1) Do you have kids going back to school and what does that look like? What is your plan?
In our province families have the option to send their kids back to school in person five days a week or to learn virtually. About 80% of the families in our board have chosen in person learning and we are among that group. Earlier this week, our board announced that the first two weeks of school will be a staggered start with the kids attending every other day and off on the other days (no virtual learning). By September 18th, all in-school attendees will be back full-time.
Our kids will be wearing masks and in a cohort with their class. We have no idea who their teachers will be (we might find out Labour Day weekend) or who will be in their class. Rachel is going into Grade 4 and Sam will be in Grade 6, which is the last year of elementary school here. Next year he will transition to a middle school for two years before attending another school for high school.
2) Do you have any current back to school traditions?
The only back to school traditions we have is that both Dave and I walk the kids to school on the first day and we take a first day picture with the sign. The sign tradition is so important to my kids that they made a sign for me on my first day of work with the school board!!!
3) Did you have any back to school traditions growing up?
I think the only back to school tradition we had was to get a new outfit. I also remember shopping for school supplies and new lunchboxes but those were more necessities than traditions!
4) New lunchbox? New backpack? Both?
I bought our kids backpacks from LL Bean when they started JK (Junior Kindergarten) and they have held up so well, we haven't had to buy new ones! Dave's aunt and uncle gave Sam an Under Armor backpack last year and he transitioned to using that one.
Both kids are still carrying the same lunch bag we bought them for JK. Since we have two nutrition breaks, their lunch bags are divided in two so they eat the food from one side during break one and the second side in break two. I don't like acquiring things or spending money unnecessarily so our kids are stuck with these bags for as long as they'll hold up!
5) Any special back to school meals?
We don't have any special meals but I try to keep the menu plan for the first week of school filled with easy to make meals which I know the kids love -- tacos, tuna noodle casserole, grilled cheese & tomato soup -- I don't want to worry about making an elaborate meal, or making something the kids don't like, during that first week.
I also always try to have muffins on hand as they are easy to stick in a lunch box or make a good after school snack.
6) What are the back to school outfits?
We always buy something new for back to school. This year each kid got a shirt. If it's not too hot, both kids will wear their shirts on the first day.
7) Especially this year, how will you stay organized and get into a routine?
During the school year, I work really hard at picking out the kids' clothes for the week with them on Sundays. We also work on making school lunches the night before. Since I am likely working outside the house this fall, for the first time in many years, it will be even more important to make sure we are ready to go for the week. (My job has been on hold while the schools are closed, but you can read more about it here. I am a substitute secretary/librarian for the school board which is an on-call, as needed position.) I know that I will need to make it a priority to get grocery shopping and laundry done on the weekends in case I end up working five days a week.
And we've already dropped the hammer on trying to get into better routines with moving bedtime earlier and getting up earlier. So we'll need to be consistent on that. I'm also really working on trying to get the house organized and cleaned so that we won't have to worry about that (too much) in September :)
8) Do you have any end of summer plans?
We don't have any big plans. Since we flew to visit my parents, although a two week self-isolation isn't required for our province, we've been lying pretty low and not doing much these past few weeks. Next week the kids will be with Dave's parents for two days and then we have appointments the other three days. Does that count as "end of summer plans"?!?!
9) What are you and your kids looking forward to this school year?
I am looking forward to getting back to work, and for the kids to be able to see their friends in person again. We're going to embrace that normalcy while we have it knowing that we may have to switch to virtual learning at some point due to a rise in cases, or even potentially one case in the kids' class or school.
Sam is looking forward to the fact that school is actually happening in person for now and the fact that he is in Grade 6, the oldest kids in the school! Rachel is looking forward to seeing her friends in person again.
10) Do you give teacher gifts?
It is not a tradition in our province (in Canada?) to give teacher gifts at the beginning of the school year. In December we might give a gift (I think we didn't last year but did the year before), but we always try to do something at the end of the school year. We always give a donation in honour of the teacher rather than a particular gift for the teacher. We have given school kits for kids overseas (which you can read more about here) and donations towards building schools overseas (through this organization here).
This year a good friend of mine started a project to diversify the Little Free Libraries in our area. She was inspired by Sarah Kamya, a school counselor in the States. (You can read more about Sarah's US project here and more about our local project here.) So we looked at the registry for our local project and each kid chose a couple of books which reminded them of their teachers. Then we sent their teachers an e-mail explaining what we had done, which books we had chosen, and the kids explained why they picked those particular books.