This school year, no matter where the learning takes place, will look very different. Whether it is in person with masks, online, at home, or a combination, learning has taken a drastic new look.
The start of a new school year causes anxiety for some children with all the unknowns, but this year, apprehension is at an all time high for students, teachers, and parents.
Which ever way you chose to have your children learn, there are was to make sure this year is a success and a fun one at that.
Most of the following ideas are geared towards learning from a home setting, but can be adapted to all forms of schooling.
1. Back to School Shopping
Whether you go to the store to shop for supplies and/or new clothes or shop online, have the kids be involved. Let them help pick out colors of folders or a design. Maybe you will not need a backpack, which might give you the funds to splurge on a fancy unique pencil box to keep the mood positive and light. If shopping online, make a big deal about waiting for the package to be delivered. It gives them something to look forward to and the joy of opening the package.
2. Let the countdown begin! We have one more week in our house until school starts. You can make a Post-it note countdown, or a chain countdown, or even a chalkboard or whiteboard countdown. It can be simple or fancy, but a way for the child to rationalize when the first day of school will start. On the flipside, a countdown can be used to look forward to things like winter break, holidays, birthdays, and the ever anticipated last day of school.
3. Give them a dedicated work space. Again, this can be as simple as a cleared off spot on the kitchen table or a room revamped to imitate a schoolroom setting. The goal is so the student knows where to go and have consistency throughout the year.
4. Students need supplies for various projects all year long. Again, whether it be a simple caddy system, shelf, or room, having all the supplies in one location will help the task/day/year go more smoothly.
5. First day pictures. Typically we celebrate life’s milestones by taking pictures to remember them. Well, this is no different. Treat the first day of school like they would be going any other year. Maybe, they even have a nice outfit picked to make them feel special.
6. Participate in school themed days. Keep an eye on the school calendar and website and stay on top of what is going on in the school building. If they have a “theme” week to show school spirit, you can participate at home. Especially if you have live virtual classes over the computer, the class will be able to see your participation.
7. School Picture Day, similar to a theme day mentioned, take a special photo. Have them pick out a memorable outfit and pay attention to their hair. You could go outside for a seasonal back drop. A special picture to commemorate this unique year of learning.
8. Ordinarily, older students receive daily planners and are required to write down their assignments. If one will not be provided for them, a planner can be purchased (as cheap as a dollar. My goal with this one is to keep that act of responsibility. Keep the student in the habit of writing things down for themselves. This will maintain the expectancy in future years.
9. Dress for the day. As much as I love working in my pajamas, all nice and cozy, my workload can take a hit. It’s like making the bed. After you do that first thing in the day, you feel successful and ready to start the day. It also keeps the students in the right frame of mind. It maintains the routine and structure that students typically need.
10. You can still support your school and/or district by participating in various activities. Schools have been switching over to higher technology by scanning Box Tops instead of cutting them out and physically handing them in to the school’s PTO. You can scan your receipt and make sure your donations and rewards go directly to your home school building. Some schools have a Scripts gift card system where a portion of the proceeds go back to the school. Depending on where you live and what is available, there are still ways to assist your school.
11. Use seasonal items to keep things fresh. After getting into the wing of things, we all sometimes get antsy and bored. Switching things around seasonally gives new life and rejuvenation to the work/area. This can be done by using seasonal pencils found usually inexpensively at local stores. Adding some additional decorations for Fall or the holidays can boost the spirits.
12. Who knows what the holidays will look like this year. Traditions will be challenging to continue exactly as remembered. However, these are the things that we need to do for the children to reassure them that we will get through this rough patch in history.
(I will have a future article on ways to help get through the holidays in these times.)
13. Treat and approach the year, like any other year. You have to have a separate workspace, not to be confused with their toys and fun areas. Act as if you were in school. Discipline as if your were in school. They need to know what to expect and act appropriately. If maintained with the same attitude, it will be easier to carry on throughout the school year.
14. Prepare for next year’s success. My main goal for this year is to do what I can to prepare them for next year to help bridge the gap between home and school.
For example, I bought my son who is starting fifth grade, a planner from the Dollar Tree. He was writing down his homework daily last year and will be required to do so next year in middle school. My goal is to keep him in that routine and get him to do it without me reminding him to do so and giving him that responsibility.
My other son will be starting kindergarten. I bought him a dinosaur covered folder. He is excited to use it since he loves dinosaurs. Students in the younger grades need time to master life skills like placing papers neatly into folders and how to maintain a neat work space. We will be working on this all year long, with the intention of making it easier when he returns to school in person.
15. The final and in my opinion, the most important piece of advice would be, to encourage them and yourselves. Children look to adults on how to handle situations. You set the tone. If you enter this year on a positive note and keep your positivity, the kids will replicate your feelings for the year. You will have to allow yourself grace since we are all doing our best. We cannot expect to be perfect from Day 1 and will have a learning curve to get into the swing of things.
My goal through these examples is hopefully ease anxiety, have a successful year, get ready for next year, and to feel apart of the community and not so isolated.
Please share this article with other parents who may be going through some of the same things. Let me know if any of these ideas have helped you. Is there anything that your are doing or plan on doing throughout the school year, I would love to hear more suggestions.