With the uncertainty of when children will be able to attend in-person classes again, families have come up with their own creative ways of renovating home spaces into classrooms.
One mother has turned one of their bedrooms into Harry Potter’s Hogwarts School.
“We got a little bit of stuff but mostly the bulk of it we had,” Murrieta resident Kellie Moncrief said.
She also drew pictures of each of her four daughter’s houses from the book series: Ravenclaw, Gryffindor, Slytherin and Hufflepuff.
Menifee resident Holly Kiser Triplett moved to Menifee about a year before and found the house they had moved to had a “she shed” in the backyard; it was insulated, had electricity and air conditioning.
It was full of junk, so Triplett cleaned up the space and decided to turn it into a classroom for her 10-year-old son, who is autistic.
“If we did it at the table in the house or did whatever – he would have got too distracted,” Triplett said. “It was too many distractions so I thought what can I do – so I cleaned out the shed and we got a desk and started going to teacher stores and started putting stuff up.”
For Triplett, one of the toughest aspects of school being online is the issue of the internet.
“It’s been over 30 years since I’ve been in school,” Triplett said. “I’m old-school. What do we need Wi-Fi for?” she said, laughing. “Then I found out, well, I can’t do these Zoom meetings unless we have Wi-Fi.”
During school in the spring, Triplett received help from her sister, but her son was getting distracted and he fell behind.
“His reading and a lot of his other stuff is really second, third grade level even though he’s in fifth grade,” Triplett said. “I don’t want to have him keep going under and under. It’s not the teacher’s fault; they’re doing the best they can.”
While redoing the space for her son, they went to teacher supply stores to pick up some things to decorate.
“I thought we needed something more quiet, more set,” Triplett said. “I let him pick out one type of decoration that kind of went with the theme,” Triplett said.
He chose monkeys.
“I still wanted it to look and feel like a classroom and still kind of function as a classroom,” she said.
They also have a reward system and a behavioral chart for children with special needs.
“He’s getting really excited, and for me, during all this if I can make him happy and try to get him focused, I’ve done it,” Triplett said.
Menifee resident Jessica Gallardo Ginsburg has three children: a high school junior, a fifth grader and a second grader.
“We kind of just moved the rooms around,” Ginsburg said. “I had a room downstairs, and we put up bookshelves, a desk, went and bought a bunch of art supplies, school supplies and just made it more, so it could give the kids the feeling of a classroom.
“When the whole quarantine happened and we were doing school here at home they were just on the couch or at the dinner table, distracted, so the room helped a lot with them focusing more,” Ginsburg said. “Being able to close the door if they needed to read or do their work with the teacher online definitely helped just giving them that setting of a classroom and focusing without any distractions around the house.”
Her oldest son has desk space setup in his room, while the two younger ones have been using the newly renovated space.
Some of the struggles Ginsburg and her family faced involved the online aspect of schooling.
“Technical difficulties do happen so I understood, but it was the most annoying part stopping if we were in our groove doing work, and then we had to stop for this email or wait for her (the teacher) to send it or whatever the reason was,” Ginsburg said.
Ginsburg’s children aren’t exactly excited for the new school year in the format it’s currently in, according to Ginsburg.
“They’re happy we have at least the room for them to be able to work in there, but they do miss socializing with friends,” she said.
Menifee residents Piero Mendiola and his wife Noemi have six children, four of them in elementary school. One of their children is in college, while the other lives in San Diego.
“They began (school) on Friday,” Noemi Mendiola said. “We set up the classroom while they were sleeping, last week. So they woke up to a classroom – desks were there, but the decorations, the books, the shelves I set up during the nighttime.”
“They seem a little bit more focused,” Piero Mendiola said.
“That area really, really helps,” Noemi Mendiola said. “They have their own individual space.”
As schools are opening in an online format due to COVID-19, renovating spaces to mimic the feel of the classroom has been a way for some families to remain positive.
“We don’t really know what we’re doing, but we’re trying too,” Triplett said. “It is what it is and we’re trying to make the best of the situation.”
Lexington Howe can be reached by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.