Back to School: Setting up for Success with Home Learning Spaces

Photo Credit: Erika Gregorius, Neenah

ThedaCare Pediatrician Recommends Dedicating a Home Learning Space for Your Student

The COVID-19 pandemic has brought about big changes in the way children “attend” school, and for some districts, virtual learning will likely continue into the fall.

“While learning at home, one of the most important ways to help keep kids focused is to ensure they have a dedicated space in your home for schoolwork,” said Abby Smolcich, MD, a pediatrician at ThedaCare Physicians Pediatrics-Darboy. “Just as we set up a home workspace for ourselves to minimize distractions, children benefit from the same type of structure. Setting up a ‘school space’ can signal to the child that it’s time to focus.”

Making the workspace stimulating without being distracting can also keep your child on task. Adding a wall map, inspirational poster, periodic element chart, or a whiteboard on which they can work out problems, can give children extra visual cues that it’s time to learn.

Parents don’t need to stress themselves out by making a Pinterest-worthy schoolroom, simply ensuring that children have a space that works for them can make a big difference in their at-home learning success.

Things to Keep in Mind when Setting Up Student Workspaces

  • Make sure the space has adequate lighting to prevent eye strain and headaches, as well as to stimulate learning. “Setting up your child’s workspace near a source of natural light can improve attention and help keep them on a healthy sleep-wake cycle,” Dr. Smolcich said. “It’s easy for sleep routines to get disrupted without the regular structure of a normal school day.”
  • Keep the space comfortable and personalize it with learning tools your child would appreciate. For example, if you child enjoys learning about outer space, add a mobile of the planets or a moon globe. Also, be sure the furniture supports good posture, feet should be planted on the ground at 90 degrees.  
  • Consider your child’s personality and needs. “Some children may learn better in a quiet space, and others may learn best in the company of others or with soft music in the background,” Dr. Smolcich said. “If your child seems distracted or is having difficulty concentrating, consider creating another type of environment.” Students who learn better in a hands-on way might prefer a large table where they can spread things out, versus working at a small desk.

Also, think about the things adults do as we prepare to work from home. Dr. Smolcich explained sticking with routines can help children know what to expect from their day.

Tips for Establishing Routines

  • Get dressed and ready for the day like you would if you were leaving the house for school. Eat a good breakfast, brush teeth and get dressed. 
  • Create a routine that allows for regular movement. Allow your student to take breaks at the same times they would during in-person learning. Remind them to stand up and stretch every hour. Or, take a short walk. 
  • If snacks are typically apart of your child’s day, schedule those during a break time. 
  • Like adults, kids do better if they take breaks, switch positions, and have a change of scenery now and then. 

Pandemic stress also can impact your child’s ability to concentrate, so keep the lines of communication open with your child and discuss events in an age-appropriate way Dr. Smolcich said. If you have ongoing concerns about your child’s ability to adapt to virtual learning, connect with your child’s teacher, school district or primary care provider. 

“We understand this is a different time for our children,” said Dr. Smolcich. “Let’s all do the best we can to support them for a successful school year – in the many forms of learning we may see – virtual, in-person or a combination. We’ll get through this together.” 


ThedaCare and Go Valley Kids are teaming up in 2020 to help families be healthier, more active and enjoy Northeast and Central Wisconsin.

Thedacare & Go Valley Kids

About ThedaCare

For more than 110 years, ThedaCare® has been committed to improving the health of the communities it serves in northeast and central Wisconsin. The organization delivers care to more than 600,000 residents in 18 counties and employs approximately 7,000 health care professionals. ThedaCare has 180 points of care, including seven hospitals. As an organization committed to being a leader in Population Health, team members are dedicated to empowering people to live their best lives through easy access to individualized care, supporting each person’s own health and wellbeing. ThedaCare also partners with communities to understand unique needs, finding solutions together, and encouraging health awareness and action. ThedaCare is the first in Wisconsin to be a Mayo Clinic Care

Network Member, giving specialists the ability to consult with Mayo Clinic experts on a patient’s care. ThedaCare is a not-for-profit health system with a level II trauma center, comprehensive cancer treatment, stroke and cardiac programs, as well as primary care.

For more information, visit www.thedacare.org or follow ThedaCare on Facebook and Twitter.

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