Now that the 4th of July has come and gone, the new school year looms on the horizon. But just what that will look like for thousands of families in Grayson County remains a bit fuzzy in light of the recent COVID-19 pandemic. So how does a family prepare for the future year of learning, no matter where it takes place? One thing you can do is get a learning space ready in your home, whether it be used to do traditional homework or daily distance learning.

Here are five ways to make sure your space is ready when the new school year rolls around:

Create a quiet, distraction-free zone

Amy Neidert, principal at Denison’s Terrell Elementary, and Stacy Hricko, English department chair at Denison High School, both said that such a space is vital for student success. While the space should be quiet, Van Alstyne eighth grade teacher, Heather Kelly, said you can also opt to provide a little music so the quiet doesn’t become overwhelming. She noted, however, that the music shouldn’t come from something distracting like a cell phone, as there are many time wasting options that can distract a student from their work.

Keep your study area well-stocked

All three educators said the student’s study area should have all of what they need to complete their work, without having to run all over the house or chase things down when they should be getting down to work. Make sure to have plenty of things to write with, paper to write on and all of those incidentals like tape or map colors so that they can be creative if the assignment calls for it. Make sure their technology, such as a laptop or tablet, is charged and ready to go and fits the requirements needed to gain the access that the student will need to do their work.

Keep it well lit

Each of the educators said the area should be well lit to allow the student to do the required work without straining their eyes. A desk lamp or floor lamp will often provide enough light, or a seat by a window can help brighten the area with natural light. Just make sure there isn’t so much going on outside that the student spends more time watching than working.

Keep it posted

All of the educators recommended posting a schedule for the student to follow that will let them know how long they have to complete the task(s) at hand, whether that’s joining a Zoom class lecture or completing traditional homework. Be sure to build in time for breaks, including those for a snack and a drink. Consider adding a timer to alert the student when it’s time to take a break, and when their break is over and they should return to work.

Keep it comfortable

Make sure the space is comfortable for the student. Allow them to decorate it in a way that makes them feel comfortable and inspired. Provide a place to sit upright at a table to help them feel the focus required to complete the task at hand. Be sure to talk to them about and observe how they seem to work best. Some students do better sitting at a desk, while others get more done stretched out on the floor or sitting on the floor with a lap desk.

Bonus suggestion: Make sure help is close at hand. Sometimes that help will be a parent or caregiver who can help produce a big word; at other times, it could mean access to a teacher via an email or phone call. There are a number of homework help websites that can be handy as well and having those URLs on hand can ward off any meltdowns from work that is beyond the student’s understanding at that moment.