6 Creative Ways to Make the Start of This Strange School Year Special

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by Meg Flanagan

School is starting soon–maybe–across the US. Even if school buildings open up for in-person teaching, this will be an academic year like no other. It’s going to be strange, for sure.

The good news?

You can still make the start of this strange school year special with creative ideas and new twists on familiar routines. Here’s how.

Homeschooling, virtual schooling, in-person schooling or something different? No matter what this year's plans are, here's how you can start the year off with a celebration. #jomygosh #military #school #homeschool #virtualschool #covid #pandemic #coronavirus #covid19 #teaching #kids

1. Create a New At-Home Learning Station

Let’s face it, virtual school is something that’s not going away anytime soon. We were all caught off-guard in March and April during the rapid change to at-home learning. As you prep to move at least a percentage of your child’s education to your home, it’s time to get everything shipshape and freshened up.

Mark the start of the new school year by creating a cool learning station for your child or children! Grab:

Creating a new, streamlined space for learning–even a space that is shared–will help make the start of the school year special.

2. DIY Snack Station

Whether your child is heading back to school for real or continuing with at-home learning, they’ll need snacks. Help make that process simpler by setting up a place where they can self-serve.

Not only will your kids adore getting their own food in their own time, but it will save you time, too. If you’re working from home while juggling at-home learning, a self-serve snack station will prevent the kids from constantly asking for food. For families sending kids to school in-person, a snack station will streamline your busy mornings. Plus, special snacks can help to make this unusual school year feel a little more normal.

Let the kids decorate and stock the bins or containers with you.

3. Funny Back to School Portraits

One of the traditions in our house is the first day of school photo. My kids pose with their chalkboards, outlining their future goals and favorites, as they embark on a new level of learning.

Let’s be honest though: this new school year is like nothing we’ve ever experienced. For starters, a lot of kids may be learning at home. Or there could be another spike of the coronavirus, causing schools to shut down completely again. We just don’t even know.

Instead of sharing a future career or favorite subject, try one of these cute ideas for a fun photo:

  • favorite online learning game
  • new skill they want to learn this year
  • favorite snack
  • favorite part of at-home learning
  • take the pictures in pj’s
  • take a picture with their tablet/computer

4. First Day of School Athleisure Wear

If your family is like mine, you’ve spent a good portion of the spring and summer in your most comfy clothes. For us, it’s been yoga pants and pajamas, 24/7. Seriously, I love a comfy athleisure outfit–and so do my kids!

Instead of splurging on fancy first day of school clothes, go all-in on a new set of pj’s or some fresh yoga pants.

Your kids will thank you, whether they’re going back to school for real or if learning is being done from home. Either way, they’ll be comfy and casual, able to move around in a socially distant manner as needed. Plus, you’ll love the easy washing and interchangeable options of athleisure. Stretchy black pants go with everything and can be mix-matched endlessly.

If you’re working from home, invest in matching outfits for the whole crew! Then take that back-to-school picture while lounging on the couch.

5. School-Themed Face Masks

Face masks are now a part of our reality. Any trip outside of your home pretty much demands that you spend some portion of the time masked. With schools reopening, expect that there will be a firm face mask policy in place. At many schools, students will be required to wash or replace their masks daily. This means that you’re going to want to invest in a few more masks, just in case one gets lost in the laundry.

You could buy or make masks that have/are:

  • days of the week
  • color-coded
  • superheroes
  • school supplies
  • favorite cartoon characters
  • funny smiles
  • favorite animals
  • fun patterns
  • fruits & veggies
  • junk food

With so many creators crafting new masks and tons of amazing fabric patterns available, your child can wear a fresh mask every day of the in-person school week!

6. Gift a Pandemic Survival Kit for Teachers

In the rush to get kids back in schools, it’s easy to forget that teachers and school staff will also be returning to the classroom in some capacity. To be frank, school does not and cannot happen without adults in the building. If you want schools to remain open, keeping teachers and support staff healthy is essential.

To that end, consider gifting a pandemic survival kit to your child’s teachers. You could consider including:

  • fabric face masks
  • cleaning spray, like Lysol
  • cleaning wipes, like Clorox
  • paper towels
  • sanitary gloves
  • several pump bottles of hand sanitizer
  • no-touch thermometer
  • tissues
  • EmergenC or another health aide
  • candy (for stress eating– it’s a thing)

Having teachers prepared with supplies to keep themselves, and by effect students, healthy is essential. Not all schools will be equipped with funds to provide teachers with all the things they need. Gifting a basket or even just a few items designed to maximize sanitation and health will show the teacher that you’ve got their back this year–no matter what.

Keep Reading…

Meg Flanagan is a teacher, blogger and military spouse. She owns Meg Flanagan Education Solutions, an education advocacy service dedicated to serving families on the K-12 journey. You can find Meg on Facebook. Meg is also available as a freelance writer and personal education advocate!

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