Do you have a little one about to enter school? Going to the “big kids” school is a significant step up from kindergarten and a rite of passage for many youths. However, when it comes to preparing my first grader for this milestone, I’m facing many challenges — as I’m sure other parents are, too.
In a COVID-19 world, adults and children alike have schools about the 2020-21 year that go beyond the typical first-day jitters. Here’s how I’m preparing my budding first grader for the upcoming school year — these tips may also help your family.
1. Talking Openly About Their Fears
If you look at social media, you’ll notice that even adults have many unanswered questions and fears about the novel coronavirus. Children have active imaginations, and they might feel terrified by news and misinformation alike. Remember when you believed that stepping on a crack genuinely would break your mother’s back? Kids have an even harder time with fake news than adults, and rumors can cause panic.
Clear the air by having an open and frank discussion about your fears. Remember, children react both to what you say and how you say it — try to remain calm. Provide them with accurate, age-appropriate information and inform them that they can come to you with any concerns.
2. Immersing Them in Real-Time Virtual Training
Like many districts, my school is still struggling with how to manage coronavirus concerns. They’re considering virtual options, and I’m readying my first grader for this possibility. To prepare my child for online classes in real-time, I sought webinars that we could attend together. I also assigned the occasional YouTube video and asked her to summarize what she watched to help her practice working on assignments independently.
3. Reviewing Safety Rules Regularly
Every trip to the grocery store is an opportunity to reinforce social distancing rules, and I try to take advantage as often as possible. My daughter loves the arrows and neatly outlined spots where people stand in line. I remind my eldest that she’ll follow the same procedure when lining up for lunch or recess.
While my youngest is too little to wear a mask — the Red Cross doesn’t recommend them for children under two — my oldest, fortunately, presents no resistance. We discuss the right way to wear them, and we make it a game. Instead of pretending to be bank robbers, we’re the health crusaders donning our superhero costume and protecting innocent lives.
4. Giving Them Input on Options
Fortunately, our family has several options to choose from when it comes to where to enroll. We’ve opted for public school, but it’s comforting to know that virtual charter schools exist free of charge. Religious schools offer another option. I realize that too many choices can overwhelm children as well as adults. However, I did narrow the choices down to two and asked my daughter for her input.
5. Teaching Them Independent Study Skills
Is your school considering doing a hybrid virtual and in-class model? To maintain social distancing initiatives, some districts have students attend every other day or even every third week to reduce numbers on campus. During the remainder of the time, they work independently from home.
I’ve doubled down on time management with my little one. Although it contains few appointments, we practice writing down assignments in a planner and estimating the time needed to complete tasks.
6. Honing Their Technological Know-How
Virtual learning demands technological know-how. Fortunately, kids take to gadgets like ducks to water. We’re fortunate, but children from low-income families often find themselves further marginalized if they can’t afford the tools their children need to learn in a COVID-19 world. If you find yourself struggling, investigate whether you are eligible to receive a free device from a local charitable organization.
7. Reconnecting With Old Friends Virtually
I’m proud of my daughter for handing shutdowns like a boss. Yes, she cried when she found out our local parks and recreation department canceled some of her favorite summer activities, but for the most part, she has adjusted to life in relative isolation.
One tip that helped her feel less lonely? Virtual play dates with her friends. I’ve lost count of how many games of Zoom “horse” we’ve played with Nerf basketballs. We log in and use the magic of technology to keep our scores honest and create a sense of togetherness.
8. Buying a Ton of Supplies
While many grocery stores have restocked their shelves, some items remain in short supply. Although it’s early in the season, I’ve started stocking up on hand sanitizer and wipes every time I stop to pick up fresh vegetables for dinner. Teachers in many districts already send out wish lists, and I expect rather lengthy ones this year. Kids can go a bit crazy with the gel, but it’s critical to enforce hygiene.
Preparing My First Grader Presents Unique Challenges This School Year
It’s always challenging to prepare your first grader for their initial day at “big kids” school. The eight tips above are helping me — I hope they work for your family as well.