Laurel Springs Students Share Tips on Schooling at Home


During this period of uncertainty around the globe, many families have been ushered into the world of online learning without much warning. It can be a huge adjustment to transition from learning inside a traditional classroom to carving out an academic life at home. We recently published lists of resources for educators who are new to online teaching, as well as parents who are looking for ideas about how to keep their children engaged in their schooling on the computer.
What resources are available for kids who are new to online learning? We asked current Laurel Springs students to share their best advice for embracing school at home--they are our most valuable experts when it comes to succeeding outside the classroom.


What are your strategies for creating a schedule?

"I use Google calendar and a website called Trello to create my daily, weekly, and monthly schedules. Through Google calendar, you can plan out your every hour if you wish, and you can also track the big picture of your course assignments or personal goals. I just recently started using Trello to increase my day-to-day productivity and to motivate me! Through this website/app, you can organize what you have to do, what you are currently working on, and what you have finished. As one could imagine, switching tasks from one column to the next is extremely motivating...and yes, also very satisfying!"

"Try to figure out what time of day you are most productive, and do most of your assignments then. If you can see your assignments in advance, you can find different ways of working through them to see what's most effective for you. You could work through one subject at a time, do all assignments of the same type, or do them according to when they are due."

"Take it one day at a time."

"Every Sunday, take the time to plan out your week roughly and every evening, adjust the following day accordingly. Having daily and weekly goals will help you stay on pace and maintain your motivation!"

"I like to start with a desired time frame (i.e. how long do I want to work, and will this amount of time fit well with how much work I have to do?). Once you figure that out, you can start fitting your work into your schedule. I also like to keep in mind my priorities for the day. Always prioritize the work that needs to be finished first."

"I use the Focus To-Do app to organize my tasks. Every morning, I create tasks for the day and also create longer projects. I use the app to track how much time I spend working on each subject and what parts of the day I tend to study. Then, I create a schedule using that information."

Learning SpaceWhat recommendations would you offer for creating an optimal learning space?

"Organizing and creating a fun work environment is absolutely essential to online learning! Find or create an area where you can be creative without distractions. Oftentimes, creating a clean, organized space before beginning your work clears the mind and readies your brain for productivity."

"Making a learning space that meets your own specific needs is really important. For me, I learn best when I am sitting on the couch with my dogs, but other people need much more structure. Figure out what you need and make a learning space that meets those needs."

"It's important to be comfortable, but also to make sure you are in an area where there are very few distractions. You should be somewhere quiet, and I know it sounds weird, but being somewhere that's clean really helps me. You can also 'set the mood,' in a way, and just try to create a vibe or an atmosphere where you WANT to work and are excited to learn."

"Put your phone away and on silent. If you like background noise, play music on a low volume. I like to sit at a desk to maximize my motivation, and I usually open my curtains or light a candle to make the room feel more comfortable."

"Have some water (and snacks) near you, so you don't have to stop working to get them."

"Being in a good learning space is vital to an effective education. Everyone enjoys learning in different environments, and it's important for you to find where you like to learn. Personally, I enjoy sitting at my bedroom desk because I have space, and it is quiet. Some students may like to work outside or with certain music! Find a work space that is both visually and mentally comforting."

"I suggest doing your work at a desk. Try not to do your work in your bed. This makes you associate your work space with your rest space. Trust me, it leads to many sleepless nights. My desk for schoolwork is in my bedroom, but it faces away from my bed. I think this helps disassociate the two spaces."

"I recommend separating your workspace and your leisure space. I never work in bed, and I work in the same spot every day. I also like to keep my study space neat and organized because it reduces clutter in my head about the need to clean up."

How do you get motivated to begin learning each day?

"Every online learner must identify their own, personal motivators. Some possible methods that I have used and benefited from:

Looking at the big picture about why you must complete certain tasks

Playing fun, upbeat music to get in the 'let's do this' mode

Physically writing down my to-do list

Finding an inspiring/motivating laptop screensaver

Writing inspiring quotes on a whiteboard or piece of paper where I can see it while working

Establishing blocks of free time

Approaching work with an open mind and not getting frustrated when certain tasks take more time than I expected"

"Reward yourself with breaks! For me, I study for one hour and then take a 20 minute break to read a book."

"I have to take some time in the morning to center myself and prepare  for the coming day in order to feel motivated to learn."

"I like to start every day with exercise before I start working. That way, I really feel energized and ready to buckle down into studying for the day."

"Getting motivated to start the school day can be hard when you don't have a specific time restraint to get to school. It may be tempting to sleep in extra-late or put off doing your schoolwork. However, in order to motivate myself, I like to start by setting specific times. For example, I have to start school by 9:30 AM. I also carve out some time for myself for short break periods and lunch time. Another thing that keeps me motivated to start learning each day is remembering that the sooner I get finished with my work, the sooner I can do the things I want to do. By remembering this, I get finished with my work in a timely manner, without stopping, stalling, and distractions."

"I like to start my mornings with an audio book while I'm getting ready to warm up my mind. I also look at the things I need to accomplish and organize what order I will complete these tasks."

IdeasStaying focused can be a challenge. How do you avoid distractions to keep your focus?

"I set realistic goals and strive to accomplish those goals by the end of the day. In this way, I create a sort of game to see if I can accomplish more than what I thought I could. I establish times just for distractions! That means I can focus on what I need to accomplish and look forward to time where I can glace through emails, reply to texts, or watch a video. Usually, this time will line up with a lunch, snack, or tea/drink break."

"Whenever I start studying, I turn my phone notifications off and put my phone in my desk drawer."

"Distractions happen! It is really important to acknowledge distractions, but also know how important it is to avoid them. Take a break to check on distractions and make sure you are caught up with notifications, and then continue working in a distraction free zone."

"Keep your open tabs to a minimum. And make sure any tabs you do have open are directly related to school in some way."

"I use the Pomodoro Method to stay focused. I work for 25 minutes and take a break for 5 minutes. After four 30-minute sessions, I take a 15 minute break instead of a 5 minute break. There are many Pomodoro apps that are free to use!"

How was your transition experience to online learning? What were some successes, challenges, and transitions?

"I made the transition to online learning about seven months ago, and it was fun and challenging at the same time! It took me a while to adjust to everything and to find out what strategies worked best for me. However, throughout this whole new experience, I have been constantly switching learning strategies and finding new ways to keep me motivated and on target. So don't be afraid to keep trying new things!"

"I worked to be really patient with myself during my transition. It was a huge change, and so taking a transition period to learn and address the challenges I was having was incredibly important."

"It’s definitely something to get used to, but it’s been super positive for me. I’m able to work when it works for my schedule, and I can tailor my environment to my needs. I can play music if I want, and I can take breaks when I want. Although it takes some time to find what works for you, I think online learning is a really positive experience."

"The beginning was a little tricky because I needed to figure out a schedule that worked best for me. I also walk my dog three times a day, so that gives me opportunities to take healthy breaks from my school work!"

"I remember my transition from school to the online learning community being quite challenging. This was back in second grade, and I remember I had a hard time taking it seriously at first. It was hard for me, definitely, to figure out that responsibly is key in an online learning environment. When learning from home, on your own, you don't have a teacher at the front of the class to tell you to keep working. You have only yourself to keep on track. I struggled with this at first, but within my first year of schooling at home, I caught onto it. I have been learning at home ever since."

"One of the hardest things about online learning was being in the house with my family all the time. There are things you can do to help overcome this specific challenge. My family knows that they cannot come into my work space when I have my room door closed. My door being closed means that I am working. Make a system like this with your family."

Online Learning

If you have any other general ideas about learning online to share with your peers around the world, please share them!

"Make the most of online learning, as you will find more time to do the things you enjoy."

"Don't be afraid of the learning curve! Give yourself time and patience to find out what strategies work best for you. If you are continuously disappointed or frustrated with your progress, you are not creating a healthy environment for learning. Make sure you are not always judging or critiquing every little mistake. Instead, learn from your mistakes and view them as an opportunity to improve. Whoever you are, know that there is a whole community of online learners pulling for you! Embrace this new opportunity with open arms and have fun learning from this new experience! We are here for you! :)"

"Make sure to create a healthy balance between work and relaxation."

"Don't be afraid to ask for help from your peers, and/or school faculty."

"Remember that you are in control of your own success."

"Be respectful online, and don't accept disrespect from others."

"Don’t neglect talking to your teachers. Give them an email, go to office hours, or set up an appointment. Even though you can’t see them in person, they are there to help you."

"Join clubs to adjust to online learning!! The more online friends you make, the more you find you have in common with students around the world!"