Everything has a day, right? National Coffee Day (which I am 100 percent behind), National Left-Handed Day, National Marshmallow Day and even National Naked Gardening Day (which I personally want no part of but you do you.) I recently learned August 15th is National Back to School Prep Day, which made me laugh because our kids started school on August 13th. I know school starts at different time for everyone across the country and that lots of us are behind (lots of us are, right??) so I’m hoping this list of tips for back to school prep will still help you out.
And, I know this year is weird. Actually weird doesn’t even begin to describe my thoughts about school starting this year. We are doing remote school until at least the middle of October and then our district will re-evaluate whether remote instruction will continued to be offered and parents will (I’m assuming) will have a choice if remote learning continues to be an option at our school. To participate in remote learning we had to commit to nine weeks and I’m assuming things will be the same if we sign on for a second leg of remote instruction…but we all know assuming is dangerous during these weird, pandemic times.
Tips for National Back to School Prep Day – August 15th
1. Talk to your child about how this school year will be different
Kids already know their lives have changed and that starting school this year will be drastically different, so be upfront about the situation. If your kids are going right back into the classroom, talk about the need for more hand hygiene, social distancing etiquette, and mask-wearing. Having an open conversation and presenting all the facts will (hopefully) go a long way toward making your child feel less anxious.
2. Create a learning command center
No matter where your children are learning, make some space in your home for your child to study or do homework. If you don’t have a spare area, or if you have multiple children who want to work together, create a way to store school supplies in a cart or container that’s portable and can be used at the kitchen table or anywhere. Stock your back-to-school space or station with essentials (pencils, crayons, etc) and if possible, make a place to store laptops, tablets, and planners.
If your child is returning to in-classroom learning, make a space for backpack stoarge and maybe even an inbox type of setup for homework folders and permission slips. The first couple weeks of school is typically very “fill out this form” heavy so make sure you have designated a central place to put them so you can review them in one pop (or whenever you get a chance.)
3. Build excitement and inspire positivity
Yeah, I know. This one is hard for me, too.
Even if you’re dreading the start of the school year, consider doing something to celebrate back to school. Go out for ice cream, have a BBQ, or plan a special first day of school breakfast. I’ve heard of families building excitement by doing a countdown calendar or a paper chain “XX days until school starts” and if your kids are excited about starting school, those might be things to try at your house.
We are usually mourning the loss of our fun summer days so a “Woo Hoo, only three days left ’till school starts” wouldn’t really work for us but every family is different. And, don’t forget to take a first day of school photo, even if you’re doing virtual classes.
4. Make face masks fun (and familiar)
For those returning to in-person classes, have a mask for every day for your child, and make sure they like the mask and feel comfortable wearing it for extended periods of time. Cloth face masks come in countless patterns and colors, and kids can use them to express their personal style while staying safe. Pro tip: it’s also smart to make sure kids have an extra mask in a plastic baggie every day just in case something happens to the first one.
We live in a very hot climate and we find disposable masks to be a lot more comfortable and it’s easy to have a fresh one every day. We bought these disposable masks for our family but if you have really small kiddos, this mask will be too loose. You can tie a knot in it to make it fit your child’s face, which is what we’ve had to do
5. Develop a sleep routine ahead of time
Full disclosure: this is a do as I say and not as I do. Maybe more than that, it’s a “I didn’t do this and I’m paying for it now” kind of cautionary tale.
Our kids have been staying up late and sleeping in since March. Last year our online school gave assignments weekly and if we had everything in by Sunday night, we were good to go. The workload was fairly light and we had no problem starting late, working for half a day and being completely done by Thursday.
This year is different for us. Our kids are expected to check in by a certain time to be counted for attendance and we’ve started enforcing earlier bedtimes and earlier “turn off screens” times. It has been absolutely brutal. If I could go back and tell March me to do anything different it would be to not let our sleeping routine be quite so loose. This year, we’ve started at about a week before school starts and it has been a serious struggle and battle every day.
6. Meal prep healthy lunches and snacks
Before the pandemic, I was so-so and inconsistent at meal prep and meal planning. Because my entire family is home all day, I’ve had to make adjustments and be more organized.
Getting of schedule makes all the difference in the world. There are tons of online resources for quick, easy, healthy snacks and lunch ideas for kids of all ages (and adults!) such as Make things easier on yourself by prepping for the coming week on Sundays and having everything conveniently stored and ready-to-go in the fridge to help streamline school days.
I usually start by asking my kids what they’d like to have for dinner. I usually try to make one thing they request each week and then I go to my Pinterest boards and my cookbooks to get more inspiration. I’ll plan our lunches around what I think I might have leftover from dinner. I’ll always try to grill extra chicken or make a double batch of taco meat, since those are easy to throw in bowls and salads for quick lunches.
Also, one thing that’s been working for us is to have our large meal at lunch time. This is dependent on schedules and what we’re doing but we tend to do our outside time late in the day since it’s so hot where we live. If we’re going hiking, biking or running later in the evening, it’s easier (and feels better) to have salads or sandwiches for dinner instead of a heavy, hot meal.
7. National back to school prep day is a great time to check out new websites and apps
Students who are starting out the first part of their fall semester online may need extra help on assignments, and luckily there are plenty of safe online resources they can utilize. Brainly is a social online learning and homework help community that brings all the benefits of in-person study groups into a digital format. Dictionary.com is perfect for students needing to look up definitions for vocabulary words, synonyms or antonyms, as well as wanting to expand their personal word bank with a word of the day. You can also check out myhomework.app.
There’s lots of technology and apps out there and new things are constantly popping up. Explore, ask around, and find out what’s right for you.
8. Build in time for social interactions
Some students who are starting virtual classes may be feeling a little down about not getting to see their friends, but there are plenty of ways for them to still socialize with their friends. Setting up Zoom calls with friends is another great idea to ensure your kids aren’t missing out on time with friends and distant family.
There are also other apps you can use to communicate with friends and family. One I really like is the free version of the Marco Polo app, too. You can also check out fun backgrounds or skins for Zoom calls. Just because you’re interacting with friends online doesn’t mean it can’t be fun.
9. Have the hand sanitizer on hand
If your kids are returning to in-classroom school, make sure they have hand sanitizer readily available anytime they may need it. A mini hand sanitizer bottle on a key chain works great for backpacks, and you can also use velcro to attach a small bottle of hand-sanitizer to the inside of lunch boxes. Sure, there will likely be plenty of hand sanitizer at schools, but why not make sure they always have it right when they might need it?
How do you feel about back to school this year? Let me know in the comments! And, good luck and cheers to National Back to School Prep Day on Aug. 15th!