It’s the middle of August and that means it’s time to think about going back to virtual school. Since the pandemic put our world on pause, right at the start of Spring Break, we have wondered what this would mean for school to come. Different states and districts created varied plans for back to school, in the hopes of helping every family find the solution with which it was most comfortable.
Now, for better or worse, schools are establishing their start dates, and summer is drawing to a close. We’re going back to (virtual) school.
Our district offered the following options: straight return to brick and mortar, school-based distance learning, virtual learning (either with the district or with the state), or homeschooling. At first, we looked at distance learning or in-district virtual school, but while we love and trust our district, outside forces kept getting in the way of their plans. We were not willing to deal with the delays, setbacks, and uncertainties. Little man will attend our state-based virtual school, at least for one semester, although we are leaning toward the full year (for the sake of consistency).
It’s scary. We are huge supporters of our public school district (in fact, we moved to this area simply FOR said school district), and to temporarily leave was not an easy choice. We are in such uncharted territory, and who knows what the right decision is at this point.
Model A Positive Attitude
No matter what this year brings, our kids are looking to us for guidance. I know many of us are frustrated, if not angry, with the options, the protocols, and the politics, but that shouldn’t filter down to our children. While we should absolutely acknowledge their feelings when it comes to what lies ahead, we can also do them a great service by playing up the positives and keeping a bright (and flexible) outlook.
Take the back-to-school picture, however that looks (St. Augustine Moms offers a super cute free back to school printables). Get the supplies. Cheer for the mascot. Wear the colors. Do your best to show them that going back to virtual school can be great in spite of the challenges, and you are 100% on their side. Save the negative remarks and anxiety to share with your partner or tribe.
Designate A Study Space
When we went to distance (or crisis) learning at the end of 6th grade, the one thing I hated was that little man’s workspace was upstairs in the loft. We had to cobble together a solution since Mr PugRunner was also working from home, but I didn’t like him out of sight with the computer and internet, and I wasn’t readily available since most of my day is spent downstairs. We spent some time reassessing our office space, and set up an area that will offer him a quiet place to work, but also give me the ability to supervise and assist as needed.
For us, this was the best solution, but not every student has the same needs. Whether there is a formal office set up, or your student uses a laptop on the couch, the point is having a designated area (or areas) where school materials stay and serious work gets done.
Make Sure Your Child Is Familiar With Their Technology
From touchpad laptops, to printers, to how to save to a flash drive, spend some time reviewing your home technology with your student. Do they know how to access live lessons and conferences? Can they save a document and upload or email it to their teacher? Are they able to load paper in the printer or change an ink cartridge? Is the touchpad feasible for them or do they need a mouse to be effective? These are all little things we take for granted, but helping your student become more comfortable with these makes the school day manageable.
Set A Schedule
Whether your children are in a school situation where they are logging in for lessons in real-time, or have the option to watch lessons at their leisure, it’s a good idea to set some kind of schedule. It doesn’t have to be incredibly specific or restrictive, but setting a rough outline for the day helps keep everyone on track.
Wherever your student sets up his workplace, help make sure it’s organized. With all things, failure to plan is planning to fail. Stock up on notebooks or binders for each class, writing implements, and any tools or manipulatives your kiddos need. Check with your school for supply lists and make sure you are set up for success!
Do The Prep Work
Our virtual school offers programs like video FAQs, onboarding sessions, virtual open house, and other online options to introduce new students to the processes and protocols of virtual school. We are taking the time to work through them all before the actual first day of school. This allows us all to be more comfortable with the system, instead of just jumping in cold. While these offerings do take time out of what’s left of summer, it’s a worthwhile endeavor, especially for those entering the official world of virtual or online school for the first time.
Keep A Planner
Probably the most important supply you’ll purchase is a student planner. No matter what age your students, a planner is a great way to keep tracks of assignments, tests, and due dates. Encourage your student to fill it out each week and then move through their work accordingly. Not only does this ensure schoolwork gets completed, but it teaches responsibility and accountability as well.
Even though you may be going back to virtual school, parent involvement is still just as important as ever. Make use of the available parent portals and online support groups, Check in with your students (and their teachers as needed) to make sure they are keeping pace and adjusting. Take the time to help them through the days of technology fails, or big feelings. More than ever, our kids need us, and being available to them in these difficult times is a huge gift.
Help Them With Social + Physical Outlets
One of the big downfalls to virtual school is not having access to face-to-face friends. So many of us have struggled with the lack of social interaction over the last months, and our kids are no different. Help them carve out time for activities and friends, in whatever way your family feels comfortable. In addition to school, little man will continue with Scouts, karate and clarinet lessons. We are also encouraging his new love of skateboarding with trips to the skate parks. This gives him a good balance of human interaction, physical activity, and a release from online school.
Stock Up On Grace + Patience
Parents, we are going to need it. This year is going to be unlike anything we’ve ever experienced, and we are all learning as we go. There will be a lot of deep breaths, tears, and big feelings. But there will also be a lot of hugs, and a lot of victories. Lean on your partner, your family, and/or your friends. Find the families in your neighborhood or community who are on the same path as yours. Remember that we will overcome and we will come through this stronger than ever.
And here we go! I’m hoping this will all be more of a great adventure, than an anxiety-ridden struggle, but we will take the hand we are dealt and do our best.
We have already taken control of a situation that was out of our control, and now we are going to ride that wave as well as we can.
What are your best tips for heading back to virtual school?
How are you preparing your family for the upcoming school year?