Going back to school can be tough, even in ordinary circumstances — but this has not been another ordinary summer vacation. No one could have prepared for the turn of events that closed out the school year for 2020. E-learning from home was quite the curveball, and brought with it feelings of confusion and frustration, as well as a longer than normal school break. With the lengthened time away from typical classroom instruction, many parents have been left to wonder how they’ll ever get their kiddos in the back-to-school groove.
We spoke to veteran educators to ask for tips on how to help students prepare for the switch back to a normal school routine. Try some — or all — of these ideas, and make the summer-to-school transition a success for your family!
Lauren Guip, M.Ed., is the Montessori Director of Summit Country Day School.
“Social-emotional wellbeing is critical to a child’s success as they transition back into a school environment,” Guip says. “It’s important to have an ongoing dialogue with your child about how they are feeling both before school starts and after they are in attendance.”
Guip also suggests helping your child become comfortable with any new procedures that may be in place due to COVID-19. “If your child is required to wear a mask at school, spend some time helping them get adjusted to a mask at home, or pick out a mask that they would feel excited about wearing.”
Abigail Shumaker is a preschool teacher for the Beavercreek City School District.
“Begin talking to your child about returning to school,” Shumaker says. “Highlight the excitement of going back and discuss any fears or concerns they may have. This is important for all students, to prepare them mentally and emotionally.
“Consider turning off the TV and video games. Screens are addicting, we all know this. That desire to be on a screen can take away from the fun of hands-on learning. If you begin to cut back screen time prior to school, your child may adjust better.
“Lastly, go on a back-to-school shopping spree! Let your child pick out their own folders, pencils, backpacks, etc. Use this as an opportunity to share your own excitement with your child. Advancing a grade is a big accomplishment and an exciting time, so make it fun!”
Raymond C. Kochis is the superintendent of Cincinnati Christian Schools.
Kochis’ advice starts with a good nights sleep. “Students will need to become accustomed to the routine of getting up early,” he says. “I would suggest that parents begin the gradual adjustment by setting a realistic bedtime two to three weeks before the start of the school year.”
Kochis also stresses the importance of reading over the summer. “The best reading is away from a screen,” he says. “It allows the student to focus on the activity of reading with fewer distractions. Fifteen to 30 minutes a day is an adequate starting point, but the goal is to gradually increase the time to the equivalent of homework from school. Sustained reading enhances the student’s language skills, but it will also get him or her used to the time commitment required for daily homework.”
Julie Carter has been a guidance counselor for Huber Heights Schools for 16 years and an educator for 27 years.
Carter agrees that making an event out of school supply shopping is a great transition idea, and wants families to know that if it simply isn’t in the budget, you should reach out to your school counselor. Carter also added the following suggestions:
* Start practicing “school lunch” a week or two ahead of time. Pack lunches, practice opening containers, and eat in a 20-minute timeframe.
* Write goals for the next school year. Post them in the house.
* Set an alarm each night and practice waking up to it every morning.
* Begin to slowly move bedtime back a couple of weeks ahead of school. If you move it 15 minutes a night, it won’t be as hard!
* Pick out outfits for the first week of school.
* Celebrate! Bake a cake and decorate the day before the return to school.
Krista Taylor is the assistant principal at Mercy Montessori.
Taylor understands the new year will be filled with change, and recommends the following ideas:
Regardless of what schedule you are opening under, share with your child in the most optimistic light possible and treat the first day of school like a celebration. Positive energy helps.
Your child hasn’t been in school, or likely adhering to a school schedule since March. Read back-to-school books to prepare your child. A little TLC goes a long way in easing the stress of those first few weeks.
Remember that teachers have spent much of the summer turning their instructional strategies upside-down to prepare. Give them grace to figure it all out, and remember that this takes time.
Practice hand-washing a lot! Don’t forget the 20-second rule.
Help your child recognize what 6 feet looks like. Make a game of it. Ask your child to stand 6 feet away from something, and then measure to see how close they actually are. Who can get closest to 6 feet? Do this in various spaces — what does it look like in a small room? A large room? Outside?
On behalf of administrators everywhere, please read the information sent home by your school. There will be a lot communicated, and it may feel overwhelming, but it’s more important than ever that you stay informed and up-to-date.