August 01, 2020

Going back to school has always had its unique set of challenges. This school year the challenges are even more involved than in other years. With the current landscape of things parents are planning for the start of the school year in different ways. With distance learning, in school learning, and many other options on the table it can be hard to adjust. We have suggestions on how to get ready for back to school even if your kids are distance learning.

How to get ready for back to school (even if your kids are distance learning)

Decide on your learning method and start getting set up.

With the new approach to things, many school years are starting out very differently. Parents are having to decide on their learning methods for their children based on their school districts. Some parents are choosing in person learning. Others are choosing some version of online or hybrid learning. This can be a difficult choice but it is the first step in getting ready for a new year. Here are a few tips for deciding in your method and starting to get set up.

3 questions to ask as you start a new school year

What is the right educational option for my child and my situation? - There is a lot of debate online about what is best with schooling during the current climate. While those opinions can inform your decision, at the end of the day it is best if you choose what works for your situation. Take some time to take an honest look at all of the options and pick the one that best serves your child and your situation. Here are a few things you can ask as you try to decide.

  • Does the method I am considering meet their educational needs? - Just because there is a method on the table that seems good doesn’t mean it is the best decision for your child. Look at your child’s learning style, academic needs, and any special needs to be sure it is a fit. Focus on finding the best option for the child you are parenting instead of what everyone else believes is best.
  • Do I need to consider pod schooling or alternative approaches to education? - There are many districts that are giving parents a small list of choices that don’t necessarily acknowledge their work life and other commitments. It may be time to look into concepts like pod schooling or alternative approaches to education. Don’t be afraid to think outside of the box.
  • Can I take on this new approach? - If you are considering homeschooling or distance learning, ask yourself honestly if this is something you can handle taking on. Does your work schedule allow you to invest time in it? Do you have the ability to research answers and help your child thrive? Before making a large choice educationally, look at whether you are equipped for this approach.

Find out what supplies you need. - If your children are returning to school, find out if the supplies will stay the same. Some schools are changing supply lists to accommodate a new approach to learning. If your children are distance learning you may need to purchase certain supplies to make the transition as easy as possible. Here are a few ideas for supplies that might be essential this year.

  • Personal supply sets. - In light of the current environment classroom sets of items that can be shared are likely to be discouraged. Opt for a personal set of supplies that can be kept by the student.
  • Quality washable backpack. - If your child is going back to in-person learning they need a quality backpack that can be cleaned and will hold up to being used year after year. Don’t be afraid to spend a bit more on a quality backpack that may outlast lesser versions. Even if they are schooling from home, a special backpack can help them keep their supplies organized and together.
  • Cleaning products/Masks - With everything going on, it is best to assume the school may not have all cleaning products they need to keep things up to a standard you are comfortable with. Send your child to school with hand sanitizer, wipes, and any other needs for cleaning their area. It is also important to pack more than one mask. Kids can get messy or drop a mask. Having a backup in their backpack can be a big help. 

Get school items together - Start putting together backpacks, school learning areas, and other items so that they are ready for a new school year. The way that you organize these will depend on your learning option but having a system in place will help when school starts. Here are a few tips for getting school items together.

  • Pack up your supplies. - Whether your child is learning in school or from home, having these supplies ready and in a special backpack can ease the transition to the first days of school. Start by preparing the binders, folders, and supplies into a backpack or at a learning area in the home. Having these set aside and ready will let you focus on the beginning of school with less stress.
  • Label personal items. - With the way things are going in the schools now, many items will most likely stay with the student. It can help to write their name on the inside cover of notebooks or folders to avoid any confusion in school. Items such as pencils, crayons, and markers should have a carrying case so that they are easy to keep organized.
  • Set up a home learning station. - Are you choosing to do a version of home learning? Whether this is homeschool, distance learning, or some other approach, it is important to have a home learning station. This area will need to be clean, organized, have a place for the child to do schoolwork, and be stocked with any supplies they might need. You may choose a desk or the dining room table. Using a storage cart or cabinet can help if you don’t have a desk that can be dedicated to this.

Start getting back into a routine

A routine can be a game changer when starting a new school year. Whether you are co-parenting or going it alone, with the school year starting it may be time to transition to a new routine. Between summer and the way life has been it wouldn’t be a surprise if your routine were a bit more lax. However, this is the perfect time to prepare for a new school year. We have some tips for getting back on routine to get ready for a new school year.

3 Tips for starting a back to school routine

Start with bedtimes. - Later bedtimes can be a staple of summer. However, they aren’t necessarily ideal when school starts. Early wake-ups and getting started for school in the morning can be harder if they are used to going to bed late. Start by slowly adjusting bedtimes to an earlier bedtime to prepare for early wake-ups. Here are a few simple ways to transition to earlier bedtimes.

  • Start small. - Many parents go from late nights to early ones instantly. This can be overwhelming to kids who have become accustomed to later nights. It can help to start small. Move bedtime up an hour or even thirty minutes for a week. Give them time to adjust their bedtimes before completely changing things up. Starting small can help to simplify this transition.
  • Be flexible with special events. - While you are working to move bedtimes up, it is completely ok to be flexible with special events. If you are planning camping or a hang out with friends, maybe those nights will be the exception to the rule. There is room for flexibility when you start to transition to a new way of doing things.
  • Don’t expect perfection right away. - Depending on how you have handled bedtimes, there may be a serious phase of adjustment to new bedtimes. While some families may easily transition to new bedtimes, others may have a struggle. It’s completely ok to ease into it and give yourself grace as you move to a new normal in the household. You won’t get it perfect right away and that is ok.

Work on early wake-ups. - While you may not want to wake up early all summer, it can help to start waking up earlier than you have been. This will help kids to transition more easily to a morning wake-up schedule for school. Start by waking up thirty minutes earlier and move it earlier the closer you get to the start of the school year. Here are a few ways to work on establishing early wake-ups.

  • Start with thirty minutes. - Some kids sleep in quite late during the summer months. That is completely okay. Moving from sleeping until 10:30 to sleeping until 7:30 might be a very drastic change for them. Instead, start by moving wake-ups up by half an hour or an hour to help them adjust. Starting small can help the entire family adapt to a new change.
  • Do this in tandem with bedtime adjustments. - If you are asking for earlier wake-ups, earlier bedtimes are going to be a must as well. Children need a certain amount of sleep to function comfortably. If you are slowly moving bedtime earlier, moving wake-ups earlier should go a lot smoother.
  • Set an alarm in their rooms. - When working on earlier wake-ups, it can help to set an alarm in your child’s room. This can help them to practice getting up and starting their day on their own. These alarms can be adjusted as you get closer to the start of the school year to accommodate wake-up times they will need for school. 

Establish a daily routine. - Start by establishing a daily routine. This will help children to better adjust to the structure implied by schooling. Take some time to start building in a more consistent daily routine. This could include chores, summer reading, and time off of technology. Work on building a routine that works for you. Here are a few tips to help you with establishing a new routine. 

  • Start with a morning routine. - Setting a morning routine can be essential to getting kids ready for a new school year. This can be a simple way to ease them into the routines they will need when school starts back. It may be as simple as breakfast, getting dressed, and doing a few simple chores. The goal is to start putting some structure into the mornings.
  • Keep it simple. - When starting a new routine, keep it simple in the beginning. This will motivate kids to start something new in an easy way. Starting with small adjustments will help you to naturally transition to more structured morning routines. It may help to even add in a daily reading time or some small summer math to help keep learning a part of their day-to-day. 
  • Add more to the routine closer to school. - As you get closer to the start of a new school year, take some time to start adding more to the routine. This will help you to slowly introduce new items while preparing children for the new school year. It might also include an afternoon routine similar to what will be required after a school day has been completed. 

Find ways to make it fun.

With everything going on in the world, back to school can be overwhelming. For those who are going to have to adjust to wearing a mask in school, socially distancing, or skipping playground time, it can feel like it’s just different. For other children it means missing out on going to school, working on school from home, and spending more time away from friends. While these can feel really difficult for kids, there are ways to keep some of the fun of the new school year. It is important to discuss their feelings about many of these things. However, it is equally important to find ways to make it fun.

3 Ways to make back to school fun

Create a homework/schoolwork station at home. - Whether your child is distance learning or learning in school, having their own space can be a game changer. Start by giving them an area that they are able to customize for their schoolwork. This could include letting them pick out the types of pencils, art supplies, or decorations they will use. If you have multiple children, let them design a homework bag or shelf on the bookshelf or desk. Here are a few tips for creating a homeschool/schoolwork station.

  • Give each child their own space. - While you may not be able to have a desk or area for each child, give them a space that is theirs for learning related activities. For families with multiple children, this might mean letting each child pick a decoration for the desk area. It could also mean setting up learning nooks in each child’s room to give them a space that is special to them. The goal is to find a way to make that space unique for them.
  • Take advantage of rolling carts for storage. - Do you have multiple children working on school at home or storing items when they get home? Rolling carts that can be put away can be a great alternative to permanent learning stations. These can give children a place to keep everything they will need to keep without worrying about clutter/mess. It also helps to keep items organized and out of sight when they aren’t being used.
  • Give flexibility where you can. - Some schools won’t let students have custom notebooks or character items they might be able to have at home. For their home school area, let them use some of these unique items that better represent their personalities. Items like character pencils, scented markers, and fun notebooks can be a fantastic starting point. 
  • Take breaks for fun. - Schoolwork is hard whether it is in person or virtually, so be sure to build in some fun activities from time to time. 

Celebrate back to school! - Take some time to throw a back to school bash with the family. This can include a themed movie night, video game competition, or an ice cream bar. The options are really endless. The goal is to celebrate a new school year in a fun way while ending out the summer on a high note. Here a few ways to celebrate back to school.

  • Have one last summer trip or experience. - Does your family typically go to the beach or go camping? Is there a safe location you can visit as a family? Take some time to schedule one final summer trip or experience even after school has started. A special weekend can be a fun way to transition into the new school year.
  • Have a back to school bash! - With the current landscape, having a traditional party may not be ideal. This can be a fabulous time to do a zoom back to school bash with friends or have a fun party at home with the family. The goal is to celebrate back to school and make it something positive instead of something that can be tied to stressful situations.
  • Have a back to school set up party! - This can be a day to get everything ready. It can include some fun options like taking back to school pictures, doing some of the fun surveys about a new school year, or even just enjoying pizza after a bit of time getting things ready to go. 

Create a school year time capsule. - If you are looking for something fun to do to celebrate a new school year, try a school year time capsule. Include things that are relevant to the beginning of the school year. Encourage children to write a letter to themselves at the end of the year or even color a picture. When they open it at the end of the school year they can laugh about all the differences between the beginning and end of the year.

Be willing to have the hard conversations.

Back to school will not look the same this year that it has in the past. Children are adjusting to more than just a new teacher/class. They are adjusting to a new way of learning in a world that was very different from last year. This can be very overwhelming for some children. It doesn’t have to be though. There are some simple conversations you can have to help get kids ready for a new school year. Here are a few questions you can ask.

  • How do you feel about doing school X way? - Whether you are doing school online, in person, or in another way, this is a very important conversation to have. While your children may have to use a certain educational method, they still have feelings about it and it is important that they feel heard before the new year starts.
  • What is your biggest fear/anxiety about the new school year? - Some children will not tell you that something about the new school year has them anxious or afraid. Take some time to ask about their fears. Some fears may be justified while others may be fears you can help calm them about. Having these conversations can help you to address both.
  • What are you most excited for this school year? - In the same way that there are fears/anxieties about a new school year, there are also probably things that kids will get really excited about. Talking about the things that excite them most can help them to get ready for a new school year. It may be a new teacher, a new subject they are covering, or an old friend they will see. Take some time to talk about these items for a great start to the new school year. 

The most important thing we can tell you as you prepare for a new school year is that you are not alone. Make the best possible choice for your family and focus on where that will take you. While some may not agree, at the end of the day, you are doing the best for your family given your situation. Don’t let anyone make you feel guilty for doing what you believe is right for your children. It’s a new adventure but it’s going to be a great school year!

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