How can I deal with the noise from a nearby school?
October 26, 2010 3:05 PM   Subscribe

How can I deal with the noise from a nearby school?!

We've lived in our house for about 5yrs, and I've had no issues with the k-8 school that's 2 doors down. After a brief layoff, I've recently landed my dream job, which requires me to work from a home based office. I think you can see where this is going.

Since the time we've lived here, both my wife and I worked the typical 8-5 jobs, and were off on weekends. We never even thought twice about the school being so close because there's nothing going on there after 5pm or on the weekends. Now that I'm working from home I've realized the horror of recess. It's literally deafening, and just sounds like non-stop screaming at the top of their lungs. Before you tear me a new asshole, please realize that I previously used to enjoy the sounds of playing children, but now it's getting unbearable. I've called the school and politely asked what the recess hours were (so I could plan my day around them) and was told 12pm until 2pm.. What they failed to mention is that every gym class is also held outside (weather permitting). So this makes for nearly an 8hr day of non-stop screaming..

Can anyone of you guys suggest ANY ideas (other than moving) that I can try?

posted by anonymous to Society & Culture (19 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
I live across the street from an elementary school playground, so I feel your pain. I worked from home for a couple of years, too, and man, it was distracting. A couple of times I got up, went outside, and walked to the sidewalk to try to see if anyone was actually being murdered. With 7-year-old girls, it's just impossible to tell.

Now, my building has 40-year-old single-pane windows. I want very badly to replace them, in large part for soundproofing reasons. A friend in similar circumstances found a tremendous reduction in outside noise when she replaced hers - that seems to be the most likely solution to me.

Loud music and/or headphones also works fine.
posted by restless_nomad at 3:11 PM on October 26, 2010

Earplugs. White noise machine. Noise cancelling headphones with non distracting music
posted by mollymayhem at 3:12 PM on October 26, 2010 [1 favorite]

In ascending order of cost: moving your office to a difference location in your house (basement?), ear plugs, headphones, soundproof windows.
posted by 2bucksplus at 3:12 PM on October 26, 2010

If it makes you feel any better I work from home but I live in a townhouse. My next door neighbor has 3 litters of children that run up and down the stairs ::THUMPING:: ::THUMPING:: all hours of the day. When that's not happening I can hear children screaming, dogs barking, and loud reggae music reverberating through the floor.

Just when I think I've had enough and the parrot starts squawking, not another day not another day, I take to my own stairs and run up and down 2 flights from the basement to the upstairs office pounding each step like I'm crushing coconuts.

After about 10 circuits through the steps I feel like I've gotten an excellent HIIT workout in and I can't help but laugh.

My only solution so far is to hookup my 800 Watt Bass Amp, (6 10 inch speakers), and to play Bootsy Collins as loud as possible.
posted by zephyr_words at 3:27 PM on October 26, 2010

Double-pane windows work wonders for sound insulation. They can save you money on heating and air conditioning costs, too. Do you currently have double-pane windows?
posted by mr_roboto at 3:28 PM on October 26, 2010 [2 favorites]

There are cheap ear molding kits available that are around $7, you could mold them to some headphones to get some better sound isolation. Make magazine had a nice video on this.

Also I agree with white noise, it helps me concentrate sometimes when my family is talking too loud on the phone (seriously, they yell). My favorite free site is, I prefer brown noise over the others. Also be sure to check out the free rainfall track which gets good around 5-6 minutes in.
posted by BurN_ at 3:37 PM on October 26, 2010

A number of cities have office space that people working from home can rent for reasonable costs. If better windows/moving the home office/white noise don't work, you can loom into that.
posted by jeather at 3:38 PM on October 26, 2010 [1 favorite]

Just want to point out that with budget cuts, the school year is getting shorter and shorter all the time. Plus you have Thanksgiving break, Winter break, conference weeks, various legal holidays and the entire Summer break to look forward to. So at least you wont' be dealing with this every day for the entire year.
posted by BlahLaLa at 3:47 PM on October 26, 2010

A good pair of noise reduction ear muffs and a pair of in ear headphones will essentially complete attenuate the noise of a chainsaw. A noisy school should be no problem.
posted by Mitheral at 3:51 PM on October 26, 2010

Noise cancelling headphones won't do a damn thing for screaming children. What you want is noise isoloation or, in other words, earplugs.

If you want to listen to music, you can buy canelphones, sometimes called IEMs. They're earphones that go right into your ear canal, working effectively as earplugs as well.

posted by Mwongozi at 4:08 PM on October 26, 2010

It helps if you think of it as just background noise. Those of us unused to the joyous sounds of merry children do indeed hear screaming, which of course sets your instincts going; "OMG! Children screaming! Must do something!". Listen to it, let it wash over you like the surf, and reassure yourself this is normal, this is what they sound like, this is OK, all is well. Chuckle at it, even. Give thanks it is not IN the room with you. Slowly, it becomes more background noise. The suggestions for white noise or music also do help, but just let yourself get over that deep hindbrain "OMG SCREAMS ALERT!" response. :)
posted by The otter lady at 4:14 PM on October 26, 2010 [1 favorite]

I got this program - Atmosphere Lite Plus - from a free software giveaway thing, but I like it so much I would pay for it now if I had to. It allows me to create a natural soundscape of rain or waves or streams or thunder or birdsong - in a million combinations - that I listen to through noise-canceling headphones at work.

There's a free version at the bottom of the page here, it looks like.
The program has immeasurably improved my quality of life.
posted by CunningLinguist at 4:25 PM on October 26, 2010 [4 favorites]

Can you hang some thick drapes along the entire wall(s) that faces the direction of the school? Google for thermal or insulated drapes.

Also, if you're in a climate with cold winters, try to console yourself with the thought that there are probably only a few more weeks of weather suitable for outdoor gym class. Unless they teach skiing at this school...
posted by SuperSquirrel at 4:36 PM on October 26, 2010

Something that helps me concentrate on working/studying at home whilst hearing the noise from my own children's school, is this:

"If it's bad for me, how do the teachers cope? And what about the people who work in the school office? And what about the family who lives right next door to the school? Yeah, maybe I'm not so badly off after all."

For some weird reason, that recalibrates my brain into being able to ignore the noise. I have no idea why, but it works for me. YMMV.
posted by malibustacey9999 at 4:40 PM on October 26, 2010

Excuse the second post - I just had another idea. You could ask if it's possible to move gym class to a different area of the school grounds. This might work better if there are others in the same boat who would be willing to approach the principal with you as a group.
posted by SuperSquirrel at 4:46 PM on October 26, 2010

As someone who works INSIDE one of those buildings- be happy you can work from home in relative quiet in your pjs!:) At your dream job, no less! (but if I were in your shoes I would try to switch rooms and definitely wear noise-cancelling headphones).
posted by bquarters at 6:32 PM on October 26, 2010

If you want to go the noise-cancellation route, these will get you all the performance of the Bose, at 1/4 the price.
posted by PareidoliaticBoy at 8:26 PM on October 26, 2010

I have lived closer than that to a school, and I have felt your pain.

If you have sliding windows with multiple panes, make sure they're all slid in the right direction, so that you have two panes on each side. These windows can be closed without being properly closed, and it makes a marked difference.

Also consider hanging heavy blackout curtains over the windows. They damp out sound as well as light.
posted by jacquilynne at 9:33 PM on October 26, 2010

Earplugs and/or your own music or noise to block it out might help, but your best bet is time - after a while you'll get adjusted to the screaming and not notice it so much. Really. When we first moved to our current house, I didn't think the elementary school being a few doors down would be a problem. Little did I know that small children are unable to play or participate in sports without screeching non-stop at the top of their tiny but powerful lungs. I work from home, too, and I spent most of that first week running to the window to make sure some child wasn't being forced into a stranger's car or tortured with hot spikes. By the end of the first month, though, I had subconsciously learned to tune out the din. I could hear my cat opening a cupboard door in the kitchen, but I didn't notice the schoolyard shrieks unless someone else happened to ask "How can you stand that noise?"
posted by Oriole Adams at 12:17 AM on October 27, 2010

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