During this pandemic, Leah Dela Cruz has taken the idea of learning somewhere to heart. Ms. Dela Cruz lives with her husband and two children, Lauren, 6, and Rocco, 16 months, in a 750-square-foot, two-bedroom apartment in San Mateo, California. Since the Covid-19 hit, Ms. Dela Cruz's mother has also lived with the family, which means Ms. Dela Cruz and her husband share one bedroom with their children while their mother is in the other.
And after Lauren's school closed and Ms. Dela Cruz was absent from her own position as a Montessori preschool teacher, she took over her daughter's education knowing she needed to get creative with both budget and space to get her kids off Teaching from home.
In the United States this fall, parents are weighing agonizing decisions about in-person and virtual schooling. Many parents struggle to support their children through distance learning while in full-time or shift work with unpredictable schedules that can transform family life. Some parents, with the resources and space available, try Pandemic Learning Pods, where a small group of students gathers each day to learn, either through synchronized virtual lessons or with a teacher. However, once the question of how children will learn this year is answered, another equally pressing question arises: where exactly will this learning take place?
With the living room as the only option for a classroom, Ms. Dela Cruz gave away a large table and bookcase and created two tidy rooms, one on the left with a TV tray as a desk for Lauren and one on the right with a play area for Rocco. Lauren uses an old iPad for distance learning and crafts are done with simple materials like popsicles and colored pencils.
Ms. Dela Cruz came up with the Montessori concept of rotating toys – only one or two at a time – to keep her kids interested and to save space.
"My advice is less is more," she said. "We tend to shower kids with lots of toys, but you can be creative and resourceful with what you have."
Some people are lucky enough to find that after a little planning and a lot of elbow grease, the solution is instantly at hand.
When Adil Iqbal and his wife Roohi closed a new home in Potomac, Md., In July, the old barn on the property was an afterthought. Mr. Iqbal, the executive director of a market research strategy firm, and Ms. Iqbal, an educational admissions consultant, had no desire to raise cattle. They just wanted to move from the family's former home in Northern Virginia so that their two daughters Anya, 11 and Sonia, 13 could be closer to their school.
But as the Covid-19 pandemic dragged on, it became increasingly clear that her daughters would not be returning to this school anytime soon. And the barn, with its peeling paint and abandoned haystacks, could serve as a distance learning space for both Anya and Sonia and a handful of friends.
In the case of the Iqbals, Sonia will study in the barn on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays. Anya will have the place on Tuesdays and Thursdays. Each girl is accompanied by five other classmates in the same grade level. Parents supervise students on a rotating schedule but do not plan to hire a teacher. All students learn distance learning and follow their school's online curriculum virtually in the barn.
"We see it as a WeWork for kids," said Iqbal, referring to the real estate company that specializes in co-working spaces.
The families – 11 total – have agreed to split the cost of desks, chairs, and lockers at around $ 250 per family. The Iqbals are building new floors and have also bought a picnic table at lunchtime and a Google router to boost the wifi signal from the main house. They also put a smart lock on the front door of their home so that students who need a toilet can break in.
The main incentive of the barn, Mr Iqbal said, was that each morning his daughters had to get dressed, take their backpacks, and leave the house – as if they were actually going to school.
"In addition to being socially isolated and wanting to connect with other children their age, parents also struggle with a lack of structure," he said. “The option of having a separate structure on our property that we can easily reuse – this gives everyone, including our children, a little bit of separation from home. Even if it only goes through the backyard. "
Parents who cannot break free of their own jobs during school hours or who have no space for study areas in their homes, as well as those who cannot afford to pay for private tutors and renovations, fear that distance learning and the trend towards pandemic capsules will emerge further exacerbate the racial and socio-economic divide in academic achievement
Some cities are trying to fill in emergency gaps: In San Francisco and Indianapolis, public spaces are being turned into “learning centers”. New York City offers free childcare for up to 50,000 students per day. In a neighborhood near Denver, some students can do their distance learning in classrooms that would otherwise be empty.
And many families like the Iqbals, eager to provide their children with the best possible study space while keeping costs in check, hope that creative thinking and a less-is-more attitude will help them have the months to come with their children to spend at home.
"Parents shouldn't think they need a lot of money or space to set up a meaningful study space," said Tasha C. Ring, an education advisor who has run home school collaborations that she calls microschools. through her company Meridian Learning for more than a decade. "Meaningful learning can take place anytime, anywhere, but it helps when the environment is prepared for the specific needs of children and young adults."
For some parents, the easiest way to do this is to turn their entire home into a school.
Nwamaka Unaka built a micro-school from scratch in her four-bedroom home in Houston. The pod is called Black Girl Magic School and consists of five preschoolers, including Ms. Unaka's daughter Ure (4), who previously attended a private preschool in the church together. The girls 'parents have hired their daughters' former teacher, Shekela Banks, to now run the school with Ms. Unaka every day from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Each family pays a total of $ 250 per week to cover expenses, including Ms. Bank's salary, daily cleaning, supplies, and supplies.
The rooms for studying are everywhere: Ure's playroom upstairs has been converted into a Montessori classroom; The bathroom on the ground floor has been made into a disinfection station where every child can wash their hands before entering the house. The kitchen counter serves as a STEM center for scientific experiments and hands-on learning. Play equipment has been added to the tidy garden for exercise and fun outdoors.
For Ms. Unaka, who continues to work as chief of staff for a councilor in Houston, school days can now feel like a slap in the mouth constantly looking for quiet places to sit with her computer. "I go wherever the children aren't," she said. "I often work in my daughter's bedroom. But in such a crazy, frightening and lonely time I enjoy hearing her five little voices upstairs."
Tracy Walton, who is separated from her husband and lives in Elizabethtown, Pennsylvania, has abandoned her laundry room and closets to maintain a semblance of order. Ms. Walton shares a two-bedroom apartment with her daughters Guiliana, 8, and Allison, 3. When the lockdown began in March, the first thing she did was empty her daughters' walk-in closet and turn it into a work space for her older daughter.
"We call it Giuli's office," she said. "When she has Zoom meetings, she goes into her 'office' and closes the door."
Schools reopening ›
Back to school
Updated August 28, 2020
The latest on how schools are reopening amid the pandemic.
For the upcoming school year, Ms. Walton has agreed to have two more children – a third grader like Guiliana and a preschooler – come home to their daughters every day. As a result, the often vacant washroom is now an additional study space (Ms. Walton does the washing in her mother's house nearby. Both third graders study remotely. Ms. Walton will supervise them while she looks after the preschoolers.
To create a play area for the preschoolers, she placed an attic over her older daughter's bed and created a fortress under the raised frame by adding a tiny table and decorations of dinosaurs.
"The best part is that I haven't spent any money yet," she said. "There are some really cool, fully decorated rooms I've seen online and that's great, but expensive. I wouldn't be willing to put that time and effort into something that is hopefully temporary."
Other families are creating outdoor spaces that they hope will survive the pandemic. Amy Winston involves her two children, 5 and 7 years old, building a tree house in her backyard near Boston. You will do your school's virtual learning in the tree house, along with two other local children. They plan to use the tree house during all four seasons. The children are graduates of a pre-school that followed the German idea of “forest kindergartens” or “forest schools”. So in colder weather they can wear extra shifts or, if necessary, postpone lessons in the main house.
The key, Ms. Winston said, is that they feel a connection with the space in which they are learning. "We wanted her to feel like it was hers," said Ms. Winston. "I don't want my kids to hate school and here I hope we can create something that will help them love school this year."
Samia Masood, a former elementary school teacher and mother of two boys, provides advice and educational support to parents through her website ThinkandTeach.com. Her younger son is also immunocompromised, so her family has been fully quarantined at her townhouse in Richmond, Virginia since March.
Her advice for creating a successful home learning environment is three main points: plan, be flexible, and put yourself in your child's shoes.
Ms. Masood said the ideal home learning environment isn't the one with the largest footprint or the most Instagram-worthy design. It is the one that most empowers a child to take control of their learning.
“Place items where children can reach them so they can feel independent. Go at eye level and find out what's within reach and in your room, ”she said.
And most of all, think about your unique child. Ms. Masood's older son has an A.D.H.D. and when sitting at a desk becomes a problem for him, she offers him an indoor trampoline.
"Most parents already know this stuff, it's just about bringing it into consciousness," she said. "It's about trusting your gut and creating a space in that sense."
Sign up here for weekly email updates on residential property news. Follow us on Twitter: @nytrealestate.