All over the world, school-aged children and university students are gearing up for – or, in some cases have already experienced the return to school, albeit with a terrifying twist.

Recalling my school days, the excitement over every new pencil and each unopened notebook, full of promise and potential, never once was a bottle of hand sanitiser or a face-mask alongside them to remind of the ever-present threat that, today, we all live under.

Pandemic or no, back to school presents a unique set of challenges for students and their caregivers.

Will there be bullies? Will there be friends? Will the teacher be any good? What about the trepidation of learning new things and the fear that mastery will never be achieved? For preschoolers and Early Years: how to manage separation anxiety?

And now, throw COVID into that mix.

Whether you/your children are headed back to class for the first time since this spring or going back after a two-week stint of self-isolation caused by exposure to a potentially infected person – or worse, after you’ve recovered from your bout of coronavirus…

Superprof presents ten tips to get you back into the learning groove.

Get Back Into the Normal Swing of Things

For many, the impending school year represents a chance to start anew, replenish and/or update their wardrobe and see old friends. On a broader scale, attending classes signals something far greater.

Going to school is an integral part of a functioning society.

Get ready to learn in a different setting
As summer comes to a close, students all over the world prepare for altered learning activities and a different study routine. Image by Sasin Tipchai from Pixabay

Some aspects of established society, such as operating days/hours banks and post offices observe have a deep yet subtle impact on our internal calendars.

Expats living in countries where banks are open seven days a week report a feeling of dissonance; they have to assure themselves of the day of the week when they see crowds stream in and out of bank buildings.

We all experienced this sense of dislocation earlier this year when schools abruptly shuttered to prevent the virus’ spread. That feeling intensified because of the lack of normal daily routines as we did our best to stop the coronavirus in its tracks.

Doing so was disturbing – reports of mental/emotional stress prove that point but now, we get to look forward to our kids having a somewhat normal life experience by going to school.

Doesn’t that prospect make school shopping so much sweeter?

Before your back-to-school shopping spree, you should first inventory any school supplies you have from last year: a stock of notepaper? A pack of pens? Still-serviceable pencil boxes, art supplies, math tools, backpacks?

Tempting as it may be to buy everything on your children’s school supplies list, first finding out what you have on hand can save you a lot at the cash register.

That money may be better spent on new clothes and shoes and, if your school calls for them, uniforms. Don’t forget to shop for gym clothes! Even with reduced class sizes, schools everywhere still include physical education programmes.

Finally, if you would rather your kids bring a packed lunch than eat cafeteria meals, you may shop for an insulated lunchbox and a thermos for drinks.

Find out where you can get great bargains on back to school supplies!

Re-establish Routines

One negative side-effect of having stayed home for so long is experiencing the insignificance of time. With nowhere to be and nothing (?) to do, what does it matter if one sleeps all day or eats irregularly?

If you/your kids were fortunate enough to have such circumstances wherein laying about was possible, the return to school may be a cruel awakening.

Once again, you/they will have to get up early, get ready to face the world, get some food into stomachs and get out of the house. Upon return, there will be homework and chores: washing dishes and clothes, hoovering and cleaning…

It’s time to resume normal life routines.

If your entire family fell off of that particular wagon, everyone should get back on but, if it’s only the kids – you’ve been working remotely or going to work, you will have to once again institute bedtimes, meal times and set aside a few hours (and space) for your students to do homework.

If you do have a job to go to, you might consider who will mind the children in your absence. Your parents, a trusted neighbour, a nanny… you should make sure that whoever fills that role is neither at risk of infection nor are they infected.

So far, so good but things are different this school year…

Should kids learn on their own or with help from parents?
Ask your children’s teachers if your little ones should try to plan learning activities on their own or with your help. Image by AkshayaPatra Foundation from Pixabay

Things that Won’t be Normal

Sending your kids back to school this year will be different than any other.

Whereas traditionally, before the first day of school, parents would tour the facility and meet the teachers, in many parts of the world, such events have been severely curtailed if not scrapped altogether.

Instead, you may meet teachers online and visit the school’s website to tour the building virtually.

Be sure to note the school’s distancing strategies and updated hygiene practices; talk them over with your kids. You should emphasise that teachers will expect students to remain in their groups or ‘learning bubbles’ rather than casually mingle among classmates.

Be sure they understand their schools’ mask mandates and the guidelines for sanitising their desks and hands. Even with reduced class sizes, this virus poses a substantial risk but said risk can be minimised through best practices.

Getting to and from school poses challenges too. Be sure your kids know and follow the latest public transport regulations if that’s how they get to school. Otherwise, if the school is not too far, you may lay out walking and/or bike-riding routes.

Most schools have new regulations in place for serving nutritious lunches and allowing breaks between classes and, if you prefer to pack a healthy lunch for your learner, that is perfectly acceptable.

Learn more about returning to school in the COVID era

If Your Student Has Special Needs

If your child special educational needs – anything from generalised school anxiety to being physically other-abled, you may take comfort that schools are considering these students’ challenges as they develop their strategies.

For your kids’ school specifics, email and/or talk with the school’s administrators and especially your child’s teachers.

Talk the Worry and Anxiety Out

To this point, we’ve doled out practical advice on how to get things back on an even keel once the new school year starts. Now, we need to talk about getting psyched for school.

New school clothes and basic school supplies generate a low-grade excitement for the possibilities to come but they can also create anxiety; even more in this era of coronavirus infection, when no immunization is possible.

For those worries – mundane and specific, talking is the best way to prevent a stressful situation from getting out of control.

Even if your child is headed to preschool, listening to their concerns and allaying their fears will go a long way towards restoring their confidence in facing new challenges.

Naturally, the listening doesn’t stop on the eve of the first day of school. Talking is an everyday affair, maybe over your evening meal or just before bedtime.

During those nightly conversations, you should…

Convey Support

When hard times strike, it’s difficult to be empathetic… or is it?

Studies have shown that those who have suffered are more likely to be kind, understanding and supportive than those who’ve never or only seldom endured hardship.

At no time is parenting ever an easy proposition but in the era of COVID, it is especially difficult to look past your worries that your children might get sick and/or bring the virus home.

In times like these, we need to keep in mind that the more assured and confident we are, the more our kids will follow suit so, as long as you talk to them sincerely and support them as they make their way into the newly-dangerous school environment, the more prepared they will be to face their challenges, knowing that you have their backs.

Follow these guidelines to get your kids ready to go back to school.

University students may not share how they feel
Older students are less likely to tell you how they really feel; you may have to watch for little clues that give away their state of mind. Image by Martin Polo from Pixabay

Distance Learning

Your kids may not have to leave the house to make use of all those back to school deals you scored on those school supply kits. Some schools have mapped out a distance learning scheme while others embraced a hybrid model – a few days in school and the rest of the time learning online.

If your child’s school plans any teaching online, you will have to have a suitable computer, a stable internet connection and a dedicated space for your child to learn in.

Furthermore, if your child’s school has subscribed to one or more online learning platforms, you may have to download and install software.

Understand the Technology

It’s not enough to make a computer or tablet available to your student for class projects or participation, you also have to know how to use that software so you can show your kids all of its features.

That is, unless your kids are digitally savvy, in which case they will likely figure out how to use it on their own.

Recently, hackers made global headlines by interrupting online classes.

There’s not much you can do to protect your children from such hackers but there much you can do to keep your kids – and your computer safe while learning online.

What if their online class does get hacked? Then it’s time to revert to your supportive role. Encourage them to talk things over and share their feelings.

Hire a Tutor

If you fear your child has fallen far behind or worry that s/he might, or if s/he expresses concern over being able to keep up with classmates, you may consider hiring an academic support tutor.

Academic tutors are all-around learning coaches, able to help your child understand and complete assignments, all while helping them come to terms with their academic life in the new reality we all live in.

Best of all, such a tutor need not come to your home unless you want them to. Tutors are well-versed in online instruction methods, dispensing both academic and practical wisdom as needed.

Superprof has hundreds of academic support tutors all over the world; the nearest one is as close as your computer or, if you prefer for a tutor to come to your home, surely there are a few near you.

Be Kind to Yourself and Your Kids

The back to school sales are over and the backpack is loaded; the school uniform is ready to wear. The talking is done and the doing will soon start but, in that brief interlude in between, take a moment to be kind to yourself.

These are stressful times for everyone. For parents, economic worries and the dread of infection overshadows our every waking thought.

Perhaps, for school-aged children, the virus isn’t such a dominant factor; anxiety is shaped by all that a new school year can bring. For secondary school students, maybe blasé but secretly fearful, things might tougher.

University students must surely mourn the absence of carefree first forays into the adult world.

No matter the age of the student or the parents’ confidence levels, kindness, tolerance and even laughter will go a long way toward making this year’s back to school easier.

Or should we say ‘more normal’?

Your voice matters: share your ‘back to school 2020’ experiences.

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Jess