Is your child attending school in a Zoom session or Google Classroom? Do you feel the kids were learning more when they were in a traditional school building? Don’t let your child lose out on an education because of the COVID pandemic. Create an in-home classroom and homework space to improve the learning environment.

How to Set Up a Home Classroom and Homework Space for E-Learning in Your Closet

If you’re anything like me, you were caught off-guard with the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic. The kids are at home, stuck in the house under stay-at-home orders intended to keep them safe. But we still want them to keep up with their studies. The future may be changed, but they will still need an education. What is a parent supposed to do? But how does this e-learning thing work for the average family? Do teens and young children really have enough self-discipline to make online schools work?

First Set Up a Home Classroom Routine

You can help your child enormously by setting up strict routines similar to those they experienced in school. There should be set times when they are expected to be at their desks and working on assignments in addition to online class sessions with the teacher. The physical environment is also important. Make sure they have a desk or table to sit at. Don’t let them lounge on their bed or on the sofa. It won’t convey the seriousness of the online learning situation. If you can, provide headphones, earbuds, or even a complete headset with a microphone that plugs into the computer/tablet. This is especially helpful if you have more than one child because these devices allow the students to better hear and be heard by the teacher even when other people in the room are talking.

Child with headset for online schooling in a home classroom
This child has a headset for online schooling in a home classroom.

Still, even with a desk and headset, it may not be enough. Many children need the structure of a separate home classroom space that is different than the regular living/relaxation/sleeping areas of the house in order to achieve the level of concentration needed to succeed with their schoolwork. Help your student by creating a homework space that can be used for all schoolwork and e-learning activities.

But where do you put this? You probably don’t have a lot of empty rooms in your home just waiting to be converted into a new home classroom. Luckily, there are ways to convert existing areas of your home into a proper homework space to aid effective online schooling. If you’re tight on space, look to your closet to provide the space needed for a new home classroom. It’s a relatively simple DIY project and everyone has a closet.

Convert Half a Closet into a Homework Space

Reach-in bedroom closet converted into a homework space
Reach-in bedroom closet was divided in half and so that one section could be converted into a homework space. The plans for this closet are pictured below.

If your child has a 7-foot or wider reach-in closet in their bedroom, you can probably divide that closet roughly in half using one side for clothes and the other as a homework space. First, you need to clear everything out (all clothing, rods, hooks, etc.) of the existing closet. Next, divide the closet in half so that you have two smaller sections. Then, double the amount of storage available on one side. That way, all the clothes can go back into only half the original space. Sound impossible? It’s not. You simply need to use custom closet organizers to achieve this.

Build a New Closet in Half the Space

A double hang closet section will allow you to hang clothes one rod over the other, basically multiplying your effective hanging storage by two. This will be your principal weapon in doubling the amount of closet storage. Also, use shelves and organizers like baskets to increase practical storage all the way from the floor to the ceiling. You’ll be amazed at how much extra storage space will magically appear by doing this. The key is getting everything organized so it all has a place to go.

Note: Positioning of the shelves versus hanging areas will depend on what type of door you have. You don’t want access to your shelves to be blocked by the door. If you are putting in a new door, choose a swing door that opens out rather than in, or a barn door type of sliding door. These two-door types allow for the most storage in the closet.
Plans for a dividing a closet between storage and homework space
These plans show how to divide a large reach-in closet into a combination of storage and homework space.

Now you’re ready to build your in-home classroom/homework area. Start with the upper shelves. Make them 14-inches deep so that you can use the same easy-to-install closet hardware to complete the entire project. That way, the shelves can hang from the same suspended rail system as the closet storage. Follow the same instructions for installing a closet to hang the set of shelves over the desk area.

Build the Desk for Your Homework Nook

Install a desk below the shelves. The desktop should be approximately 22-1/2-inches deep to provide enough space for your child to work. Since most reach-in closets are 24-inches deep, this size gives just the right amount of wiggle room for installing the desk. Try to obtain 1-inch thick laminate material for the desktop rather than the 3/4″ laminate material used on the shelves. It will add welcome strength to the work surface.

The easiest way to secure the desktop to the back wall is with a cleat. A cleat is a 1 x 2 piece of lumber that is basically half a standard 2 x 4. They come in 8-foot lengths or greater and must be cut to size for your project. Determine the best desktop height for your child based on his/her age. Also, consider that you must allow a minimum of 18-inches between the bottom of the upper shelves and the desktop in order to have adequate room for working/studying. After you’ve determined the optimal height of the desk, secure the cleat to the back wall and the right side wall so that the top edge is at the height you would like to have the desktop.

The other side of the desk should be supported by a set of floor based drawers or shelves. Whether you are able to use drawers or must stick with shelves will depend on the type of door on your closet. If you want drawers, make sure your door won’t prevent them from fully opening. Install these just as you would a bank of closet drawers or shelves.

Make it Comfortable

Your child may be sitting at this new desk space for as long as a full 6-hour school day. Make sure you buy a good ergonomic chair to go with the desk. Also, don’t forget the little extras that will make your homework nook comfortable. Possible accessories include a bright desk lamp, a grommeted hole in the desktop for electrical cords, and a cork backboard between the desktop and bottom shelves for notes and photos. If you want to get fancy, you can install low voltage LED closet lighting below the bottom shelf as task lighting to supplement the desk lamp.

With a little planning and a good closet organization strategy, you can come up with enough empty closet spaces for conversion so that each of your children has their own office/homework area. Make it comfortable and personalized so that they want to sit there. The benefits of this new space are both immediate and lasting. This home classroom area will help your child’s online learning now, and also function as a safe and private homework space forever — no matter where their future classes might be held.

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