Parenting,  School

Thoughtful Changes We’re Making for School in a Pandemic

We live in a pandemic and our kids are going back to school.

Even with 2020 delivering Indian volcanos, Australian bushfires, devastating floods in Indonesia, the death of beloved basketball player Kobe Bryant, Saharan dust storms, and a novel Coronavirus that wreaks havoc on the body, we’re sending our kids back to school. 

Why would we do this?

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I’m Not A Teacher

First off, I’m not a teacher.  I didn’t go to school to get an education degree, I’ve homeschooled before and I suck at it, and my children literally learned nothing with the virtual school they had from March to May this year.  Granted, virtual school was simply to retain the information the kids had already learned in person at school, so virtual learning in the fall will most likely look totally different than what we did in the spring.  But I know me, and I know I’m definitely NOT an elementary school teacher!

My Kids Want to Go Back To School

My kids are extroverts.  They like people.  They like their friends.  They like going to school and learning from a teacher.  They are tired of living in a world where they are allowed to go to the living room or the backyard and that’s it.  They want to interact with other people besides their cranky mom and dad.  When we asked their opinion about going back to school or learning at home virtually, they overwhelmingly wanted to go back to in-person learning.

We Have to Learn to Live in a Pandemic

Finally, we all have to learn to live in a pandemic.  This virus won’t magically disappear and then we can all go back to pre-2020 normal.  In fact, I wouldn’t be surprised if we NEVER get back to pre-2020 normal to be honest!  This Coronavirus has affected everyone’s lives in a way we’ve never experienced before and I think we’ll see some long-term changes in our culture (no more handshaking and normalizing mask wearing for starters).  The sooner we accept the culture changes, the easier it will be to function in this pandemic, so our family is recognizing and accepting the changes and we’re moving forward!

We’re in a pandemic and our kids are going back to school. But we’re definitely talking about the precautions we need to take to make this safe for our family.

Washing Hands

Our first rule for back-to-school this year is washing hands.  Like, after everything.  You open a door knob – wash your hands.  You play outside – wash your hands.  You make an art project – wash your hands.  You eat lunch – wash your hands.  You go to the bathroom – wash your hands.  You give your bestie a hug – wash your hands.  

Not only are we telling the kids this is a rule, but we’re practicing how to do it correctly to make sure those germs DIE!  We’re singing the ABC song (although I REALLY want this adorable timer! It’s so cute and I just haven’t taken the time to order it yet.), scrubbing up a rich lather, and then rinsing all those nasty germs away.  By the time the 2020-2021 school year is over, they may have chapped and bleeding hands but they certainly won’t have any Coronavirus!

Everyone has their own favorite soap they use, and we’re no exception.  I’ve got super sensitive skin, so we use Thayer’s Body Bars at our house.  You can get it from Amazon, but you can also find the Peppermint one cheaper at Target if you want to go into a store and try it out immediately.  They’ve recently redone their formula to include Witch Hazel, and it smells AMAZING now!  I like the Rose Petal kind since I can use it on my entire body (including my face!) and it doesn’t break me out, but the Peppermint one is really great for waking you up in the morning.  Now that they’ve added Witch Hazel into the body bars there’s just a little bit of tang from the Witch Hazel and I love it! 

Buying Hand Sanitizer

If washing hands isn’t an option, we’re going to use hand sanitizer.  We’ll be attaching miniature bottles of hand sanitizer to backpacks and lunch boxes.  We’ll be sending hand sanitizer to the teachers in classrooms.  We’ll be stocking up on hand sanitizer refills.  It’ll be hand sanitizer city at our house and we’ll be hand sanitizing the same way we wash our hands – singing the ABC song and scrubbing so those little germs can’t possibly stay alive.

We saw individual bottles of hand sanitizer at Target for $4 each and you’re only allowed to buy one, so I don’t recommend that!  We’re ordering these hangers to attach to backpacks and then using the refills to keep them full, and I think that’ll be a little more reasonably priced.  There are tons of options on Amazon and you can click here to see all the options. 

Practicing Mask Wearing

Our school is requiring kids to wear masks (cue all the teacher groans) and so our children know that in order to go back to school in person, they will be wearing masks.  But more importantly, WE’RE PRACTICING WEARING THE MASKS.  Like now.  We’re practicing now.  We’re wearing masks during computer time.  We’re wearing masks in the car.  We’re wearing masks during playtime.  We’re practicing wearing masks because these kiddos have to wear a mask for 7 hours a day 5 days a week, and how can we possibly expect them to wear a mask the whole day just BAM – here’s your mask; wear it!? 

So we’re practicing.  We started with 30 minutes during computer time.  We’re working our way up, adding in 30 more minutes every day, and we’re up to 4 hours a day now.    God willing, by the time school starts, wearing a mask for 7 hours a day won’t be an issue, because they’ll be used to it.  There won’t be a continual urge to take it off, there won’t be arguments with us or with their teachers to put the mask back on, there won’t be inappropriate play with the masks, there’ll just be routine wearing of the masks because that is what they’ve practiced at home. Fingers crossed. And lots of praying!

I’ll be making masks for our family because I sew and have a fabric stash handy.  I like having the pipe cleaner across the nose to help the masks fit more snugly so this is the pattern that I’m using, but if you don’t sew, here are some great options from Etsy and Amazon.  I figure if I get 5 masks for each child then they’ll have a mask for each day and we can wash all the masks on the weekends so they’re ready for the next week.  Personally, I think I’m going to get masks to match my work outfits every day, but the kids just wanted fun fabrics. 

Implementing After School Routines

Lastly, we’ll be implementing after-school routines.  My husband and I both work full time so our kids go to the grandparent’s house after school.  One grandparent has COPD and one of our kids has weakened lungs, so we’ve got to be super careful to protect them from this virus.  We’ll have a protocol for backpacks, clothes and you guessed it – hand washing! – to keep the kids and grandparents safe. The after-school routines will be done every day, without fail, until they become second nature and until this pandemic is over.

Our kids are going back to school in a pandemic.  Living in a pandemic isn’t something I’d recommend to anyone, but we are going to learn how to function in a less than ideal environment.  Our kids are going to learn how to keep themselves safe while they’re at school, and they’re going to learn why these habits and routines are important.  They’re going to practice the things they need to do at home so that when they leave the house they can help protect our family from the pandemic.  Our kids are going back to school in a pandemic, and we’re ok with it.

So, how about you?

What are you doing for school this year? Are you sending your kids back? Are you virtual learning? Are you homeschooling? Every family is different with different decision-making factors so I know there will be lots of variability on what families choose to do this year. I’d love to hear your thoughts and rationale on what your family is choosing to do for school this year. Leave me a comment and share your thoughts, and be safe this year!

All the best,

Erin

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