Girl at tablet in classroom
Photo by Arthur Krijgsman from Pexels

I’ve been sharing a lot of articles lately about going back to school in the midst of the pandemic, but it’s the season so expect a few more from me.  Yesterday I came across an excellent National Geographic article that is probably my favorite so far.  Whether your child is returning to face-to-face instruction, doing distance learning this fall, or a combination varies a lot from state-to-state, county-to-county, and district-to district.  What I like about this article is that it offers spot-on advice for several different back-to-school scenarios.  Here’s a quick summary, but please be sure to check out the original article for more details.

1) Discuss “re-entry” with your child.  I love this advice, and to be honest, it’s something I completely forgot about.  I’ve been so focused on talking to my kids about staying physically distant from others that I haven’t given much attention to preparing them for being around others safely as our pandemic bubble begins to open.  The article also discusses preparing your child for how different school may be this fall (for example, not eating in the cafeteria, temperature checks, etc.).

2) Practice safe behaviors now, particularly norms and rules about wearing masks (for example, don’t trade masks with a friend no matter how cool their mask looks).  The article also offers good ideas for personalizing your child’s mask to increase autonomy and motivation for following mask guidelines (yay for autonomy and motivation!).

3) Establish and explain device-use expectations, especially if your child will be on devices for distance learning.  Again, this is excellent advice that I’ve failed to consider going into the fall.  My oldest will be on a device for hours a day doing distance learning, and I can see her being tempted to visit some non-school apps.  The article also has some ideas to personalize devices to increase your child’s autonomy and motivation when those distance learning hours and Zoom calls get old (yay for autonomy and motivation again!).

4) Create a “school” space in your home.  This doesn’t have to be Pinterest-worthy decked-out home classroom.  A neat corner or table away from distractions like the TV or sibling playtime is adequate.   (This is my own advice here: Avoid comfy places designated for relaxation like couches and beds.  Your child will be more alert and more primed to learn in a designated school space.  Also be sure to have any necessary materials handy so time is not wasted and your child is not distracted or frustrated hunting for paper, pencils, calculators, power cords, charging cables, kid-friendly headphones, etc.).

5) Help others if you can.  If you are in a pandemic pod with other families, consider pooling resources to subsidize a spot for a family whose income would otherwise exclude them from such an opportunity.  Ask the teacher how you can volunteer or if there are extra supplies that you can provide.  (This is my own advice here: An alternative to a pandemic pod is to start a small parent-led group that meets 1-2 times weekly for supplemental learning and support.  I’m doing this with a group in my daughter’s grade.  Because it’s parent-led, it’s free and participation is not based on ability to pay.)

6) Expect the online curriculum to be more rigorous.  I’ve heard this a lot from my daughter’s school.  They were caught off-guard by the sudden move to distance-learning in the spring so the curriculum was light and not very engaging.  Over the summer, they’ve had time to develop a much more intentional curriculum so we have been told to plan accordingly. 

This concludes my brief summary, but the original article has some valuable nuggets that you should definitely check out. 

2020 Back-to-School Edition: How to Navigate the Transition

By Michelle Z. Donahue

Published August 10, 2020 by National Geographic