Attitude is everything as we step into the 2020 school year. Many parents are overwhelmed by the fact that they'll have the responsibility of educating their kids, and many kids are disappointed that they can't see their friends. Things will not be the same; there's no doubt about that. But that doesn't mean we can't make back-to-school exciting. In our home, we're giving homeschooling a shot, and while this is different for all of us, we're embracing it the best we can.
Let's take back-to-school shopping, for example. Each year, my kids look forward to picking out their own new outfits and supplies in person, but this year, we made it equally exciting by going the online route. I took both my son (8) and daughter (6) with me one by one as we snuggled into the couch to shop. I grabbed the iPad, and we got to browsing. My son loved choosing his new planner, gel pens, books, and special projects like a woodworking kit he'll get to do. My daughter, on the other hand, was stoked to pick out her "school" clothes even though she isn't even physically going to a school. I watched her as she scrolled through and chose leopard-print leggings and floral dresses to pair with some perfect cat flats. Not only did this get them enthusiastic to head back to school, but it also gave me the opportunity to spend some one-on-one time with them, too.
Another thing we're doing to try to get the kids to buy into a happy school year is to empower them to own their education. For example, as we planned our daily routine, my kids were a part of that. With a little facilitation from me, they decided that they wanted to start their day with Mom reading to them. I gave them a nudge by telling them that we don't even have to do school inside — that's when their imaginations really took off. "Oh! You can read to us while we swing in the hammock!" my son said. "We could go to the nature preserve and learn there for the day!" my daughter squealed. By simply giving my kids a little power, they truly began to feel eager about all of the freedom that comes with learning at home.
I'm also trying to boost my kids' attitudes by letting them grow interests in new hobbies we didn't really have the time for before. We're embracing some of this free time, so that my kids can become passionate about new activities. My daughter will be taking figure skating lessons for the first time (safe and socially distanced) while my son will pick up tennis and hone his baking skills. And who knows? Maybe they'll find a new hobby that they will carry with them into adulthood.
On the big day, we're going to do all of the little things we typically do on the first day of school. Yes, I'll make the "First Day of School" sign and take the cheesy picture on our front porch just like we do every year — even though they could just stay in their pajamas. I'll also make cinnamon rolls to kick-start the morning, and the kids will put on their favorite back-to-school outfit. Finally, after our first full day learning at home, we'll travel somewhere local (and safe) to get ice cream. Just because school is different this year, doesn't mean that all of the joy from the little things needs to disappear. It just means we need to find more innovative ways to include them.
So, when the kids complete a math unit, perhaps we'll have a little party. After they go up a reading level or complete a science experiment, we'll find new ways to celebrate our learning. When holidays roll around, we'll still celebrate in our own little ways. Instead of a Halloween party at school, we'll read ghost stories around our bonfire drinking apple cider and eating donuts. No, it's not going to be all rainbows, but with a positive mindset, our kids just may remember it that way.