We're probably all getting tired of hearing this saying, but Back to School “is going to look different this year.” Whether your children are returning to in-school instruction, they're going fully virtual through their school, doing a hybrid of in-school and at-home learning, enrolled in cyber school, or homeschooled … there's one thing that can make all the difference in how the 2020-2021 school year begins: A Positive Attitude.

Kids are sponges, and whether they're old enough to fully understand the pandemic are not, they definitely know things have been different these past 6 months. Let them voice their concerns over the new school year, but be sure to always try to bring it back around to how you will get through this together. The best way to boost that positive attitude is to feel prepared, or at least as prepared as we CAN feel in 2020!

Our 2020 Back to School Guide is full of virtual/at home school tips, shopping suggestions, real-life inspiration, and local resources to check out this fall.

But know that, more than anything on that school supply list, your kids (and parents, too!) will probably need a lot of extra love and reassurance this year.

We can do this! Bring it on, School Year 2020! 

School at Home Tips

Designate a “School” space

This will look different depending on your home layout, age of child, and availability of supplies. But it's best if there's some differentiation from “class” and “home.” (Even if it's just making sure one end of table is clear for school work!) See below for real-life photos for lots of inspiration!

Make a Schedule

In some cases, the school will be providing very detailed schedules that your children will need to adhere to. But this isn't always the case. At the least, try to set clear expectations of wake up and bed times and then general hours that will be dedicated to school. If there are times that you know you'll be unavailable, let them know that, too. Children thrive on routine, so if you can come up with a plan of how the day will go, everyone will feel more at ease.

Be Flexible

And now to follow up both of those points … remember not to be too rigid in expectations! Typically, when kids are in school, they don't sit in the same spot and position all day. There are times that your child might be more comfortable spreading out on the floor or reading on a pile of pillows. They might need to relocate due to noise levels, to get some space from the rest of the family, or just enjoy a change of scenery.

When you can, give them a choice. So many things are beyond their control right now. If they have the option of tackling subjects in an order of their choosing, let them decide.

Get Outside/Move Every Day

There's a reason that recess is an important part of the school day! Kids will burn out if they're sitting all day long. Fresh air and movement is good for the body and the mind! Let them go run around for a few minutes, put on some dance music and get the wiggles out, go eat lunch outside, or do work that doesn't require a computer sitting in the grass. Take the learning outside whenever possible!

Be Sensitive to Your Child's Emotions

Right now, just about everything is different. And most kids are working through a lot of big emotions, whether they show it outwardly or not. Especially in the beginning of the school year, there might be some tough days. Remind your child that you and their teachers are there to help. If they have questions, ask. And if they're feeling scared or worried, talk about it.

Encourage (Safe) Ways to See Their Friends

Social interaction is likely one of THE biggest aspects of school that kids will miss if they're not seeing classmates on a daily basis. Thank goodness we live in an age where they can communicate via text, FaceTime and more. Your child might want to talk about setting up daily chats with a classmate to talk about what they learned that day, or work out any issues they encountered together. In the absence of lunches in the cafeteria and recess, help your child set up virtual play dates/chats. And, if you feel comfortable, set up small in-person get-togethers. Picnics and bike rides, for example, are easy/low risk ways to socialize.

Home Learning Space Inspiration

Facebook groups right now are full of posts from parents looking for the best ways to create useful spaces that will give their children what they need to succeed this year. And there are tons of ideas!

We've gathered just a few of the MANY incredible ideas that are out there.

Here are some of the reoccurring ideas/tips we saw:

  • Dollar Tree, Target, Amazon, Ikea, Staples, Michael's, Homegoods, Lakeshore Learning Store, Home Depot and Lowe's were popular stores for supplies. Many stores are selling out of things right now. You might want to also check yard sales, flea markets, and Facebook Marketplace.
  • If you don't see what you need at a store, or you just love a good DIY, consider building desks, tables and storage options yourself! There are plenty of simple build tutorials on the Internet.
  • Noise cancelling headphones, ergonomic chairs, desks, white boards, easy/healthy snacks, comfortable (but presentable) clothes, and educational posters topped back-to-school shopping lists.
  • If you have a room that doesn't typically get a lot of use (we're looking at you, Formal Dining Room), now might be the time for a makeover.
  • Younger kids will need more supervision. If you can't dedicate a room to at-home learning (plenty of people can't!), consider taking over a corner of the kitchen, your own office, or the living room if needed.
  • Older children might prefer the quiet of their own room as long as they can have a space that's clear of clutter and conducive to studying.
  • Get organized. Bins, totes, drawers, bookcases, rolling storage, caddies. Utilize whatever works for your space so that when you or your child needs something, it can be located quickly and easily.
  • Have fun with it, and let kids help whenever they can! It isn't often that kids get to help create their learning space. If they're feeling apprehensive about the start of the school year, this might help dial up the excitement.

Here are some photo from spaces that were shared on Facebook. (Used here with permission.) Hopefully they'll inspire you to create a space that works for your family!

Space-Saving Options

(Photos by Danielle Vinc, top; Paige Rhines, bottom.)

These tri-fold boards are all over Facebook right now. They're a great way to inexpensively set up up a workstation that provides some privacy and cuts down on distraction. Children can use them at a desk, or even move them around the house. You can also get really creative with how you personalize it and include useful tools and information.

(Photo by Gina Marie Longo-Tursi‎)

If you know your child will be moving around the house (or even in between houses), create a portable workstation! A caddy like this can be used to store the supplies most commonly needed.

(Photo by Sarah Beck)

Work spaces don't need to be traditional! This “home office” was made using a fold-down desk in a home's dormer space. When the desk is folded up against the wall, it's a blackboard!

Full-Room Spaces

(Photos by Jessica Schulman.)

Jessica's post sharing this room in a Facebook group has received over 900 likes … and we can see why! We love the cozy, eclectic vibe. (There's even a “Calming Corner!”) Everything is so inviting, yet there's plenty to stimulate learning and conversation. Jessica shared that two of her children are sharing a room, so that they could take over a 10′ x 12′ loft to create this space.

Her biggest tip: Find a comfy reading chair and free printables for the wall!

(Photos by Stephanie Smith)

Stephanie shared on Facebook that this space was already fairly furnished as a playroom, so it just took some purging, rearranging, and a few DIY projects to make it more functional as a classroom. She will be helping her pre-K and 1st grader with virtual schooling.

One of her biggest tips: Use Gorilla Tape and Loctite tacky mounting tabs to make hanging easy. (And they shouldn't damage your walls if/when you revert back to the room's previous purpose!)

“In a time when I feel like I have very little control of tomorrow, redoing this room was incredibly therapeutic!” – Stephanie Smith

(Photos by Stephanie Coxe Abate)

Stephanie and her husband created this space for their 3 children, ages 11, 9, and 7. Her husband made the desks from scratch. (#DIYwin) The chairs are from Amazon, and the decor is from Amazon and Dollar Tree.

We love how this shows how three children can share a room, but each child still has their own space when they need to concentrate.

Local Resources to Check Out This Fall

Newtown Athletic Club, Supplemental School Enrichment Program powered by Camp NAC

120 Peasant Run, Newtown
215-968-0600
newtownathletic.com

In an effort to help parents with children in schools that have virtual components this fall, the Newtown Athletic Club is providing on-sit educational offerings with daycare and after school options that supplement what the schools will offer. They will support the virtual learning process at their facility with in-person enrichment coaches that will help implement virtual learning.

These enrichment programs are available for ages 3 through 18, weekdays from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. Students will be grouped with students in their grade and district. In addition to helping with the school-provided virtual learning, the NAC will provide curriculum-based programs with physical education, music, art and reading. There will also be after-school extracurricular activities available.

This program is open to all families in need of supplemental schooling for this fall. There are discounts for NAC Family Plus Program Memberships & Multi-Siblings. Click HERE to learn more.

Bucks County Community College

www.bucks.edu

Calling All Motivated High School Juniors and Seniors!

During a time where many high school students may be feeling a bit lost with the changes to their typical school year and activities, Bucks County Community College offers a way to get ahead and prepare for the future. Bucks County Community College offers two programs in which high school students can earn college credit: the dual enrollment and high school enrichment programs. Why not use this time of social distancing to get a head start on college?

Find out more about the programs in THIS article.

Registration is permitted until the day before the course starts, as space remains, so be sure to get started soon!  Classes begin on 8/26, with a more limited selection starting 9/14.

Interested students can email questions to [email protected].

The Dance Academy

1476 Buck Road, Holland
215-860-9530
thedanceacademybuckscounty.com

Does your child love to dance? Is he or she craving social interaction, structure, and a way to let out their creative energy after months at home? The Dance Academy is excited to start their 34th season of offering professional dance training with a personal touch! And in light of the current situation, they have created a safe environment so all of their dancers can continue to enjoy what they love. Click HERE to read about their current safety precautions. 

Fall classes begin Thursday, September 10. The schedule will be available the first week in September, or you can contact the studio to discuss your child's age and interests to find the best fit.

The Dance Academy (TDA) in Holland has been teaching students in Lower Bucks since 1987. TDA offers over 70 classes a week in all disciplines of dance, including, Ballet, Tap, Jazz, Lyrical, Acrobatics, Contemporary, Hip-Hop and Pointe. But in addition to learning to plié, shuffle, step-heel and pirouette, the dancers at TDA are gaining valuable life lessons that go beyond the studio. To read our article about 5 Life Skills Learned from The Dance Academy, click HERE.

Basil Bandwagon Natural Market

Clinton- 38 Old Hwy 22 | 908-735-3822
Flemington- 276 US Hwy 202/31 | 908-788-5737
Lambertville- 239 N. Union St | 609-460-4500 NEW LOCATION NOW OPEN!

Whether you're learning physically in a classroom or virtually, a shopping trip to Basil Bandwagon should be on your list of things to do to prepare for the school year! Known for their selection of locally produced goods, the highest quality supplements and huge selection of gluten-free, organic and raw food products, you know you'll be off to a healthy start. Check out some of their favorite back-to-school essentials like Justin's classic nut butters, Meli Wraps organic cotton face masks, Peeled Snacks organic dried mango, ICU Eyewear blue light glasses, Rad Soap hand sanitizers, Nordic Naturals junior omegas, Cascadian Farm organic cereals and MORE!

 

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