Anyone else feeling as though your kids are getting a bit… shall I say… eccentric after months sheltering at home with little to no outside interactions? No? Just me? Well, when schools closed in March and we were suddenly thrown headlong into distance learning as a nation, I remember the vigor with which I organized and proctored school in our home.
We still got ourselves dressed and ready in the mornings. We had a schedule charted out on the fridge. We had academic goals. We worked diligently through the school mandated curriculum with our own additional family assignments in the afternoons of reading, piano practice, and yoga. But to be honest, by a month or two in, our collective energies began to flag.
Between the unexpected teaching and supervisory role of a 1st grader, monitoring screen time and YouTube pop-ups, entertaining a toddler (hello, Netflix!), and then keeping her quiet in our open-floor-planned home while brother was on class Zoom meetings, working from home and keeping our household livable…we basically crawled through the School Year Finish Line in all of our several-days-old-loungewear-needing-haircuts-and-social-interaction glory.
It wasn’t pretty.
All of this to say, as a family we can’t wait for school to start in the fall – even as we continue to wrestle through what this new school year will look like. Homeschooling? Distance learning? Back to the building with masks? We are just thrilled with the idea of moving forward into an automatic opportunity of reset with our schedules, our goals, our minds and our hearts.
But the fact remains: it all feels a bit scary this go-around. Whether your kids will be learning at home or going back to school in some iteration, these are extraordinary times within our generation. How do we move forward in confidence? How do we replace our fear with fun as we sheperd our children back into school?
“He will cover you with his pinions, and under his wings you will find refuge; his faithfulness is a shield and buckler. You will not fear the terror of the night, nor the arrow that flies by day” (Psalm 91:4-5).
First of all, I strongly believe we are being given an unexpected opportunity to show our kids what grace looks like. Because that is what our society needs right now. Grace for one another. Because every single family with school aged kids will find themselves at the same crossroads of how to educate this fall. Each option having its own set of stressors and drawbacks, with nothing feeling perfect or “normal”… encouraging one another, even when their decisions vary from our own, will speak volumes to our kids and be the first step in instilling confidence in them. No matter what their schooling looks like.
And with this in mind, here are some ideas for making back to school special no matter what your scenario looks like:
At Home Ideas
- Go back-to-school shopping for supplies, backpacks and wardrobe.
- Set a schedule and expectations; and post it somewhere for your kids to see.
- Utilize that new wardrobe and maintain the family rhythm of getting up, getting ready and dressed for their day.
- Dedicate a space in your home for the school day, complete with their special work area (not unlike their desk or locker at school). Let them decorate their space!
- Utilize a bullet board, white board or blackboard to further set apart their school area that includes announcements, class calendar, field trips and seasonal decor they might be missing from their classroom setting.
- Have a back-to-school night as a family. Use it as a time your kids can help decorate their workspaces and the “classroom,” they can meet the teacher (you) and go over what to expect for the school year ahead.
- Snap the first day of school pictures.
- Celebrate the initial day or week of school by cooking a special breakfast or having a pizza and movie night on the first Friday.
- Schedule a picture day mid-year, complete with creating a yearbook.
- Give them some elective options – have they always wanted to learn a language, craft or artistic skill? Do they want to practice their baking or cooking skills? Most likely there is a YouTube video that would help pave the way!
- Plan field trips!
- Join a recreational sports team that plays outside and social distances.
- Schedule standing video calls with other kids learning from home.
- Talk to your kids about what will be different at school this fall so there are no surprises on their first day.
- Educate them on ways to stay healthy and safe with gentle reminders to wash their hands and not to share drinks.
- Remind them you are working with their school to make sure they stay safe. They don’t need to worry, because adults are ON it!
- Find them a mask they are comfortable wearing and feel good about, and then make sure you have plenty of spares. (Local stores like Patina and Pacifier have some great kid-friendly options!)
- Give them a positive reason to wear a mask. For example, in our family, we have an immunocompromised cousin-best-friend. So every time we put on our masks, we say a quick silent prayer for him as a reminder of why we are masking. That one small change has completely transformed our kids’ attitudes towards wearing an uncomfortable face covering because they now see it as an opportunity for love.
- Let them pick out special travel hand sanitizers that clip onto their backpacks, fits in their pocket and can go in their pencil cases. Some of our family favorites are here, here and here.
And across the board… PRAY. We are loved by a God who is desperate for us, who never leaves us or forsakes us. Which is pretty incredible armor to access every moment of every day, even when it comes to a global pandemic. So when all else fails – which it might from time to time – let’s make this school year special by covering it in an unprecedented amount of prayer. And hand sanitizer.
Annie Evelsizer and her husband live in Minneapolis with their two kids and elderly cat. After an extensive tenure working in the fashion industry for a major retailer, Annie opened her own wardrobe and interior styling company, Hudson & Wilde. She is passionate about creating community, and she also loves to read, write, drink coffee, exercise, and travel. Connect with her on Instagram @aevelsizer and @hudsonandwilde!