Back to school preparation

Tips to help parents prepare for the new school year - virtually or face-to-face.

A pair of youth sneakers with notebooks, pencils, pens and other back to school supplies.

The store shelves are stocked with crayons, markers, pencils and paper ready to be taken home. In most years, you would see those supplies starting to be picked over, as parents prepared for their kids to go back to school. This year, the shelves are still full, with masks and hand sanitizer stocked alongside the wide arrangement of backpacks and pencil cases that no one knows if they need. This “back to school” season is like nothing we have seen before. 

As parents collectively wait for their schools to submit plans, their school boards to approve them, and the state to accept them, parents are left with the question “How do we get ready to back to school like this?” Michigan State University Extension offers the following strategies for parents to start moving forward with so much up in the air.

  • Establish routines. When schools closed in March, many families stopped following their routines. Bedtimes, wake up times, dinner times, everything went out the window as families grappled with quarantine and our new reality. Now is the time to start getting those routines back in order. Figure out how many hours your children should be sleeping. Establish a set time for your children to go to bed and establish a bedtime routine. Set an alarm clock and encourage your children to wake themselves up. Have them wake up on time and get dressed and ready for the day. If you’ll be virtually schooling, begin to think about what time of the day will be school time and what your daily routine will look like. Write your routine/schedule down. Create a picture schedule for younger children. Start following your routines in advance of the start of school.
  • Create a learning space. All children learn at home, regardless of whether school is face-to-face or online. Decide where your children will complete their schoolwork at home. Is it a family space like the dining room table? Or a desk? In their bedroom or in another room? What do you need for this learning space? Is it pens, pencils, crayons, markers, paper, accessible plugs, headphones, or something else? Talk to your children about what they want out of their learning space. Individual children have individual learning needs. Some might do better in the quiet of their room, others might want the social setting of a group space such as the dining room. Each family will have their own way of organizing for at-home learning, but with some planning, you can make at-home learning successful.
  • Be positive. Parents demonstrate to children how they should perceive a situation. This year is like nothing we have experienced before. Be willing to let go of the way things have been and try to embrace new experiences. If your children are going to school face-to-face, let them choose masks that match their style and preferences. Send along hand sanitizer with their favorite characters on the label or in their favorite colors. If your family is choosing virtual learning, talk about the benefits of learning at home. Take silly first day pictures in pajamas. This is a new experience for everyone and you can make it a good experience, even if it’s not what was expected for this school year.
  • Make memories. We are all living history. Create a journal or scrapbook with your family to track their experiences this school year. Think outside the box. Can you do virtual school from a campground? Can you teach fractions by baking a cake? Can you conduct science class outside in the park? The memories of this year are forming stories our children will grow up to tell their children and grandchildren in the years to come.

The days and weeks ahead of us are unprecedented. This will not be a back to school time like we have seen before. With so much uncertainty surrounding us, take time to focus on the things you can control, such as re-establishing routines, bedtimes, and creating a learning space for your children.

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