The number of summer days is dwindling and if anxiety about the new school year is creeping in, you’re not alone. We have all the feels but somehow, we have take a deep breath and set them aside because it’s more important than ever to help your child have a great virtual school year. Proactive parenting can help calm fears, maintain routines, and even create a bit of back to school excitement during this special and unique year.
Now that we’re starting to wrap our heads around what the start of school looks like for our kids, here are some of my back to school tips that can help your child have a great virtual school year. I’ve broken the list down into 6 things to do before school starts. So if you still have some summer break left, take some time to read it now!
6 THINGS TO DO BEFORE SCHOOL STARTS
Kids thrive on routines. Part of getting ready for the school year means revisiting these routines and establishing new ones. Working together as a family is an effective way to ensure kids of all ages take ownership of their spaces, pride in their learning, and become a bit more independent.
(1) ACKNOWLEDGE THEIR FEELINGS
Regardless of how old your child is and what grade they’re going into, every year is critical for our kids. Academic and social learning happens constantly, regardless if your child is just starting preschool or finishing their first year of college.
While younger kids might not be able to express what they’re sad about missing as the virtual school year approaches, older kids are all up in their feelings because they know exactly what they’re missing. Listening and acknowledging how your kids are feeling goes a long way. It shows them you’re in this together and how much you care.
(2) EVALUATE ERGONOMICS
According to Merriam-Webster.com, ergonomics is the study of the design and arrangement of items people use and interact with most efficiently and safely. Scientists studying computer ergonomics work to find solutions to reduce strain, fatigue, and injuries caused by poor product design or arrangement. Their goal is to create a comfortable and relaxed environment.
Having an understanding of ergonomics can create a more comfortable environment for online learning. When your child sits down, look at their position at the desk or table they’ll be using.
Here are indicators of proper ergonomics:
- Arms rest at a 90-degree angle to the keyboard.
- The chair supports their back in an upright, seated position. Use a comfortable, supportive chair since kids will be sitting for long periods of time.
- The monitor is positioned directly in front of you (at least 18 inches) and is at eye level.
- Feet are flat on the floor and legs are in a parallel position.
If you’re finding your child’s workspace doesn’t appear ergonomic, consider doing the following:
- Find kid-sized furniture to make long days on the computer more comfortable. If you have an Ikea nearby, they have a great selection of kid-friendly furniture that can be used for at-home learning. Also, consult your local Buy Nothing group to see if someone might have items to gift.
- Encourage good posture. Slumping or rounding your shoulders can cause fatigue to set in quickly.
- Adding a footrest allows kids to push back into their chair for comfortable sitting. I love the memory foam ones but if you have a nursing stool hanging around the house, or know someone getting rid of one, that works too!
(3) RE-EVALUATE THEIR TECHNOLOGY
Last spring during crisis schooling, we did what we could to get by. We used what we had at home or found in-stocks online. If what you used might have been a quick fix, be honest about if it worked well enough for your kids to keep using it.
Everyone has their own list of technology items. We can start by categorizing them into needs and wants.
Needs are the essentials. High-speed internet service with antivirus and malware protection software to protect you and your family’s systems and Bark to keep an eye on what they’re doing on their devices.
Wants are the things that you COULD buy to make online learning better, easier, or more efficient but you don’t necessarily need to replace. For instance, you can reduce your monthly phone bill so you can put the savings towards upgrading your tech!
If you know of a family who needs access to devices or the internet, check out Wide Open School. Powered by Common Sense Media, Wide Open School compiled a fabulous list of providers offering resources for free and low-cost internet and devices. Visit their site to learn what discounts are available and what providers offer service for your family or others that you know and please sure this great resource with your PTA, in parenting Facebook groups, etc!
(4) ASSESS THEIR WORKSPACE
Where did your kids work when schools closed in March? It’s time to revisit that space and talk about what worked and what didn’t.
The Teacher Guide to Online Learning by Michigan Virtual Learning Institute provides helpful suggestions to teachers about their online work environment. Their tips are just as applicable to our kids’ workspaces. They suggest setting up a space separate from family life. This space should allow for quiet and be designed to minimize distractions to help students maintain focus.
(5) SHOP FOR SUPPLIES
We may not need to shop for a new backpack, lunchbox, and other shared school supplies for classroom use but it’s still important to do some back to school shopping. This simple act helps to maintain the back to school routine, builds excitement, and encourages enthusiasm at the year ahead.
Start by figuring out what your child needs in their space to be a successful learner. Take stock of what they have, what you have around the house, and what they need. Consider everything from pens, pencils, dry erase markers and a whiteboard, paper (blank, lined & construction paper), better headphones, etc. Stock up now while those things are cheap and organize them in a way so they’re accessible during class times. I personally love this organizer!
(6) MANAGE MOTIVATION
Every kid is different. As a teacher, I saw kids who were moderately engaged in class come to every Zoom I held and turn assignments in early. At the same time, students who had been motivated and did well during face to face learning ghosted me!
As a parent, you have to know your kids. Not every child learns in the same way. Get to know the root of their resistance. Is it something to do with the subject, the way your child is learning, the content, or their workspace?
If it’s the subject and content, have a conversation with your child’s teacher. Fortunately, you’ve already sent that beginning of the year friendly email to establish lines of communication so you don’t come off as a Nervous Nellie or Helicopter Parent!
Your child’s teacher is skilled at handling resistant learners in the classroom and will have some new strategies they can try during virtual class or things to do at home. There could be some offline activities they could suggest with manipulatives or interactive sites with games or video that would help explain the content in a different way. It may take some extra work on your part but you want to find ways to motivate your child, not turn them off to learning.
Maybe it’s the ergonomics of their workspace. Perhaps their headphones are uncomfortable and they need over the ear headphones instead of earbuds. Their desk chair could be too small or their computer screen should be raised to make things more comfortable.
Figuring out the root of the problem and engaging your child’s teacher can be extremely helpful in maintaining motivation throughout the year.