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Preparing for the New School Year — Whether Your Kids Are Going In-Person or Virtually

Preparing for the New School Year — Whether Your Kids Are Going In-Person or Virtually

This school year is unprecedented in any of our lifetimes. This year, we have to make the very difficult decision about how to educate our children during a worldwide pandemic. Many of us are deciding not just between traditional homeschooling or sending our kids to a local school in person, but also considering some of the new offerings, including virtual schooling facilitated by local school districts.

What you choose is a personal decision for your family based on a lot of factors only you can weigh. No matter which option you choose, I’ve put together some tips on things you can do to prepare for the new school year, whether that’s in-person, online, or a combination of both.

Please note: I’m not going into a lot of detail about traditional homeschooling in this post, because I don’t have experience homeschooling. My children have always gone to public school, both in-person and virtual learning, utilizing our public schools’ online system.

Create space

Whether your kids are going to school in person or virtually, you’ll need a place for them to study. The space could be a desk in their bedroom, a desk in a common area of the house, or even the dining table. You just need a sturdy table and a comfortable chair somewhere quiet, with plenty of space and away from distractions that could catch a wandering child’s eye while he’s supposed to be concentrating on his studies. Wherever that is, make sure the area is comfortable and well lit. 

If your child is using a computer or an electronic device for her work, be sure there’s an electrical outlet nearby, or, if needed, run an extension cord to the area so your child can keep her device charged while working.

Even if your children are going to in-person school, you’ll want to prepare for the possibility of in-person schooling going virtual in case of an outbreak or quarantine. Plan ahead for a comfortable, quiet place to study.

Create guidelines and rules

Next, you’ll want to create a set of rules that apply during study time. If you’re doing virtual schooling from home or homeschooling, this may include guidelines about not having the television on or not listening to music while it’s schooltime. Maybe you’ll have a rule against video games until all schoolwork is done. You might need a rule about texting or messaging with friends while they’re supposed to be working on their schoolwork.

What kind of guidelines will help your child stay focused while he’s working?

Even if your children go to school in person, you’ll still need to have rules in place for when they get home so they can effectively deal with their homework. Perhaps you’ll want a rule that says no video games or television until after all homework is completed. 

Whatever your rules are, write them out and make sure that everybody agrees and is aware of the rules.

Gather your supplies

Most likely, your child will need a computer, a Chromebook, or some other electronic device to access school work. The device may be provided by the school or it may be your own personal device. 

If your child’s going to school in person, you probably have a list of school supplies that are required or requested. You’ll also want a few supplies at home for any homework and to prepare for the possibility of in-person schooling going virtual in case of an outbreak or quarantine. I like to keep a stash of extra looseleaf paper, a few composition notebooks or spiral notebooks, and several plastic folders to get us through the year, as well as a small box of pens, pencils, erasers, glue sticks, color pencils, that kind of thing.

If you’re doing virtual school or homeschool, you may need less stuff, but you’ll still want to keep on hand notebook paper, pens, and pencils, and possibly some folders or spiral bound or composition notebooks. Decide in advance how you want to organize schoolwork and then make your supply list from there.

If your child uses a computer or device for school, you’ll also want to make sure that you have printer paper or access to a printer if assignments will need to be printed out.

If you have younger children, a box of crayons, washable markers, glue, or colored paper may be needed as well.

Older children may need a specialty scientific calculator for higher level math courses.

Create a daily routine

Whether your child is going to school in person or virtually, putting daily routines in place will make your day go much smoother. Include a morning routine, a school routine, an after-school routine, and an evening routine. Here are a few sample routines and ideas to include. You’ll want to customize these to fit your child’s age and schedule.

Morning routine:

  • Decide what time your child needs to wake up.
  • What they need to do to get ready for the day (get dressed, brush teeth, comb hair, etc.
  • Eat breakfast.
  • Pack a lunch if needed.
  • Make sure they have any items needed for school for the day, including lunch or a water bottle if needed plus face mask, and maybe some hand sanitizer.

School routine for virtual schooling: 

  • Check the daily schedule for any online class calls or meetings. A daily checklist of class subjects can be handy to keep kids on track throughout the day and ensure nothing gets missed.
  • Gather supplies for online meetings. Make sure your child has his electronic device ready, if using one, and that he has the appropriate link and password to get into the meeting, as well as paper and pen to take notes.
  • Class by class, go through assignments to complete anything that’s due, and get them turned in according to your virtual school’s procedures.
  • Spend some extra time studying any material that’s proving challenging or that will be on a test.

After-school routine: 

  • After-school snack.
  • Do any homework that’s needed before free time.

Evening routine:

  • Bath or shower.
  • Check the schedule and gather any items needed for school or activities the next day, including any signed forms needing to be returned, and making sure homework is packed to go.
  • Pack a lunch in advance, if needed.
  • Gather all school items in one space so they’re easy to find in the morning.
  • Read before bed.

If your children go to virtual school, you’ll take a cue from their virtual school teachers. Keep a list of when your child has online class meetings, such as via Zoom or Google Hangouts. A large wall calendar could be helpful so you and your child can see at a glance when they need to be online for a school session.

You’ll also want some system for keeping track of homework, whether your child is in school in person or virtually. This can be a digital to-do list with the assignments and due dates marked down, or a paper planner or notebook where your child can list out school assignments and when they’re due as well as any steps that need to happen to get them finished, particularly for larger projects. 

Or if you’re doing homeschooling or virtual schooling and you’re using a big calendar to keep track of your online sessions, you can also use the same calendar to write down when assignments are due.

Plan breakfast and lunch

Whether your children are going to school in person or virtually, they’re going to need to have breakfast and lunch plans set up. Pre-planning what you’re going to have for breakfast every day simplifies your morning routine, so I suggest picking out two or three of your child’s favorite breakfasts that are easy to put together and write them on a meal plan. Maybe your child likes to have muffins or oatmeal or dry cereal or breakfast sandwiches — think easy stuff — and list out any necessary supplies on your grocery list. 

The same goes for lunches. If your child goes to school in person, you can usually look at the school menu ahead of time to determine whether you would like to buy lunch, in which case you need to make sure your child has adequate lunch money, or if they would like to take a lunch.

My children go to school in person, and this year, the lunch system is a different procedure than in years’ past, with box lunches being handed out instead of the normal lunch line, cafeteria-style selections. 

My younger son is only being offered one choice per day and he’s a very picky eater. Our plan is to go through the menus in advance to determine what days he would like to buy lunch. We made a list of acceptable lunch items that he could take from home that he actually enjoys so that on the days that he would like to take a lunch, he can choose from the list of things that he would like to pack accordingly. He’s a sixth-grader, so I don’t pack his lunch for him — he packs it himself using the list we made together.

My older son is a high schooler this year, and while they have multiple options available to them, he also has preferences of things that he would rather eat. His decision this year was to get a larger thermos-style container, almost like a bento box, so he can precook chicken and rice or chili to take to school.

Give yourself (and your kids) grace and be flexible

No matter which style of education you choose for your children this year, go confidently into your decision with a great attitude and a supportive mentality to give your child the best possible year.

Be prepared to be flexible, and prepare yourself mentally for things to change on a daily basis. Even if you choose in-person schooling, there’s going to be a chance that an outbreak or quarantine will cause a school closure or shift to virtual schooling. Put together a contingency plan in case this happens so you’re not scrambling at the last minute.

Your children will need your support and your patience as they navigate a school world they’ve never experienced. Try to incorporate time in their schedule for fun stuff, relaxation, and socializing with peers, even if that socializing is via FaceTime or texting. And take time to listen to their fears and expectations for the new school year. This is new territory, and kids may not have the language to express what they’re feeling. Keeping expectations clear and surrounding your kids with grace and patience will help them navigate this strange new world of education.

Preparing for the New School Year — Whether Your Kids Are Going In-Person or Virtually

Use These Simple Habits to Make Your Mornings Easier

Use These Simple Habits to Make Your Mornings Easier

Getting out the door in the morning can be a three-ring circus, with breakfast battles, lost homework, and fits of fashion fighting for center stage. Developing good habits and adopting a strong morning routine can help everyone get out the door on time and happy. Here are 10 habits you can incorporate into your routine to make mornings more manageable. 

  • Check your calendar every night, so school events, appointments, and important meetings don’t sneak up on you. Also, check the weather report, so you know in advance if you’ll need cold-weather gear, umbrellas, or extra sunscreen. 
  • Prepare lunches the night before, and pack any snacks children need for school or after-school activities. You can cut down preparation time by packing lunches while you make dinner, cutting extra veggies to bag up while making a salad or slicing meat and cheese while your pasta simmers. 
Developing good habits and adopting a strong morning routine can help everyone get out the door on time and happy. Click To Tweet
  • Choose clothing the night before (for both you and your children). Make sure to include underclothes, shoes, and accessories. If your child is a fashionista who likes to change outfits several times before deciding, asking her to choose the night before can save valuable a.m. time. Hang the outfit on the closet doorknob or on a special hook so your child knows exactly what she is supposed to wear. It can also be helpful to store clothing you don’t want your children wearing to school in a different spot than their school clothes. 
  • Set up a “launchpad” area for bags, backpacks, keys, and other important items you’ll need for the day. Pack briefcases, backpacks, musical instruments, and diaper bags the night before to ensure you have everything you need. Set aside time to check your child’s homework and ensure his backpack is packed before he goes to bed, so permission slips, lunch money, gym clothes, bus passes, and school papers and projects don’t get forgotten in the morning fray. Go through any reminder slips he brings home and add any new or changed activities to your calendar right away. 
  • Make sure everyone is getting enough sleep. A child (and a parent) who is well-rested will have a much easier morning that one who repeatedly hits the snooze button. Children under the age of 10 need 10 to 11 hours of sleep, and adults should be clocking at least seven hours. Also, waking kids gently, with kind words, hugs, and kisses, helps ease children into the day more positively than barking “get up!” while tossing clothes at them. I’m not a morning person, and neither is my oldest son, Wyatt. Going into his room and cuddling with him for a few minutes helps both of us wake up in a nicer mood.
Check your calendar every night, so school events, appointments, and important meetings don’t sneak up on you.  Click To Tweet
  • A visual chart of each step of the “getting ready” process can cut down on the number of reminders you have to give. Consider making laminated checklists or task cards so the kids can mark off tasks as they complete them. Include such tasks as making the bed, getting dressed to the shoes, eating breakfast, brushing teeth, washing face, putting on sunscreen, and getting the backpack, lunchbox, and water bottle. Encourage children to take responsibility for getting themselves ready for the day. Kids are more eager to help when they have some control over the process.
  • Have a standard rotation of simple breakfast options, including a few “to go” items for those extra-crazy mornings. Knowing what’s on the breakfast menu ensures you have all the groceries you need, and keeping a small rotation of regular choices reminds kids that you’re not running a full-service restaurant. Crockpot oatmeal, toast, yogurt, cereal, and fruit are all easy, healthy choices. You can also make up an extra batch of your favorite pancakes or waffles and store them in the freezer, then microwave or toast them for a fast meal. Muffins, bagels, or breakfast bars make good “to go” options. For kids that don’t like traditional breakfast foods, grilled cheese sandwiches, cheese, and crackers, or even last night’s dinner leftovers can be a reasonable way to fill their bellies before school. 
Have a standard rotation of simple breakfast options, including a few “to go” items for those extra-crazy mornings. Keeping a small rotation of regular choices reminds kids that you’re not running a full-service restaurant. Click To Tweet
  • Associate tasks with specific times, such as what time you should be eating breakfast, what time you need to be dressed, and what time you need to leave. Use cell phone alarms for reminders to get going. If you know you need to leave the house by 7:30 to get to school on time, set an alarm to go off at 7:20 and again at 7:25 to prod you out the door.
  • Television, computers and video games should be off-limits in the morning, even if the kids are ready to go with time to spare. Once kids get involved in a show or game, it’s often difficult to get them to shut down and go. If your children are ready early, encourage them to play with toys or read until it’s time to leave. 
  • Allow extra time whenever possible. Padding extra time in the morning routine can save you from disaster since anything from a missing shoe to a spilled cup of milk can throw the whole morning off schedule. Figure out how much time you really need to get everyone out the door (time yourself for a week to get an accurate number), then add 15 minutes. Leave five minutes earlier than you need to so you can be prepared for traffic slowdowns or that ill-timed railroad crossing. Keep a few extra supplies in your car for last-minute emergencies, like breakfast bars or extra mittens. 
Use These Simple Habits to Make Your Mornings Easier