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Since stay-at-home orders went into effect, parents have been settling into some semblance of a homeschooling routine. Those first few days feel like an eternity ago for Dallas–based art director Abby Clawson Low, who has three sons (one in preschool, one in second grade, and another in fourth grade). “I was having a hard time remembering what day it was—they all seemed to blur into one long Tuesday,” she remembers.

Los Angeles clothing designer Jesse Kamm also admits that getting her son in the groove of a new routine is still a work in progress. “Becoming a teacher has really put me in my place,” she says. The readjusting might be day-to-day, but there are small ways to help everyone in your household adapt to—and even thrive in—this new normal. Here are a few creative ideas on setting up your space and real-talk tips from parents who are holding down the fort.

Stick With Familiar Rituals 

Because her children aren’t using their backpacks to go to and from school, Low lined them up on hooks in the laundry room and treats them like cubbies. Her crew marks the end of each day by dropping off all their books, folders, and papers in the pouches. Maintaining work-home boundaries is just as important for kids as it is for adults—with homework out of sight, they can fully enjoy their after-school activities (even if it’s in the same room). 

Streamline the Desk

Blair Moore of Moore House Design in New York often suggests that her clients with kids set up a work zone in a white or neutral corner and limit the amount of clutter on the tabletop, particularly if the children have trouble focusing. Any crafts essentials (think: beads, origami paper, colored tape, glue, paint, string) can be stored in bins in a drawer or in another room. (Low, for instance, has designated three of her kitchen cabinets for these types of supplies.) Less distractions, less mess. 

Take the Classroom Outside 

Kamm is determined to get her son, Julien, outdoors as much as possible. When the weather is nice, she sets him up with all his materials at a large round table on the patio. Right now, he gets a 10-minute skateboarding break every 30 to 40 minutes, so sitting outside makes it easy for him to switch gears between homework and playtime. Kamm has also initiated “history walks,” where the pair take his book, go for a stroll, and find a spot to sit in the fresh air to alternate reading the assigned pages. “When we get home, he answers the questions and has a real, thorough understanding of the ideas—and we had a little fun,” she says.

Track Time With a Cardboard Calendar 

Marking the passage of time helps keep Low sane, but it also gives her kids something to do first thing in the morning. At 8:45 a.m., they update a communal construction paper calendar that’s taped to a kitchen cupboard door with the date and day of the week. On another strip of paper, they keep track of the weather. “We basically flip-flop between sunny and cloudy here,” she says, laughing. Seeing the seasons slowly shift puts them in tune with their surroundings. 

Take Advantage of Larger Rooms 

Worried about supervising toddlers while you are working? Consider turning the kitchen into an office-play zone by designating the dining table as a combined art and desk area and storing toys on open shelves. (Add child locks to any drawers and cabinet doors you don’t want little ones to be able to access.) They are more easily entertained when they can show off their favorite pieces but have enough distractions to give you extra time to send off some more emails. 

Make the Space Flexible

Photography by Aaron Bengochea

In smaller spaces, turn their learning zone into an art-and-crafts station by keeping a big roll of drawing paper on-hand. When class time is over, unroll the sheet over the desk to create a place for never-ending streams of scribbles. Moore also likes to stock kids’ desks with colorful vessels to hold chalk, stamps, or ink, making it easier for them to stay organized no matter what mode they’re in. 

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