This article is made possible by a partnership with Connections Academy, a tuition-free K–12 online public school that students attend from home. We are proud to partner with Connections Academy to bring opportunities and informative content to our readers.

I don’t know how it’s possible that I now have TWO school aged children, I feel like I just left the hospital with these tiny little nuggets! My husband and I decided that this summer we need to create a learning space in our home. We want it to be a space conducive to creativity and learning. It’s important that it have all of the organization of a classroom, be a comfortable space for completing work in short spurts and longer timeframes and work well into the overall look of our home.

With some advice from the Connections Academy blog and a little research, we’ve turned a corner of our living room into an excellent workspace for at-home learning.

Remove Clutter & Distractions

Our home classroom is located in our living room. We decided a corner desk would work best and going vertical made a lot of sense so that we didn’t need to spread everything out in this shared space. The first step for us was to remove any distractions in that immediate area and get rid of clutter.

Evaluate & Adjust for Lighting Needs

With our learning area situated in a corner in the back of our living room, behind furniture, it was pretty dark. We capitalized on the windows and natural lighting available in that area, added a desk lap and removed a large chair that closed off the space. All of these changes made for a brighter space, great for learning and keeping attentive.

Consider a Straight Back Chair

While we’ve used swivel chairs for a long time, they’ve proven to be more effective as gym equipment or amusement park rides than as seats for getting down to work. With this update, we decided to bring in a stationary chair from our dining room and use it as a seat at the desk. When it comes to reading, since we are using the living room, we have plenty of soft, comfortable seating for the kids to sink into.

Be Selective with Supplies

This is not the only area our kids use to get creative and make things, so we wanted the bare minimum of things available in this space. We included a ruler, scissors, markers, crayons, colored pencils, pencils and pens. The backing of the desk is a dry erase board that is magnetic, so this opened up so many possibilities for us. You can find dry erase paint or sheets in a local craft store or online.

Time Management

Using a dry erase weekly assignment calendar has been very helpful for setting learning goals and keeping the kids on top of outings and group meetings. We added two different types of visual timers to the workspace. One is a kitchen timer that gives our children a visual of how much time is left, the other has a setting for a warning timer and alerts the kids visually and/or audibly when time is up. This has helped our kids stay on task and know when it’s time to move on to something else.

Give Everything a Home

The key to keeping everything organized and conducive to getting work done is to give everything a home and make sure it finds its home when your children are done with it. Hooks for hanging headphones, jars for keeping and displaying supplies, charging stations for e-readers and tablets, containers for library books. We use a great deal of magnetic items, velcro, Command products, clear jars and labels in our workspace.

Water Bottle

To combat the need to get up for a drink of water every few minutes, we allow a covered water bottle in our workspace. The kids each created their own coaster on a tile and we added felt backing to protect the desk. This gives the water bottle a home and a little bit of useful art in their space. The lid on the water bottle provides protection for the electronics.

Equipment & Electronics

We opted to use an oversize keyboard and child-sized mouse because our children are young and these items were very appropriate for their motor skills and abilities. The desk has one pull out drawer-like area that we turned into a charging station for e-readers and tablets. Our HP Envy printer is on top of the desk so that it’s accessible to the children but out of the way. An electric pencil sharpener is available for use on top of the desk so it’s not necessary for the kids to leave the area to locate one.

Indiana Connections Academy is a tuition-free K–12 online public school that students attend from home. The school gives students the flexibility to learn from anywhere with an internet connection using innovative curriculum that meets rigorous state education standards. The combination of state-certified teachers, a proven curriculum, unique electives, technology tools and community experiences creates a supportive and successful online learning opportunity for families and children who want an individualized approach to education.

While Indiana Connections Academy serves students all the way through graduation, families with older students might also be interested in a new school opening this fall: Indiana Career Connections Academy. A full-time online public career technical high school, the school will offer students pathways to employability, career, or postsecondary success through both career education and prep, and relevant work experiences.

Important qualities of online school include:

o   Flexibility: Connections Academy offers an alternative for children who are ahead or behind in the classroom, those who want more individualized instruction, or students who would benefit from a flexible school schedule. o   High Quality Curriculum: Connections Academy students explore and master required core subjects such as language arts, mathematics, science and social studies. Students with diverse abilities and interests thrive and grow at Connections Academy, where they have access to a broad range of electives, customized learning plans and courses for the gifted and talented. o   Accountability: Connections Academy is committed to meeting the states rigorous standards for academic achievement and accountability. The school uses a variety of tools to track student progress and comply with public school testing requirements, including online and offline assessments, parent interviews and regular follow-up evaluations throughout the year. The teachers are state-certified and available to students via phone, email, or the online classroom. Within Connections Academy’s highly individualized learning system, teachers know their students—whether they need extra help or a new challenge. o   Parental Involvement: Parent participation in a child’s education can lead to improved grades and test scores, higher graduation rates, and greater enrollment in post-secondary education. At Connections Academy, parents serve as Learning Coaches monitoring progress in the home. o   Customized Learning: Students learn best when lessons match their interests and abilities. Studies have shown that in conventional classrooms many instructional tasks are not matched to students’ skill levels. The mission of Connections Academy is to help each student maximize his or her potential and meet the highest performance standards through a uniquely individualized learning program. At Connections Academy, each student receives individualized instruction, including lessons tailored to their academic strengths and weaknesses.