Thursday, August 6, 2020

Today I wanted to share some back to school tips for this weird, weird year. Please leave any additional tips in the comments and readers – make sure to check those because you all always give me so many good suggestions. Most of my tips are directed at the “at home” learners but some will also apply to “in person” learners, too.

First, let me start by saying that I have taught high school for 26 years – you may not be there yet with your kids but many of these things will still apply to the younger grades.

My kids are no longer in k-12 and my heart goes out to all of you with kids still in the school system.

So, my advice comes from experience on both ends of the school spectrum – as a teacher and as a parent.

Here we go…

  1. Still go back to school shopping no matter what your year is starting with. Many families have a tradition or ritual and this is important to kids. It won’t look the same, but it signals that it is a new year. Maybe get that new pair of tennis shoes, too. We used the beginning of the school year as a time to check sizes and update a few necessities. Take photos of your kids shopping in their masks.
  2. Your attitude as the parent is so important. Find things to laugh about. Look at the bright side. Some days this will be easier than others. Try not to complain in front of the kids. It’s so hard but it’s so important!
  3. Remember that this is temporary. Try not to look too far into the future; take it one week at at time.
  4. Celebrate your child’s new grade. Have a back to school dinner the night before it “starts”. If they are going into 5th grade you could serve things in groups of 5 or look for things with “5” on it in the stores. Be silly. You will have fun and so will they. This is what they will remember – not the bad parts. Take photos!
  5. Come up with a structure and a schedule. Kids really need this – even high schoolers need this. When my kids were in elementary, they weren’t allowed to come out of their room until their uniform was on (I had a hard time getting them to do this if it wasn’t the first thing they did). I know that sounds mean, but it made our mornings better. They showered at night and that made the morning better. You still need smooth mornings even at home because it affects the whole day. I seem to recall one of mine sleeping in their uniform for awhile to “save time”. Type up this schedule. Type up these “rules”. Maybe put that on your children. They might think coming up with the schedule and rules is a lot of fun. Most of us crave a schedule by the end of summer.
  6. Consider an at home school uniform. Kids aren’t that different from adults. If you wear pjs all day, you will act lazy all day. There is nothing wrong with buying 5 different colored polos and designating a color for each day. Younger kids would love this, I bet. Or, continue to use your days of the week closet organizer. Maybe even do some silly spirit days from home – mismatch day, school colors day, favorite college team day, why not? Maybe the parents can join in the fun.
  7. This is super important: Communicate early and often with teachers and principals. This is new to all of us. I just read a blogger that said her 1st grader is expected to be online from 8:30-3:30 with only an hour break for lunch. Seriously? That is just wrong in my opinion. I am looking for ways for my high schoolers to do work not on a screen! I am planning on having them write in a spiral notebook and use an actual textbook for some of their work. Why on Earth should a child that young be working like a 9-5 employee? Nope! This could affect the rest of their years of learning.
  8. If you can, hire a trusted teen or tween (I actually think younger might be great) to help with some of the work. This works well if you and spouse or one of you works from home. The helper is the one helping, but you are still there just in case.
  9. I think it’s o.k. to form a small group or “pod” as they are calling them to learn together. You would have to establish norms for safety purposes but a group of a few families working together might be something positive. If you and your family have all been tested and you have an older person in your life who is willing (grandparent, aunt, etc.) I even think that would be o.k. You WILL need a support system.
  10. Some of my suggestions really won’t work for people struggling financially. It breaks my heart for parents that were barely hanging on before. Look into community YMCA or other programs that might be available for some help. Also, I know that there are lots of schools in my area that require service hours. Maybe you can find a trusted teen to use this as “service hours”.
  11. We most likely will be wearing masks for awhile. Make it as fun as possible by letting your child pick a favorite character or picking out their masks. Order the plain white and then let them decorate with fabric markers.
  12. There is so much for kids to learn that isn’t technically “school subject material”. Reading is so important. Have a designated reading time each afternoon. When my boys gave up their naps they still had to have quiet reading time in bed. We also used the guest bed as a place to read. It’s time to teach life skills – cooking, doing laundry, cleaning – you can incorporate math skills in many of these things. Kids are great and usually so eager to learn new things.
  13. Try to limit kids’ exposure to the news. They need to be protected from this as much as possible in my opinion. Kids today are dealing with anxiety like never before. This even applies to teens. Limit their exposure to the doom and gloom news stories.
  14. Keep social connections in any way that you can. Still celebrate any and all holidays or silly calendar days that come up. Maybe it would be fun to research some holidays from other countries right now and celebrate those, too.
  15. Talk to your boss. I have learned through the years to not have verbal diarrhea. I used to go on and on and it detracted from my message. Maybe something like this, “As, you know, our kids will be learning from home for the time being. What are your thoughts on flexibility with me completing my work tasks? ” Maybe already have a couple of proposals in mind – you splitting some time between home and office or how you would effectively work from home for the time being? Hopefully employers have already started this conversation with employees.
  16. It is time to have a true partnership with your spouse. Sit down when both parties are relaxed and come up with a plan to divide and conquer. A blogger I read split the school day with her husband. He took morning shift while she did work tasks and then she took over at lunch so that he could work.

Please leave other thoughts, tips, recommendations in the comments!

I am praying for all of you and whatever you are dealing with in this crazy season of life.


11 thoughts on “Back to School Tips

  1. I love all of these tips! As I mentioned in my post, we always go back to school shopping in person. They enjoy the process and get excited to choose their items. Your son sleeping in his uniform cracked me up. Sounds like what Hadley would need to do if they wore a uniform. Since my kids do it on school days, I always have a time on weekends and summer (& with virtual learning), where I say, “it’s time to brush teeth, get dressed, & make your bed.” At least doing those three things keeps up a routine, gets them out of pjs & gets their rooms a bit tidier. I hope to go into school a couple days a week if Travis can stay with the kids. It’s hard to have a plan when I don’t know what the elementary expectations will be. I was able to juggle what they did in the spring, but I’ve heard similar where there may be more of a schedule (at the high school level too) where kids are expected to be online and in touch with their teachers.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you! I really feel bad for the teachers who have young kids. It’s been highly disrespectful how they have given zero expectations at this point. I have some in my department who will be struggling with live teaching. Maybe they will let them record? Who knows? It makes me mad because I’m type A and the big wigs who make 150,000 + a year have only had since March to come up with this!

      Liked by 1 person

      1. My Type A self has been struggling since March. I try to keep in mind we don’t start until the 26th, so there is some time but it’s hard not even knowing what Monday will look like for me as a teacher…Anyway, I know it will all be ok…but definitely a difficult season

        Liked by 1 person

  2. Back to school traditions are so important even if we are just going to the living room to start school this year. We always go school supply shopping in person and it brings me so much joy! I love school supplies, pens, pencils, sticky notes, etc! We have NO IDEA what our school day or what my role as a media specialist will look like. My oldest is headed to middle school after 5 years together so it’s really the great unknown! I’m staying positive and making the best of it. We will still have a schedule like we did in the spring but my husband will be going to work now and he was home in the spring. Hopefully we’ll all keep smiling and make the best of it!


    1. Yes! I agree! I love new school supplies, too – I guess that is why we are in education? It is so hard. We report with teachers Monday and know nothing. I so feel for families with younger kids and especially those trying to transition to another school.
      That will be much more challenging with just you at home.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. This might be my very favorite post…maybe I just really needed it. I’m going to re-read it over the next few days. I’m trying to breathe, stay positive and take one step at a time. I’m a K teacher and have a 3rd grade son, we are doing Plan B in N.C.- 2 days in person/3 virtual with 2 student cohorts. It feels very overwhelming when I look at the big picture so I’m focusing on small steps forward. Thanks for being a ray of sunshine…I love your blog everyday and take a lot away from it. Praying for you and your guys too..

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Awww thank you Jenny! That’s all you can do right now. I almost think your plan is the most complicated of them all – trying to teach both ways. In addition, you have to help your son on his 3 virtual days! You will be in survival mode for a while – stock up on easy meals and don’t worry about cleaning or laundry!
      I appreciate your prayers. It is a big life change amidst a big life change but it will be ok.
      My sister said it best for teachers – no one is getting teacher of the year this year – do your best but don’t beat yourself up.
      Happy weekend! Try to enjoy it!


  4. Great tips! My boys are all grown and done with school but I often wonder how I would have done the at home learning. I feel so bad for kids and their parents and their teachers! I hope better days are coming soon.

    Liked by 1 person

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