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Back-to-School (A Whole New World)

My kids are going back to school in person. Our county was one of the only in our area to have a choice. We were the only county with a full-time in-person option. To say it was a hard decision is an understatement. It consumed my thoughts for weeks. I polled other parents, read articles, looked at health data, even asked the pediatrician for his opinion. All of this to say, if it was that hard for me, I know it was much harder for many others. Regardless of how your kids will be learning this year, I support you. The best way I know how to help is to offer some back-to-school organizing tips.

We should all be prepared for virtual learning. As this year taught us, anything can happen. Instead of being caught making (even more) adjustments, create an in-home workspace to lessen the stress if you have to go from in-person to virtual. Best-case scenario, it gives your student a great place to do homework.

To provide structure and consistency, choose one designated area for your student to work. This will look different for everyone. It could be a desk, kitchen table, or folding table. If you’re having trouble finding a space, consider repurposing an unneeded closet or moving an unused piece of furniture to make space for a work area. The space should be distraction-free and have good lighting, a comfy chair, and a power outlet. They will need enough workspace for their device, as well as any supplies they need while learning. Post the schedule for your student so they can easily reference it as they’re getting used to virtual learning.

If you have a desk with drawers, use drawer organizers to give easy access to pens, pencils, markers, glue sticks, and other small supplies. Use file sorters or sturdy hanging files to hold paper and notebooks. If you have an extra drawer, store PE equipment there, or in a floor basket. Keep the most reached for supplies on the desktop.

If your workspace doesn’t have built-in storage, a caddy or divided turntable are great solutions to hold writing utensils, glue sticks, and other small supplies. Use file sorters or magazine files on the desktop to store notebooks. If you have a small surface, look for stacking solutions to take your storage vertical.

If your work surface isn’t big enough for a device and supplies, or your workspace pulls double duty (like a kitchen table) a rolling cart is a lifesaver. This gives easy access to supplies while learning, and can be rolled into a corner or closet when the school day is done. Use bins and sorters to organize supplies on the cart.

In our middle school, students won’t be able to use lockers, so make sure your kid has a sturdy backpack to carry everything if they’re going back in person. If your student takes lunch, consider a lunchbox that clips on instead of taking up valuable real estate inside the backpack. And of course, there are the masks. Have your student take at least one extra mask to school in case one breaks. Find a pouch with two sections, or two pouches - one for clean masks and one for dirty. Label both clearly so there’s no confusion.

For hybrid learning which includes in-person and virtual, you’ll need the workspace AND the backpack. Post a schedule where it’s visible for you and your student(s), so there’s no confusion. If you’re able, we recommend having double supplies - one set for the backpack and one for the desk.

In all of these situations, try to prepare your kids for what the changes are going to be like for them. Make sure they understand why the new rules are important. Kids are pretty resilient, and I have faith that we can all come out alright on the other side of this. I also know that my husband and I are going to have to find patience we’ve never found before as our kids adjust. Let’s give them, each other all of the grace and support we can.

Don’t forget to do the fun things that come along with the start of school. Take the kids supply shopping (even if it’s online). Pick out the first-day outfits and take the pictures.

And to the teachers - THANK YOU.

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