Back to School 2020 isn’t exactly the new beginning we’re all used to.
By now, most parents would be gearing up for the school year schedule, filling in the calendar, checking supply lists and going through the closets to figure out what still fits — in a normal year, that is. This Fall is anything but normal. And with some families still unsure whether their kids will even go back to school in person at all, trying to make plans of any kind feels like a recipe for frustration.
Take me, for example. I’m the Content Manager for The Family Dinner Project. One of my personal habits (okay, obsessions) is meal planning. I’m so devoted that I carry a spiral notebook everywhere I go, and I plan full months of dinners at a time — usually while sitting in parking lots and waiting rooms while my kids finish up whatever activities they’re doing. If anyone should be ready to go with a mealtime game plan for this Fall, it would be me. But…nope. All the freezer meals I usually cook and stash away each August? Not happening. Lunchbox supplies bought and organized? Get real. At this time last year, I had the months of August, September AND October already color-coded on my calendar, and dinners planned for every single night. (I told you I’m obsessive.)
This year? I don’t even have half of August straightened out. I’m so busy refreshing my email inbox looking for news from the school district and my kids’ athletic and performing arts organizations that I can’t even think about cracking open my spiral notebook to plan some dinners. And the truth is that the more unsure I feel about plans outside our home, the less I feel able to plan for things inside our home.
But the school year will start soon, in some way — even if it starts with my kids sitting at their shared desk space just across the room from me, the way we ended in June. And when it does, even if things haven’t changed very much, I know what we all really need is to feel that sense of a new beginning. We will need a way to separate the old from the new, eighth grade from seventh, autumn evenings from summer picnics. And because things could change from day to day and minute to minute, yes, we will need some sort of plan.
So after lots of thought, here are the things I’m thinking about trying in our house this back-to-school season. It may not be the back-to-school we were hoping for, but I hope we can make it the back-to-school we need.
There’s no way to fully ease the anxiety of a back-to-school season that feels so different from what we’re used to. But remembering that rituals and routines are good for us — kids AND parents — is one place to start. A little structure at home may be the one thing we can plan for.
The Uchida-Wood family knows all about getting the kids to help out with dinner! Check out how 5-year-old Taka and 3-year-old Genji contribute to family dinners.
Dinner can be easy, fun and creative when you make a meal that’s also an art project. Try these Raggedy Ann Salads for a kid-pleasing low-cook meal on busy nights.
Sometimes it’s easier – and more enjoyable – to tackle difficult topics or big questions from kids when you have a little help from movies or TV. Spend some family time together enjoying our latest Dinner and a Movie recommendations, about an important subject that’s been on everyone’s minds lately.
When Back-to-School looks so different from years past, you need some new questions to ask at the end of the school day. Try these conversation starters to help ease everyone into the 2020-2021 school year.