Switching your routine for those back-to-school days may look a bit different this year and it can be a challenging time for parents and children alike. New-found home-schooling parents, navigating online classes, and trying to keep your entire family safe while continuing on with every day life during a pandemic—oh boy.
Schools will likely reopen slowly, with new rules in place. However, this can look different for each different city or state you may be in. Some of the practical measures that all schools could take include:
- Staggering the start and close of the school day
- Staggering mealtimes
- Moving classes to temporary spaces or outdoors
- Holding school in shifts, to reduce class size
- Improvements to water and hygiene facilities, including hand washing, respiratory etiquette (i.e. coughing and sneezing into the elbow), physical distancing measures, cleaning procedures for facilities.
Administrative staff and teachers should also be trained on physical distancing and school hygiene practices. However, that doesn't mean you won't have questions and you may want to ask:
- What steps has the school taken to help ensure the safety of students?
- How will the school support the mental health of students and combat any stigma against people who have been sick?
- How will the school refer children who may need referrals for specialized support?
- Will any of the school’s safeguarding and bullying policies change once schools start to re-open?
- How can I support school safety efforts on my own?
In addition to being well informed from your school district, here's a list of tips that reach far beyond social distancing to help you have some resemblance of a good routine this school year.
Wear A Mask
First tip on the list, and for good reason! Just like at the grocery store, it can be difficult to properly social distance at schools—carpools, lunch lines, PE. Wearing a mask will not only help prevent your chances of infection, but is also an act you can do to help protect others. Indoor air circulation is also a lot different in public areas vs. being outside or contained in your own home. For example, air conditioners keep us cool during these last few months of high temperatures. However, that same airflow that feels like relief can be passing germs around the air. Contact your principal or teachers to ask how they will handle social distancing, wearing masks and other procedures during the school year. Don't forget to wash your mask regularly!
If there was ever a time to write your last name on every pencil, marker and notebook your child totes to and from school—this is it. We're not worried about stealing, but having a claim on supplies helps ensure nothing gets misplaced or used by a hand other than one from your own family unit. By keeping a well stocked supply box, it also cuts down on the amount of classroom community items your child will come into contact with.
The latest item on our school supplies list? A thermometer. If your family is not already keeping a thermometer nearby the front door, you may want to start for all of those early morning pre-carpool checks that will need to be done to stay on track for safe schooling.
Teachers Are Vulnerable
Teachers can be easily over-looked throughout the school year. However, this year teachers will be more vulnerable than ever. Remembering this will help you not overstep those sometimes tip-toed boundaries between your child, yourself and your teachers.
If you're able to, this is a great time to help teachers with extra supplies like disinfectant sprays, wipes, and other items they'll need in order to keep classrooms safe and functional. We know how far a simple coffee gift card can go too. Keep teachers on your mind this year, because the safety of your children will be on theirs!
Each school may be handling their lunch system differently. Contact your local school district or teacher if you have questions on in-school lunches. Packing lunch, while not the most time-efficient option, may be your best bet. When you supply lunch, you know it's in your child's possession throughout the day, plus you can control what goes inside—aka healthy foods galore.
Logins, and passwords, oh my. If you are entering the world of online education, there's a learning curve to be expected. Depending on your level of OCD, you may want your user name and password easily reachable on a sticky note near the computer or in some type of digital file for easy copy & pasting. We suggest creating a 'bookmarks tab' on your browser, specific for each of your children. Add each of their portals here so they can be easily opened every morning or whenever you need to access them. As far as staying on top of online assignments and homework, we recommend investing in a dry-erase calendar so that due dates can be easily listed and visible.
Since all children learn differently, try to help your child with what works best for them. Visual learners may respond better to videos, photographs and visual diagrams to help explain an idea while auditory learners are more successful by taking notes while listening. Regardless, we recommend all students try to be hands-on with their subjects as much as possible.
Come Home, Disinfect
With parents at work, children back at school, and every day errands needing to be run in between, you need to create a disinfecting routine for your family. This could look different from daily, weekly and monthly cleanings. For example, each day after work and school you may want to disinfect things like door knobs, car handles, and microwave buttons. This may allow you to deep-clean other areas like your entire living room, or bedrooms, on a bi-weekly basis instead.
What should I do if my child is struggling to get back into “school mode?”
Remember that your child deals with the stress of the ongoing crisis differently from you. Create a supportive and nurturing environment and respond positively to questions and expressions of their feelings. Let your child know that it’s not only okay, but normal, to feel frustrated or anxious at times like this.
Help your children to stick to their routines and make learning playful by incorporating it into everyday activities like cooking, family reading time or games. This means, regardless of if you're at-home or in-schooling this year, stick to a schedule! Another option could be joining a parent or community group to connect with other parents who are going through the same experience to share tips and get support. You could also join a carpool group with a committed set of families to help lighten the load throughout the year.