Organizing Your Way to a Smoother (Virtual) School Year

Tips to Help Your Family Survive and Succeed!

“The art of life is a constant readjustment to our surroundings.”

-K. Okakaura

To say 2020 has been a CRAZY year is probably one of the biggest understatements ever made 😂

The COVID-19 pandemic has definitely made this year one for the record books and it’s not showing any sign of letting up anytime soon.

Many people thought that the quick reactions taken at the end of last school year would be as far as COVID would impact education but as the 2020-21 school year approaches (and for some of you it’s already here), our country finds itself trying to figure out how to balance learning and safety.

For some families the adjustment hasn’t been much of an adjustment at all. Take my family for example.

My niece and nephew have been enrolled in an online school for a few years now so their adjustment has been more about the cancellation of field trips and homeschooling family meetups...and of course just living through a pandemic in general 🤯

Our biggest adjustment is really just that I’ll be helping my sister supervise the kids when they aren’t in ‘class’ with their teachers...especially since my 3-year-old nephew is at home with my sister instead of going to daycare 😵

We had a bit of a test run back in the spring after I started working from home full-time, so I thought I’d share a few tips that we’ve found helpful with the hope they will help those of you thrown into the virtual schooling deep end out of necessity vs. choice!

Discuss Expectations

First things first...everyone in your family needs to get on the same page when it comes to expectations for this school year.

One of the biggest hurdles we had to overcome in our first year of virtual schooling was the kids’ belief that having class on their laptop at home meant they didn’t need a ‘school night’ bedtime and could roll right out of bed and into ‘class’.

That would be a no, lol.

So take my advice when I say that setting the right expectations early in the school year is really the most important thing you will do to set the tone for a successful year.

A reminder early on that this school year is just as real, just as serious, and just as important as all of the school years before should be step one in getting your family’s home learning environment organized.

Set a Schedule

Once the right expectations have been set, the next thing to get in order is your family’s schedule.

Just like previous school years, a lot of the educational portion of your family’s schedule will be dictated by your kids’ school and teachers. Try to keep in mind that this school model is as new to the teachers as it is to your family so be prepared for changes to the schedule throughout the year as kinks get worked out.

Once you get the class schedule from your child’s school, take some time to sit down and map out your whole family’s schedule. Having everyone’s hourly schedule listed out in one place is helpful for juggling your workday with their school day.

Choose which format works best for you and will be easiest to share with the rest of the family: digital, written, or multiple formats. Sharing this with all of the adults in the family and kids old enough to use and understand a calendar and clock will help everyone stay on the same page and out of each others’ Zoom background 😉

This year my family is testing out a family Google account to share our schedules and information about the kids’ schooling. Each adult’s Google account is connected to the calendar so as one of us adds some to the family calendar, it automatically shows up on all of our personal calendars.

This is a great option for my family because we’re managing virtual learning for multiple kids in the family across multiple households. For those of you managing virtual learning within a single household, a family command center would be a great option!

If you prefer printable tools you can write on, check out the Homeschooling & Virtual Learning planners now available from Kadia at The Neat Fix! Her printable planners have everything from an hourly schedule to lesson plan sheets.

Establish Boundaries

Now that everyone knows what they need to be doing at what time, you’ll need to work out WHERE everyone is going to be (and not be!) during work and school hours!

At this point in the pandemic, we’ve all seen and laughed at those videos of news anchors who get interrupted by their kids while in the middle of a live interview 🤣

I’m sure that this was a common problem during Zoom meetings for many parents who were working from home in those early months of the pandemic. So setting boundaries is a super important step now that school is starting back up.

If you didn’t already do this when school got out for the summer, sit your kids down and talk to them about the importance of not interrupting you when they hear you on a call or talking to your computer. And let them know that you’ll be sure to remember to do the same for them - no embarrassing them on the class video! 😉

It’s helpful (and fun!) to set up a special code or signal that lets everyone know that someone is on Zoom or in their virtual classroom. Get creative and let the kids lead the brainstorming! The more they’re involved in the planning, the more likely they’ll be to remember and stick to the rules.

If the space in your home permits, it’s also helpful if everyone has separate working areas. It could be opposite ends of the same room so you can monitor them or it could be separate rooms with doors that can be closed if you’re dealing with older, responsible kids.

And lastly, make sure to include your meetings and other designated ‘don’t bother mommy’ times on the family calendar so plans can be made to either make it known you are off limits for questions and convo (older kids) or distract with something interesting but safe to play quietly with without close supervision in the same room with you (younger kids).

Create an Inspiring Space

This is where we get into the organization of ‘things’!

Good teachers go out of their way to create colorful, fun classrooms for a reason. The right environment is so very important for teaching and learning!

So think about your home.

What space do you have that can be turned into a dedicated learning space?

Is it a corner in your child’s room? Is it a spare bedroom? Is it the kitchen or dining room table?

Once you choose a space (or spaces if you have multiple children and they need separate work areas), think about how it needs to be set up?

Can you set up a learning station that stays up outside of learning hours? Do you need some type of storage situation that allows you to pack everything up at the end of the school day so the space can be used for something else (i.e. the living room or dining room table)?

If you’re working with a space that can be left up at all times of day, I’d recommend a wall-mounted desk like I have in DeeCluttered HQ or a compact desk that doesn’t come out too far from the wall so it doesn’t cause space issues in your already established room layout.

Make sure to incorporate some type of storage - either shelving or a storage cart or cube organizer - so all school supplies can be kept in one area. This will save time and cut down on stress related to searching for items when they are needed.

Storage bins and containers are great for keeping everything that comes with learning - especially for younger children - in order and off of your home’s floors and surfaces where they can quickly become clutter!

If you’re working with a multipurpose space, a designated storage bin, cart, or caddy that can fit all of your child’s school supplies and equipment (think laptop or tablet charger!) in one place is great because it keeps things organized in one place and can be easily moved out of the space when learning shuts down for the day.

However your learning space looks, keeping everything your kids may need in one easy to access place will save you a lot of frustration because it helps cut down on the number of times they’ll ask you where something is or tell you that something is lost 😉

Still a little lost on where to start or how to finish your family’s learning space? Reach out and let’s schedule a free 30 minute brainstorming session!

Troubleshoot Distractions

There are a lot of positive things about virtual learning. The biggest right now of course is being able to keep your child in the safety of your home where you know you can control everyone’s exposure to COVID-19.

Things like a slower pace of life, more time together as a family (which can also be 🤯 lol), and not having to deal with rushing to catch a bus or the dreaded carpool line are also some pluses of home-based learning.

But then there are the distractions.

The TV tempting them from across the room. Their bed calling them from down the hall. The kitchen full of snacks and drinks they’re going to harass you about ALL DAY lol

These are all things you’ll have to address with your home learning setup and rules that you put in place as early in the school year as possible.

Here are a few things we have found helpful:

  • Kids get up, dressed, and have breakfast before their first class just like they would when going to a brick and mortar school

  • School hours are school hours - no lounging in bed, eating random snacks, or watching tv and playing video games. If they couldn’t do it in school, they can’t do it during the day at home.

  • Any electronics not part of their learning - like phones and tablets because they use laptops their school provides - are handed over to an adult during the day

  • Even though some daily assignments can technically be turned in at