This year, back-to-school is looking a lot different than in previous years. Community to community and district to district, school boards, teachers and parents are doing their best to choose the right path forward for their students, and many schools will be beginning the academic year with an online-only format. Back-to-school is going virtual.
I freely admit that as the parent of a rising kindergartner, I viewed getting out of fulfilling the long, minutely specific list of school supplies for a few months as a silver lining to this proverbial storm cloud; at the same time, some purchases are must haves, and a new school backpack is at the center of a great back-to-online-school plan.
Most kids thrive on routine. If you are facing pandemic schooling, adhering to some back-to-school traditions might make this unusual circumstance easier for students. Let younger children choose their own crayons and older children select a new calculator. Help each child find the perfect new backpack, just as if they would be getting on the bus every morning with all of their books. Fresh school supplies and a cool backpack are tangible markers of school starting and formal education resuming. Sticking to at least some of your family’s usual back-to-school preparations will make this transition seem more real.
Not only am I a mom, I am a former teacher, and possess an intimate understanding of how many children behave regarding their school things. If your student will be attending online school within the home, a workspace and expectations about how to corral their papers and materials is a must. A backpack is an ideal way to contain and organize current work. Just as they would in their regular school building, encourage your student to keep ongoing work in their backpacks, so that each day runs as smoothly as possible. Larger books might go on a shelf instead, but keeping that backpack working just as it would (or should) in a traditional school will make every day easier. Your student may reap the added benefit of being in a strong routine with keeping track of their materials when in-person schooling resumes, making the transition back less disruptive.
This point may seem silly to some, but it could help your student in ways they cannot fully articulate to you. Returning to an online-only format school feels different and off and maybe even vaguely wrong to your child. Choosing a new backpack and perhaps a new lunch bag just right for their new grade and school year provides hope. Hope that traditional schooling will resume, there will be friends to admire their new cute backpack and sit with at lunch, there will be notes passed and fliers coming home to remind families of movie nights and bonfires and bake sales. . . all the reasons kids need backpacks for a “normal” year will return. And on the day when the school building opens, your student will return just as they have each year, bearing a crisp new backpack on their back, ready to face new learning challenges and grow as a person
Students are facing unprecedented challenges this school year. What we, parents and educators working together, can do for them is support them and make all the transitions they are bound to face as smooth as possible. We can soothe their minds with healthy routines, sticking to family traditions, and reminding them that this is not a permanent situation. Start getting your child excited about this new, different kind of school year with a cool new backpack that will help everything feel a bit more like business as usual.