Back to school shopping traditionally means stocking up on lunchboxes, notebook paper, and Elmer's glue. But this year, as more parents anticipate teaching children at home at least some of the time, what's considered a back-to-school must-have is shifting.
According to a study by PayPal, 41 percent of parents anticipate spending money this year on remote learning equipment like laptops and wi-fi routers, as well as furniture and storage that will support homeschool classrooms and distance learning models.
HGTV's Breegan Jane, a mother of two young boys, is one such parent. "I’ve been preparing by readjusting my kids’ learning environment so everything is on their level. I’m trying to put the books lower and the materials on the floor so they can dig in and be creative the way they can in a traditional classroom environment.” She's also been stocking up on homeschool must-haves, like headphones and art supplies.
We talked to Jane, who is also an interior designer, about how she's carving out a stimulating and exciting school area for her kids, and how other parents can do the same. Find her top tips, below.
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1. Invest in sanity-savers
Since so many families will be both working and learning from home (often with multiple kids and parents sharing the same space), Jane says it's important to stock up on what she calls "sanity savers." Or, things that give each person a little more control over their environment. Things like separate laptops so each person can manage their own schedule, and headphones so that different family members can have conversations or listen to classes at the same time are key, she says.
2. Use what you have
Jane cited a Paypal survey (opens in new tab) that indicated more parents are spending on back-to-school furnishings this year, in addition to standard school supplies, but she says it's possible to mix new purchases with repurposed finds from around the house.
"In addition to extra spending, it's also important to lean into creativity, like turning a side table into a children's desk. It's the perfect size, and one of my design secrets for stretching your dollar," Jane says.
3. Stock up on easy storage solutions
If your homeschool space is inside another room, say a family room or dining area, invest in closed storage that can easily hide school supplies, but keep them easily accessible, when they're not in use. "I love storage baskets with lids," Jane says. "So you can have the chaos and it's right there and available, but when you want to tidy things up, there's not that added stress of find a spot for everything."
4. Encourage creativity
To help her boys tap into their creativity, Jane says she keeps art supplies like markers, crayons, and paper well-stocked, and in a spot her kids can reach them easily on their own. "I invest in elements that create a tactile experience for their learning environment," Jane says. "I buy them in bulk!"
5. Make it fun
One of the best tips for setting up a homeschool is to figure out what gets your child excited about learning and lean into it. Even if it's something small, like choosing a new desk chair or their own homeschool supplies. "Try to make it fun for your kids," says Jane. "I get my son these little gold pens because he likes writing in gold, and why shouldn't I lean into that? This is hard enough for kids, so why not go with whatever makes it easier and more fun?"