10 Tips for Returning to Learning - Whether at School or at Home
Updated: Sep 10, 2020
Whether your kids started school last month or they're starting tomorrow. Whether they're back campus or logging back in this fall, we’ve got tips to kick off the school year -- keep it going -- with gusto. American mamas are resilient and resourceful; it’s part of our character. We can do this.
I know Fall 2020 is unlike any “back to school season” you’ve had as a parent or a kid yourself. We feel you mama. Kids are normally nervous before the first day anyway, but add to that changing guidelines, so many unknowns, the whole virtual realm. If you feel overwhelmed and scattered, you’re not alone. Whether your kid is back on campus or logging back in this fall, we’ve got tips to kick off the school year -- and keep it going -- with gusto. American mamas are resilient and resourceful; it’s part of our character. We can do this.
1. The backpack's back… even if it doesn’t leave the house
Even if your kiddo isn’t stepping foot on campus, having a cool bag to store your gear in helps keep them organized -- and you sane. Papers, pencils, crayons… in the bag they go! If it’s in your budget to get a new bag, why not? It signals that starting school is special and you can talk about why your child may want to donate his/her old bag to charity. For kids, the backpack is like their briefcase or work bag--part fashion statement, part functionality.
If bagging a new bag doesn’t work for the bank account, how about decorating an old one? You can use fabric markers or puffy paints. Remember bedazzlers? Check out the new version of a hot fix bedazzle kit. Or iron on some patches collected over summer vacation!
2. And lunch boxes still matter too
If the backpack matters, then so does the lunch box, for all the same reasons, plus one if you’re schooling at home this year. Putting lunch in a box helps differentiate Monday-Friday from Saturday and Sunday. If you have more than one child, it also helps to individualize your kids, so they have something that feels unique to them, and perhaps you slip a food in that’s special to each of them, like one gets an apple and the other gets a clementine.
To keep them insulated along the way, are several great options that are a far cry from the rigid plastic boxes that existed when we were children:
Remember the ice packs our parents put in our lunch boxes when we were in school? You know, the kind that almost broke your toe if you dropped them? Well, those have gotten a lot cuter and a lot easier on the feet if they should fall. These are a bit old school, but the thinner profile allows you to squeeze them in even the fullest of lunch boxes.
3. Surprise your kids with a note
Don’t underestimate the power of dropping a little love note between the PB&J and the strawberries. Whether it’s on the back of a napkin or written on stationery, the effect is the same. You remind your kid you care. Kids need encouragement. They may not say anything about it, but knowing that you were thinking about them (which of course you do 10,354 times a day) might just be what they need to keep giving it the old college, er grade school, try.
Want some fun cards do help do the trick? I like these, these and these. If lunch notes aren’t your jam, try leaving an encouraging note on the bathroom mirror using these fun, animal, colorful or floral post-it notes. “Hi beautiful!” or “You’re about to have a great day.” Here’s a riff on the latter: my mom used to wake me up with “I checked the Britt weather forecast, and it’s going to be a beautiful Britt day!” I won’t lie, at the time, it was annoying, but I’m glad she did it. She spoke optimism into my day, a hallmark of the can-do, let’s try again American spirit and something that babies of all ages (even us mamas) need to hear (and bonus points: Post-its are made in America!)
4. Give your kids’ immune systems a boost*
No one likes being sick, especially now, so boosting kids’ immune systems has never been more important. You know the drill: eat fruits and veggies, sleep well, yada yada yada, but beyond the obvious, here are the organic, non-GMO multi-vitamins, probiotics and Elderberry supplements (With Zinc, Echinacea, and Vitamin C) I give our kids. If chewables aren't your child's jam, this is a great liquid immune booster. You’ll want to keep these on a high shelf because they are so yummy your kids will be begging to take their vitamins. Ours are! Having a hard time getting the greens in your kids? You can tell them they can grow tall and strong by drinking these yummy vanilla and chocolate protein shakes (but you don’t have to tell them they’re packed with veggies. Mom secret!)
*Content posted on or from Primerrily is not intended to be used for health, nutritional, or medical diagnosis or treatment. You assume full responsibility for how you choose to use the information from Primerrily Content. Always seek the advice of your physician, child’s pediatrician, or other qualified health provider before starting any new treatment or discontinuing an existing treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician, child’s pediatrician, or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding health, nutrition, or medicine. The information and materials in Primerrily Content should not be used as a substitute for the care and knowledge that your physician, child’s pediatrician, or other qualified health professional can provide to you.*
5. Set up a dedicated learning space
Whether it’s for afternoon homework or the new normal setup for the school day, ensuring your children have a space just for them to concentrate with all their supplies at hand will set them up for success. If the furniture can be different than what's used for play time or relax time, all the better. This is the desk and chair set I'm purchasing for my kids. I love that the height is adjustable, an LED light and reading board are included, and a pull-out drawer will sweep away messes -- I mean, the pencils and papers to be neatly stacked inside (wink).
If your kids are a bit younger, and you want a "work space," but it needs to function both for tracing worksheets and building Legos, check out this table and chairs. Storage is creatively built into them (don’t forget to click the coupon to save some money for the books you'll be stashing underneath the seat!) The soft wood color can easily blend with multiple home aesthetics.
If space is limited and you have more than one child or if your kid needs help focusing on what’s in front of them, check out these sound-absorbing clamp-on dividers. To make keeping a list fun and creative while also creating a sense of partitioned space, try this stand-up double-sided whiteboard.
Involving your children in the creation of their workspace can help them “own” it. One idea to help with that, try this craft. Look for a space that is quiet, well lit and away from distractions (LEGOs can sprout feet and walk up desks if you’re not careful). Make sure the chair is well-fitted to the child so he/she is comfortable and doesn’t slouch or slide off (not that my children have ever done that...).
By creating this space, you’re building the foundation for good study habits. If your child will be learning virtually, it’s even more important that this space be set aside from other parts of your home so he/she can feel like the school day has started and ended depending upon where he/she is in the house.
6. Be silly with your kids
If you get silly with your kids, they might just get serious about school. Theme the days up as best suits your family (and any uniform guidelines if those apply). Maybe the second day of the school week is Taco Tuesday so they can look forward to fiesta night. Perhaps Wacky Wednesday is filled with funny kid jokes, funky hairstyles, and mismatching clothes (even if it’s just their pajamas). Thursday can be shoe vacation day! Haven’t heard of that one? It’s when you wear two different shoes, so that one of your shoes is going to school and the other shoe is on vacation. Around the dinner table, your family can dream about what kind of vacations your feet would take.
7. Turn on some music
Have you ever noticed that your kids can remember a song they learned six months ago better than something you told them six minutes ago? There is a powerful connection between the brain and music. I love how the author Sharlene Habermeyer of Good Music Brighter Children describes it: “Listening to certain pieces of classical music helps the body to relax, but the mind remains alert and is able to pay attention and memorize information needed for learning. As a result, the child’s listening, memory, and attention skills improve . . . Because music utilizes both sides of the brain, learning increases. Music causes the rhythms of the body—the heartbeat, brainwaves, etc.—to slow down and synchronize to the music. When the heartbeat slows, the mind works more effectively and the person can learn more easily. Psychologists for years have said if children can relax, they will be able to learn and memorize information easier.”
Try helping your kids relax and focus with “Essential Mozart” or Handel’s “Water Music” (Amazon Prime members get to stream it for free!). It may help your kids concentrate -- and you’ll feel smarter too (Mom score). It just might make you feel regal, even if you’re still in your bathrobe, which would be apropos considering Mozart played for the future Queen of France Marie Antoinette . . . when he was five years old. Perhaps his genius will rub off on your little ones? For a real blast from the past, try this CD (that stands for “compact disc” in case you forgot) The Most Relaxing Classical Music in the World… Ever. I listened to that same CD on repeat for all of high school, college, and grad school. Anecdotally speaking, I think it worked well. After all, you are reading this post!
8. Dress the part and say cheese
Even I'm tired of yoga pants now, and I didn’t think that was possible! I'm not suggesting that the iron has to come out (I prefer steamers anyway, so much easier and safer with tiny toes dashing around and cools down much faster), but I would recommend helping your kid pick out a special shirt or dress even if the first day of school is at home. I tend to dress my kids and myself in the color I “need” for that day. I find that bright colors really do lift my mood, soft colors and textures really do soothe stress, and you can’t go wrong with a personalized cozy sweatshirt. Whatever palette you choose, document the fresh looks with the iconic first photo!
Look here for some new spins on how to document “the moment” along with some props to liven it up and make double use out of them by setting a decorated breakfast table. Your kids won’t see that one coming! Hold onto those memories with a little crafting, like with this homemade frame. It’s another way to mark a change in time even if it feels like not a lot else is changing.
9. Pick up your pen
Want your child to stand apart from the crowd? How do you get to know your child’s teacher when it can feel like so many barriers are in place? How do you differentiate your child in a virtual setting? How do you kindly assert the belief that you are the primary agent in your child’s life as his/her parent? I’d like to (re)introduce you to the power of the written word. Learn how you can shape your child’s school year by taking this one step in which I help you write a letter to your child's teacher with a sample template. Here’s one of my favorite “Made in USA” stationery companies that will be sure to not only make your child but also your card stock stand out.
10. Have your child pick up some crayons
Is your kid nervous to go back to school? Dreading it? Excited for it? Channel those emotions by helping them think about other kids and how they might be feeling. If your child feels nervous, help them send a message or a picture to another kid that might feel the same way. What would your child want to see or hear to make them feel better? Whatever that it is, create it and send it to a friend. Any ol’ sheet of paper will do, but I think these are especially cute. Swing on by Primerrily's Treehouse for another idea on how to direct those feelings in service to others.