Heading back to school always poses its challenges for the whole family. Year after year, parents have grown accustomed to handling the cost of shopping lists, the variety of emotions from your child and your own anxiety about your child’s safety. However, this year, in the midst of COVID-19, a new set of worries and uncertainties are arising for parents all over the country.
Recently, the CDC shared their considerations for the 2020-2021 school year but ultimately are leaving it up to local health and government officials to decide what’s best for their district. There are a variety of options being considered – from strictly virtual education to schools reopening just as we remember them, and everything in between. As a parent, you may have to follow your district’s guidelines when it comes to sending your child back to school. However, you may have the power to make this decision yourself based on what’s best for the health of your family.
Many parents are choosing to start the school year completely virtually or even homeschool their children instead. This decision is completely yours and in the midst of this global pandemic it’s important to continue to keep your family happy and healthy. If you plan to take the route of keeping your child at home for school, there are a lot of considerations to ensure that their school routine feels similar to years past.
Upgrading your home
When you’ve made the choice to commit to virtual schooling, it’s important to keep a space in your home dedicated to learning. The frame of mind shifts when you leave home and go to a physical school building; it indicates to your child that when they are there it’s time to learn. It’s vital to your children’s success to try to emulate this at home while schooling.
This physical space for school will look different for every family! If you have a small home or live in an apartment, it may be marked by a desk in your living room or you may be able to convert your basement or a spare room into a classroom. As long as the physical space is there for your child to recognize that this is their learning environment, you are already helping them succeed at virtual schooling.
Upgrading your home may be worth the time, money and effort for this school year. Luckily, there are some ways to make creating a home classroom more affordable and less stressful for you. For starters, when you’re looking around for extra cash to make a home upgrade possible, consider refinancing your mortgage. Not only are interest rates at a record low, making it a great time to apply for a new loan, but you can do this with no cash down by choosing a no-closing-cost refinance. Refinancing can save you money monthly, making it easier for you to create an at-home classroom.
The money you save by refinancing doesn’t have to be used to convert a room in your home to a classroom. Especially for those of you who don’t have the square footage to dedicate to making into a classroom, you can use this saved money toward supplies or additional learning resources needed to educate your children at home.
Funding for supplies
As we know, teachers spend a lot of money on supplying their classrooms with tools for their students every year. When schooling from home, it’s important to be frugal about what you choose to buy in terms of supplies for your child, because it can all add up quickly!
In 2015, studies showed 91% of teachers made investments on supplies for their students, with 10% spending over $1,000 a school year. Educators are able to apply for funding, grants and tax deductions on these purchases, which isn’t possible for a parent. But let’s take a look at some other ways teachers make their classrooms successful on a budget:
- Buy in bulk. Many teachers buy pens, pencils, paper and other necessary supplies in bulk to save on the price per unit.
- Ask for donations. You may be surprised at what craft-lovers or other people in your community may have to give.
- Use a credit card with rewards. If you have to use a credit card for purchases, use one with the rewards of cash back or points toward other common purchases.
Of course, your home classroom will differ from a teacher’s as you likely won’t be educating 20 or 30 children every day. However, it’s still important to save money where you can! Buying in bulk can set you up with supplies to last the whole year and asking for donations can leave you with a fun collection of things you may never have thought to buy!
Doing it right
Like everything in life, virtual school will look different for each family that chooses this method. Whether you work full-time, are a stay-at-home parent or you’re a single parent, there will be unique challenges for everyone this school year. To feel confident that you are doing the best you can while teaching your kids from home, plan as much as possible.
Sticking to a school schedule will help you better plan out your days and will give your child a sense of normalcy. Just like in school, you can create time modules in which you can focus on a certain subject for a period of time. This way, your child knows what to expect of the day ahead and can focus on learning until a scheduled break or lunch time. Additionally, if you have your own job on top of homeschooling, this will help you plan your day accordingly.
We’ve all experienced how different life can be during quarantine and have learned the importance of mental health and general wellbeing. Help your child through these tough times by setting a schedule, laying out expectations and working patiently with them when they are struggling.
Everyone in the country is facing some sort of new challenge this school year. Remember to be kind to yourself and have patience with your children. Whether full-time virtual schooling is mandated or whether it has been your intention all along, preparing financially and mentally is vital for a smooth experience for your child and a successful school year.