THE NEW SCHOOL: designing your home classroom

Parents, we didn't sign up for this... and we've never appreciated our kids' teachers more! But distance learning calls for a whole new approach to school supply shopping. So, we've studied hard and taken note of the essentials - plus a few cool extras - to help make your schoolhouse rock.

Words by Melissa Molina

Homeschooling is nothing new for a relatively small percentage of the population. For the rest of us, not only is it unfamiliar, it's also a new source of stress. (Perfect... just what we needed when stress has already been piling up like a heap of dirty laundry all year.)

I feel comfortable stating "this was not in the brochure" in reference to distance learning, virtual learning, remote classroom learning or whatever your term of choice may be. As much as we love our rugrats, most of us would agree that due to the pandemic, quarantining and so forth, we've about had it up to here and were counting the days for school to start... if for no other reason, just so we can get a break!

Well, that's not happening, so as parents do, we roll our eyes, sigh, take a deep breath, and do what must be done. On the bright side, we still have the teachers (bless their hearts) to do most of the heavy lifting.

Another positive spin: being tasked with setting up a home classroom is an excuse to redecorate! For many states, Back-To-School Sales have already started and Tax Free Weekends are in effect.

So, let's get to it!

A double desk is perfect if you have more than one student at home; if not, you can use the extra space to sit side-by-side as you guide and support your remote learner.

Industrial Pipe Double Desk & Shelving with Drawers, $1,829 (regular)/ $1,371 (RH members);

Even under normal circumstances, a dry erase calendar is useful, but now that we've reached the point where we don't even know what day it is anymore, it's heaven-sent.

Quartet Glass "14" x 14" Dry-Erase Calendar Board, $25.99;

I don't know about yours, but my kids fight over just about everything. Having their names engraved on their pencils is a simple way to put a stop to that "No! It's mine!" nonsense. Plus, the colors are really chic (which might explain why this particular palette is called "chic").

This Belongs To Pencils, Set of 12, $14.99;

And needless to say, what's a pretty pencil without a fancy-schmancy sharpener to keep it on point? If you're going to invest in this one, at least it's staying at home so you can make sure it won't disappear.

Funno's hand polished copper with mirror finish pencil sharpener by Poetic Lab of London, $90;

This one I'm wild about: a desk/chair set just like they have in regular school, but stackable and easily stored when not in use. Love that.

Luxor Lightweight Stackable Student Desk and Chair, $191.23;

If your high-schooler is longing for his locker, this desk is a nice substitute. The casters make it portable so any room in the house can instantly become a classroom. And the galvanized finish is too cool for school, so even when traditional learning resumes, it's a great-looking piece that's worth owning.

Pottery Barn Teen Locker Desk, $999;

Streamlining is the name of the game with all the chaos going on under one roof nowadays, so an all-in-one wireless printer is a must-have. And since this one communicates easily with Alexa and Google™ Assistant, they won't be screaming for Mom and Dad whenever they need to print, scan, or copy.

HP OfficeJet Pro 9015 Wireless InkJet All-In-One Color Printer, $229.89;

If waiting 'til 11:30 to start an assignment that's due at midnight is how your child rolls, a good task lamp is essential. This one's available in three stylish finishes, and all models come standard with two USB charging ports and a padded bottom that won't scratch the desk. The mac daddy version also offers a built-in Qi-certified wireless phone charging pad. Hello? What more could you ask for... other than your kid actually starting his or her homework at a decent hour.

Lux LED Lighting Brooklyn Task Lamp in Brushed Aluminum, $179-$229;

Laptops are like cars... if you can drive a Maserati, that's great, but if a Hyundai is what's in your price range, it's still gonna get you from point A to point B. My advice is to try and buy the best laptop you can afford, but for those who can swing it, this is a really good one just sayin'.

Microsoft Surface Pro 7, starting at $749.99;

With your kids trying to concentrate on what's happening on Zoom and not on what's happening around them, noise-cancelling headphones are a must. These are very high-quality, and the colors are everything.

Bose Noise Cancelling Headphones 700, $299.95;

If you can't put them on the school bus, at least you can set them up with a desk that resembles one. Seriously how adorable is this?

Furniture of America Frisian School Bus Metal Desk, $476.81;

When it's time to play teacher to your elementary school student, it's great to have this on hand: an easel/storage cart with magnetic dry erase board and multiple charging stations. Since it's got wheels, when your munchkin is on the move, you will be too!

Copernicus Educational Teaching Easel with Storage and Charging for 6 Devices, $659;

This will look familiar to your kindergartners; it's just like the ones they have in schoolrooms. And that sense of comfort and familiarity is so important right now, especially for tiny tots.

Really Good Stuff Desktop Bookshelf with Cups, $99.99;

This cheery binder kit - including daily to-dos and fun sticker sheets - might be just the thing to motivate your student to stay organized, and also feel better about being socially-distanced from friends and classmates.

Russell + Hazel 'My Big Year' Kids Mini 3-Ring Binder Kit, $40;

And I'm willing to bet your teenage daughter could use a little spirit-boost as well. Maybe this pretty patterned desk accessory set will put some pep in her step as she heads into homework time.

Kaleidoscope Colorful Desk Organizer Set, $26;

Struggling to solve the problem of where to put a blackboard? I might have the correct answer: a self-adhesive blackboard film that's like a roll of gift wrap. You can apply it to nearly any smooth surface, and presto! Instant chalkboard.

EZ Film Chalk BlackBoard, $26.99-$32.99 per roll;

But dusty fingerprints all over the house is simply out of the question; you have to draw the line somewhere, so grab hold of the situation with these vibrant chalk covers.

NX Garden 10pcs Multicolor Plastic Chalk Holders, Set of 10 $7.77;

It seems like with all the focus on texting and keyboarding these days, handwriting is becoming a lost art. However, cute Japanese anime-inspired pens like these might lead to a comeback.

My Neighbor Totoro Gel Ink Pens, and Japanese Cartoon Cat Gel Pens, $2.39 each;

And since they'll need a juicy place to stash them, your kids will likely be tempted by these whimsical fruit-slice pencil cases.

Fruit-shaped Leather Pencil Cases, $8.99 each;

Alas, virtual learning wasn't what quite what we wanted for this back-to-school season, but here's hoping the items above will move you to the head of the class.