day in a spot where I can easily supervise them. The kids used my office a lot last for e-learning last year, but I had to kick them out so many times when I needed my own space. When we were in Michigan, I started thinking about where we could set up desks and build an affordable classroom (especially since this is temporary). I pulled up photos of my dining room, realizing there’s a wall nook that would probably work really well for an extended desk. My neighbor ran over and measured the space for me, and before we even left Michigan, I started ordering things to build my dream learning space. I called my sister who is an amazing decorator, space planner and D.I.Y. genius. She had built a similar desk in her house to the one I envisioned. Within an hour, she sent me links to modern classroom art for the wall, helped me decide on some chairs, and we created a story board for inspiration.
Our beloved new at-home learning space:
My favorite thing about this space is how inexpensive it was to create. I had seen some inspiration online for similar desks that called for pricier drawer units as bases and expensive butcher block for the workspace top, but we created this desk in a matter of hours for a little over $100. The cube units are the exact height of a desk and are $30 each (drawer cubes are $10), and the desk top is a $45 15-inch wide formica project panel I bought and had cut at Home Depot. It’s cut into two halves (you can see the seam in the middle) just so I could manage getting it into my car alone.
The textured brick wallpaper is peel-and-stick–a great temporary way to jazz up a gallery wall. And the upholstered chairs came in a set of two for $100. I love them.
Wall Art: Green Chalkboard (I’m so excited about writing with chalk, I actually bought my favorite teacher item–a chalk holder!), “Together We Will See It Through” Oxford Pennant, Vintage School Supplies Sign, Red School Clock
The storage cubes hold all of their supplies and books, one cube unit for each kid. And of course, I had to display all of the school supply delights that make me so happy, out in the open–freshly sharpened pencils, new crayons, markers, erasers…oh my.
The room still functions perfectly as a dining room with plenty of room between the two spaces.
I love this new space and what it’s done for our school morale–the kids are excited to start, organizing their supplies in their drawers and making plans for who will sit where.
And I love that we’re not all crammed in my office and that I can keep an eye on them from the main area of the house. We still have plenty of quiet spaces they can move to if they need a little more privacy. But I love that we’ve created a collaborative learning space as much like their real classroom as possible–and that we did it for very little $$!
We got this. And we are going to learn so much from all of this year’s lessons. We are not putting unrealistic pressure on ourselves. We know that more than anything, our kids need love and reassurance right now. We can do that.
For all those starting school in whatever way, shape or form that works for you, we’re in this together. And for our beloved teachers who are working harder than they ever have and are just as sad as we are for what things look like right now, thank you.
Sources all in one place:
Cube Storage Unit
Cube Storage Drawers
Set of Two Chairs
Red School Clock
Oxford Pennant Flag
Vintage School Supplies Sign
Wooden Folder Holders
Peel-and-Stick Textured White Brick Wallpaper