Back To School?

Ginny Norton
Dec. 24, 2020

First Days of School… One of my earliest memories revolves around my first day of kindergarten. Living outside of Boston, our house was right next to the elementary school. My mom took my hand in hers, and we walked together towards the beginning of my academic career. Donning a new yellow dress, tennis shoes, pigtails, and a yarn lanyard with my name printed in big letters, I was ready to go; in hindsight, I am certain my mom and I shared similar emotions: uncertainty, excitement, and anticipation!

Back to School? As we approach the ‘back-to-school’ season of 2020, it is unclear whether children will experience those traditional ‘back-to-school’ memories. Early childhood programs and school districts are announcing their plans for the 2020-2021 school year. For those who will return to brick and mortar, first-day-of-school outfits will likely include masks, and protocols will include social distancing and intense cleaning.

Whether your child is starting this school year at home or in the classroom, you can help him feel at ease by having open conversations about any worries or concerns he is feeling. Ensure your child that it is natural to feel uncertain, especially for those who are heading out into the world and into a classroom.

Returning to Brick & Mortar? If your child’s school year involves the return to a physical classroom, talk with her about the parameters that will be in place. Setting expectations about the ‘newness’ of sharing space with others (as the pandemic continues) will alleviate worry and the uncertainty of the unknown. Explain the use of protective clothing, such as masks, and the physical distancing that will likely be required. Encourage conversations about how to bond and connect with friends, even with physical distancing in place (mimic ‘air’ hugs and high-fives). Reassure your child about the safety measures that will help prevent germs — like thoroughly washing hands with soap and coughing or sneezing into their elbow, as well as the new cleaning measures schools will employ.

Distance Learning? In some cases, children will start this new school year in a distance learning environment. As many discovered this spring, learning virtually can be hard! It is a challenge to teach and support children struggling to learn, and it’s hard to form trusting relationships over video, chat, and email. In addition, the isolation brought on by the pandemic is not ideal for children who thrive in social environments. Schools implementing distance learning should have a plan for how to engage and connect children socially (video chats, telephone calls, virtual circle times, virtual small groups, etc.) in addition to academically.

Fortunately, thanks to forethought, research, and innovation, there are solutions for early childhood programs. Ignite by Hatch™ is a digital learning platform that provides quality, research-based experiences that enable continuous learning within and beyond the classroom through 203 play-based digital, curricular experiences that engage, instruct, and assess children in 7 domains of development.

We know children are more likely to succeed when parents are involved in their learning. Ignite™ provides a Connected Learning Experience no matter where a child is learning this year; with Ignite™, parents can follow progress, see images of work, and access activities they can do at home. Whether children play in classrooms or from home, all progress is shared with their respective teachers.

No matter how this school year begins, promote the positives: learning new things, building relationships with teachers and peers, and growing within a community of caring learners!