What if Our Children Can’t Return to School this Fall?

Here are creative suggestions for preschool thru elementary aged students

As a former elementary school teacher, who later became a private tutor for grades K-12, I can assure you there are ways we can be more prepared if our children aren’t able to return to school this fall.

In this article, I focus on the possibility of not having our children return to school in August or September because of COVID-19.

Ask yourself, what worked for you before and what didn’t? Make a list of pros and cons. Reframe the negative aspects the best you can. Our attitude as parents will foster our children’s perspective.

Granted, this last spring wasn’t ideal. Yet, how can we prepare to make it better if we need to repeat another round of ‘homeschooling’ this fall?

I’m huge on being prepared. Probably to the point of being overprepared. So, here are some suggestions. I’d love to hear your ideas too.

Reevaluate your child’s learning area.

  • What was missing before that you wish you could do differently?
  • Was the area free of as many distractions as possible?
  • Did my child learn better at the kitchen table or did they do better closer to where I was working?

If you have more than one child was it better to separate them or keep them at the same table?

Sometimes it is hard to separate them because of limited space. One solution is to create a privacy partition. I have found many children work better with less visual distractions.

You can easily make a privacy partition from a medium to a large cardboard box or you can order one from a teaching supply store, such as Lakeshore Learning. You can also use a tri-fold poster board, like the kind students use for science fair presentations.

I prefer the handmade versions made from a box. Either way, let your child decorate their personal portable classroom, on the outside and inside. Let them be creative.

Stickers are a simple motivational tool.

I love stickers! This might seem old school but using stickers as a reinforcement is a practical tool and really helps children to stay motivated.

Try to find stickers that are fun and colorful. There are super inexpensive ones at the Dollar Store. Stickers will give a child instant positive reinforcement for completing assignments and staying on task. These stickers can be bought now and tucked away so they remain a special surprise.

One of the easiest ways to use this tool is to create a sticker chart. Give your child stickers when they’ve:

  • completed an assignment
  • you notice how focused they are
  • how they stay with a rather difficult assignment
  • just for be amazing

Younger children can count how many stickers they have gained and for older elementary children this can lead to graphing the stickers by color, size, shape.

Offer special stickers — like the larger ones or scented ones. These can be given at the end of the week for a job well done.

Start buying school supplies soon!

First, take an inventory of what school supplies you already have and then make a list of what you need.

The most common needs are:

◻️ Notebooks, lined paper, graph paper, binders, folders, sticky notes

◻️ Paper, pens, pencils, erasers, and a pencil sharpener

◻️ Poster board, colored paper

◻️ Art supplies such as: glue, glue sticks, paints, crayons, markers

If you can purchase a few things every other week, it’s less stressful financially. Plus supplies are more likely to be available.

Big box stores can offer incredible deals. However, you might not need that much. Consider splitting the order with a few neighbors or other students in your child’s class.

If you can afford to order more, please donate your surplus to a local community center, Boys and Girls Club. Or ask your church, synagogue, or temple if they know who would benefit. I’m sure they will have someone in mind to give to.

Have parents volunteer mini virtual classrooms.

First start by having one or two parents in charge as class parent(s). Next create a phone and email tree with your child’s classmates. Include birthdays! This will help create a cohesive virtual community.

Then ask parents to volunteer and host virtual mini classrooms (5 or less students) to work on an assignment together such as reading practice and helping with math lessons. These smaller group sessions will connect students for that much needed ‘face-to-face’ learning. Smaller groups are also less intimidating in the virtual (and real) world. These mini sessions need to be short: 10–30 minutes is plenty of time.

Ask parents what skills they’d like to share.

Ask parents if they have a specialty, they are willing to share with the students. This could be done once a week as part of social studies and cultural awareness.

What parent loves math, science, language arts? Who has a background as a veterinarian? doctor? nurse? accountant? biologist? chemist? cook? driver? physical therapist? seamstress? computer programmer? What languages are spoken in your classroom?

For example, who enjoys teaching art and is willing to put together art kits? The students can then pick up the kits safely and then have the parent offer a virtual session to complete the art project. Each student can take a picture of their artwork and submit it. Another parent can keep a file of these projects for an end-of-year class keepsake.

Have a virtual class pet!

This one makes me laugh. I thought of it the other night. Having a virtual class pet could be hilarious.

Each week a student will take care of the virtual pet. As part of the job, this could include writing a short daily journal about the pet.

For example, “I fed Buster, 7 jellybeans and he grew really big and started talking to me. This is what Buster said to me….”

What a golden opportunity for a creativity writing exercise!

Additionally, have a parent volunteer save the individual journal entries to create a sweet book end-of-year memento authored by the students!

More resources, ideas and tools.

In April, I wrote an article: Education and Well-Being Resources: Ideas and tools to use at home. I wrote about creating boundaries, teen’s special needs, and included many free educational resources. Here’s the link.

In summary, it is important to consider the strong possibility that our public and private schools may not be able to open or if they do open there is a chance they will have to close again because of COVID-19. Taking time now will help us to feel a little more in control and better prepared. The suggestions above are practical and also creative. This is a time to employ as much creativity as possible. We need our children to know they are safe and can still learn.

Carolyn Riker is a writer, licensed psychotherapist, former teacher, and a lover of learning & words! She received her MA in Psychological Services and Counseling from Marymount University, Arlington, VA. She continued her post-graduate studies at Johns Hopkins, Baltimore, MD. She’s on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram and her 3 books are available on Amazon.

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Dreamer. Poet. HSP. Empath. Licensed MH Therapist. 3 books published. 3X Top Writer. Love espressos & my chunky cat. www.carolynriker.com

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