In some parts of the world, the 2020/21 school year has already begun while in others, students eye their new school supplies longingly and want, perhaps more than anything, to wear their new school clothes, a visible symbol that life is back to normal.

Unless their school mandates uniforms and, even then, a substantial number of students just can’t wait to slip into it, for the same reason.

In years past, the first day of school was an occasion warranting equal parts of excitement and anxiety and, for some, outright dread. This year, dread may dominate the emotional soup felt by caregivers and kids alike.

The coronavirus has put the kibosh on many of the usual back-to-school celebrations and events.

For instance, UK universities' Freshers’ Week - when first-year undergraduates come to campus, formerly a raucous and giddy ado, is now a limited affair with plenty of safety measures in place. Universities around the world have, to some degree, followed suit; many offer classes strictly online this semester.

Likewise with primary and secondary schools: you may expect subdued occasions to mark students’ return to the classroom or you may receive all the information you need online, published by your child’s school.

Still, it’s good news that, one way or another, school will resume.

Throughout this article, your Superprof will highlight how you can get your kids – preschoolers to undergraduates, ready for the new school year, even in these worrisome times.

Let’s get ready to get ready for school!

What’s New at School?

When adults reflect on their school days, it seems to them nothing changed much from year to year: same administrators, same teachers, same kids and classrooms; same learning programmes, requirements… even that unique smell that pervades schools all over the world remains the same.

As students, what did we know of the changes that met us every new school year?

Kids often don't notice what might have changed about their school
Kids seldom notice important changes in their school. Image by White77 from Pixabay

Now that we’re sending kids to school, we are acutely aware that, for all that learning experiences may be universal, nothing remains the same from year to year at school.

  • Is your child starting in a new school?
    • Maybe your pupil is moving from primary to secondary education
  • What about school staff: new principal, secretary, nurse, cafeteria workers?
    • Is there a new Head Teacher?
  • Will student-teachers help out in the classroom?
  • What about additions and/or revisions to the curriculum?
  • Will there be any online classes?
    • How do I prepare for them?
  • What about standardised exams – Key Stage exams, GCSEs and other aptitude tests?
  • Which supplies will your students need?

Last year, parents and caregivers were encouraged to visit their children’s schools to tour the facility, pick up school supplies lists and meet the teachers/administrators. This year, indoors visiting and crowds are to be avoided at all costs.

You can still become familiar with the environment your child will occupy for most of their waking hours by visiting the school’s website. Many schools have – at least pictures of classrooms, faculty and staff, if not videos and virtual tours.

In those parts of the world that are less affected by the coronavirus, you may be able to visit the school but, before planning such a visit, make sure that it is permitted. You may have to schedule an appointment or perhaps your child’s age-group or level will be slotted for a certain time.

In all cases, it would be best to consult with your campus’ website or, if nothing else, talk with someone in the know – a parent-leader or administrator.

Your turn to talk: what’s new/different in the 2020 school year at your school?

Getting Back into the Routine

It’s almost stereotypical: after a long summer of frolic and fun, instituting regular bedtimes in preparation for early rising for school elicits groans and mutterings.

This year, thanks to the coronavirus, there’s been little fun and hardly any frolicking even though school-bound children have enjoyed lax bedtimes and negligible routines.

Whether your students will attend classes strictly online, learn through a blend of online and classroom teaching or head to class every school day, they will have to arise early enough to be counted present. That means they have to get to bed early enough to get the sleep they need.

Make sure to instill a bedtime routine for your kids' health
For healthy physical development as well as maintaining intellectual skills, kids need a bedtime routine. Image by BrickRedBard from Pixabay

Setting and enforcing bedtimes - and waking up early are not the only routines that need to be resumed.

During the worst of the pandemic crisis, people everywhere rolled back formerly strict rules. Suddenly, binge-watching favourite streaming services, snacking the day away and neglecting household chores all became acceptable.

Once again, parents will restrict television time and the hours spent on electronic devices, institute firm meal times and schedule household chores. It won't be fun; they may suffer a great deal of push-back from their kids.

Parents: pick up more tips to prepare for the school year

Shopping for Supplies

Whether your kids are university-bound or will take their secondary school lessons at home, they will need notebooks, pens and pencils, a maths toolkit and other supplies.

The good news is that, if their school has opted for online lessons, you won’t have to shop for backpacks, back to school clothes or, if normally required, school uniforms.

Your school’s website should have a list of back-to-school supplies for each grade. If not, perhaps your child’s teacher emailed you their school supply list.

Before combing through store adverts for back to school deals, you should inventory the supplies you have on-hand. There’s a good chance that you have plenty leftover from last year; at least enough to get this school year started.

Once you have a firm idea of which supplies you only need to replenish and what you need to buy new, then it’s time to head to the shops or, if you’re more comfortable shopping online, liberate your credit card and click away.

Where can you find bargains for school clothes and supplies?

Run a Review

Coronavirus memes and Youtube videos often show extreme instances of people flouting norms during lockdown; maybe they’ve stayed in their pyjamas or have only eaten junk food.

However, most people have maintained a semblance of normalcy: working out (if only in their living room), trying new recipes with fresh ingredients and, the one that never makes headlines, reading.

For parents who worked with their school-aged children during this long quarantine and university students who studied independently, congratulations: you/your students are better prepared to start the new school year.

Still, it wouldn’t hurt to review what your kids learned before the last school year was so terribly interrupted.

If your learners are very young, you might ‘play school’. You can be the teacher or, to make the game more engaging, let your kids show off their knowledge. On the other hand, if your kids are older, you might quiz them over history, science or maths while eating your evening meal together.

You may also challenge them to a read-off: read a book and deliver a report, or you could take turns reading out loud from the same book and discussing the passage you read and the story so far.

Such reviews do more than refresh your children’s knowledge base; they awaken their instincts for learning and put them in the frame of mind needed to absorb new information.

Social distancing in the classroom will be in effect
Among the resources you’ll find in schools following social distancing guidelines are computer workstations set further apart and a readiness for academic and emotional support. Image by Stux from Pixabay

Talk about Safety

Safety is important at all times but more so in the COVID era.

Nine months into this pandemic and life as we knew it is completely changed. Everything from the way we shop to the way we work and learn is shrouded in masks and done from a gulf of social distance.

How will your kids get to school?

Public transportation has safety rules in place; you/your children should be familiar with them before taking a bus, tube or tram to school.

Or, perhaps you will consider riding a bike or walking to school safer, in which case you should plan several routes and go over them together.

If not teaching remotely, schools have implemented safety measures in schools to reduce the risk of infection.

Make sure your child is well-indoctrinated in effective hand washing techniques and how to wear a mask properly. It is likely the school will have guidelines in place for disinfecting desks, chairs and other equipment – everything from scissors and glue sticks to cafeteria trays. Make sure your child is aware of them all.

Should your/your child’s school have settled on a distance-learning format – holding classes strictly online, check that the computer they will use for their classes has the latest software updates and, more importantly, safeguards against hackers and malware.

Should you need to download and install educational software, do so before classes begin so that you/your child can become familiar with all of its functions and utilities.

If your learners are very young, activate parental controls and, in all cases, unless the computer’s camera is needed during lessons, keep it covered.

Going back to school this year is more challenging than in years past but it is still an exciting time for you and your kids.

With the right preparations and a fair degree of safety awareness, the occasion can be every bit as entrancing, engaging and, yes, even as anxiety-inducing as you remember your first days of school to be.

Now, join our discussion on COVID: what do kids need to know before heading back into the classroom?

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Vanessa