It’s that time of the year again: the days get shorter, the air gets cooler, and the laid back summer vibes start to fade out - it’s time to go back to school. 

School-readiness will differ for nearly every child. Going back to school can be exciting, stressful, or downright boring. Some kids will be pumped about being socially active with their friends and teachers, learning new things, and gaining independence. Others will be worried about making friends, encountering bullying, and wearing the right thing. Of course, there will be those kids that are dreading the early wake up, the homework, and the constant pressure to perform. 

Of course, let's not forget the ongoing COVID-19 epidemic, which has resulted in a school organization unlike anything before. The 'first day of school' may happen more than once over the year with so many schools offering different entry and exit points for students to switch between in-person and virtual schooling. For example, your child may have a first day of virtual school with a new class after a few months with another in-person class or vice versa.

It’s not uncommon for kids to feel a range of emotions and anxieties before that first day, and those feelings will likely vary according to age, grade, and previous experiences in school. Parents and guardians play a critical role in their kids' success, advocating for their social/emotional/academic needs and ensuring they are prepared every morning for a day of successful learning. Getting the year started smoothly is a first and important step to helping children look forward to a long school day.

Learn more about going Back-to-School in 2020.

Why is Preparing for School so Important?

Taking the time to prepare your kids to go back after summer is important because it will empower them to create routines and habits that help them to be successful, independent, and ultimately make your life easier. 

School is important to childhood development: in addition to teaching curriculum, the school helps your child develop a number of other skills and knowledge through organized social experiences. It provides kids with a community of similarly aged peers, provides opportunities for students to take initiative through clubs and sports, and teaches kids how to function within a larger organizational environment. Students learn teamwork, time management, and problem solving, alongside the fundamental disciplines of Math, Language, and the Sciences. By going to school kids get practice working hard, meeting expectations, and being punctual. They build relationships, collaborate, and contribute back to the school community.

By preparing your child to participate in a dynamic school environment, you enable them to get the most from their education. You support their social and emotional development by helping them adapt and transition to new and interactive group settings. Let’s explore some actionable ways you can get your child ready for school.

Kindergarten Readiness

Preparing your child for the first day of kindergarten is usually the biggest back-to-school event for parents. Junior kindergarteners are as young as 3, and if your child hasn't been in a daycare setting it can be hard to see them off. It's crucial to help your little one feel excited for kindergarten as it is an important time of language development, a place where kids hone their fine motor skills, and social-emotional growth Help your child get ready for kindergarten by talking about going to school long before it begins, going to the kindergarten yard at your school, and reading some of the many 'first day' picture books available for toddlers. The more excited they are, the less likely they will be in tears when you drop them off!

prepare your child for kindergarten
Help your kindergartener adjust to starting school (Source: Pexels)

Get them Organized with Fresh Gear and Supplies

Your kids will look the part and feel ready for school if they are equipped with fresh gear and supplies. It pays to think ahead: it can be incredibly annoying and even stressful when you realize your child needs new things the night before school starts! A week or two before going back, take inventory of their school essentials like backpacks, lunch bags, supplies, jackets, shoes, and clothes so you can make a list of items you need to replace or purchase.

Parents: read our 10 tips for getting your kids ready for back to school!

Check their gear to make sure it is size and age appropriate: that Paw Patrol backpack your kid loved last year may not fly this year, and a bigger pants may be in order after that summer growth spurt. Wash their backpacks and lunch bags if they have one from the previous school year, or treat them with brand-new or secondhand gear. If possible, let your kids pick what they want to use - it supports their independence and will save you a lot of stress when it’s time tog get ready in the morning. One year I realized late that my daughter did not want to use her big brother’s old blue backpack: a frantic last minute shopping trip revealed that all the purple and pink backpacks were already snatched up by the early bird shoppers.

Your kids will also get excited for class if they are stocked up with fresh pencils, pens, erasers, scissors, art supplies, binders, and pencil cases. Take them to your local Staples or Dollar store to pick the stationery they prefer, and if the budget permits grab a cool set of markers, stickers, or a fancy agenda to raise their morale. Have you got old supplies from last year? Sharpen the old pencils and pack them with the new or use those supplies to set up a place at home to do homework. If they do their work at the kitchen table, prepare a bin of old school supplies they can pull out when it’s time for homework.

Make Sure Your Kids are Technology Ready

Technology plays an more important role in education than ever, and you may find that your kids will be using virtual classrooms and completing or submitting their work through the internet. This is particularly common once your kids get through the primary grades, though it is not uncommon for schools to have even the little ones doing activities on tablets.

Students enrolled in virtual learning will be using tech more than ever. Prepare your child for a year of online school by coaching them on internet safety, how to use the camera, and how to use the various functions of their virtual learning environment.

While some schools will equip students with a laptop or device, you will have one happy and excited student on your hands if you get them a personal laptop. Chromebooks are a reasonably priced option that kids find it easy to use, though older students might prefer the size of a regular laptop or desktop computer if they are using technology frequently.

You can prepare yourself and your child for virtual learning activities by showing them how to install applications, how to save and organize their work in drives, how to use different functions of Google or Microsoft office, and how to troubleshoot technical issues. It can also be handy to learn how your child’s virtual classroom works if their teacher has set one up: applications like Google classroom can enable you to check your child’s homework, assignments, or any other class news.

If you find that your child is doing a lot of learning and work in a virtual environment, make sure you monitor the time they spend on screen and balance it with outdoor time, sports, or other hands-on activities. 

bring kids outdoors
Balance screen time spent learning virtually with time outdoors. Source: Pexels

Establish Routines Early

After a long summer of late bedtimes, video gaming, vacationing, family parties, and sleepovers, your kids have likely departed from their regular school routines. Parents can save themselves a   lot of stress by getting their kids into the routine of getting to bed early, prepping lunches and snacks, and organizing their closets so they can get ready for school efficiently.

Time is the essence of the morning rush, so curb the habit of sleeping late by getting your kids up early a week before school starts. Yes, this will be a day of grumpiness, but you will thank yourself later when your kids are in bed early and you have an evening of quiet time. And don’t forget to make sure you get to bed on time: you will want to feel refreshed and energized when starting a whole routine of prepping breakfast and getting your kids out of your home on time.

Another activity to practice the school commute: take your kids to school before it starts, show them the door they will enter from, and where you will be picking them up if that is part of your routine. Don’t forget the after school routine: schedule homework time,TV time, snack time, and extracurricular activities or after care. Kids love structure and predictability, and having a plan in place will ensure they feel organized and secure during the day.

Masking routines are fundamental this year as students will not be able to enter the building without one. Make sure your kids are in the habit of wearing their mask properly and practicing hand hygiene with regular hand washing and sanitizing.

Check out our back-to-school supplies shopping list!

Find A Tutoring or Enrichment Program

tutor helping child online
A tutor can make a big difference in your child's learning (Source: Pexels)

Canadian students typically learn in classes that usually range in sizes of 20-30 students, making it hard for each student to get the attention they need from their teachers. Parents can  help their kids learn by finding a tutor or enrichment program if they find pace of learning is too slow, they are struggling to keep up, or they want to have someone to help review new concepts and help out with reports or projects. 

Academic enrichment programs are a good option for families that want to provide their children with extra practice and reinforcement in numeracy and literacy. In these classes, students join a small group of students in the same age and ability level, and get practice and sometimes additional homework to bring to the next session. Check your school board, university, YMCA, or specialty learning centre in your area and enroll your child in the next session. 

Having a tutor is a better option if you prefer your child to have one-to-one support, and do not want to wait for the next enrolment period.. A tutor can come to your home, meet at a library or cafe, or even meet through an online platform to help your kids if they are confused about their learning tasks or need help preparing for a test or quiz. A tutor can also be a source or relief to parents who have a hard time helping their kids with school work - this can be especially true in math, where methods of teaching have drastically changed in the last 20 years - and do not want another source of stress in their already busy lives. 

READ: Advice for students returning to school in COVID-19.

To find a tutor that is right for your child, check out sites like Superprof that list amazing local private tutors and teachers near you. Whether it is Math, French, or Science, you will surely find an instructor that can take care of your kids’ learning needs!

For more information about back to school read our article Are You Ready for School in 2020?

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Colleen is a Toronto-based educator, mom and freelance writer who believes in lifelong learning and strong coffee.