How to get kids back-to-school-ready
With home learning being phased out across the nation, experts warn the transition back to classrooms will take some getting used to - for parents as well as kids.
Re-establishing routines, supporting nervous students and reconnecting with friends and teachers are keys in the days leading up to and early days of a return to school.
Deakin University education expert Elizabeth Rouse recommended families returned to their pre-pandemic routine, including the times for bed, getting up in the morning and beginning a remote learning day, before starting back in the classroom.
"Get back into routines now," Dr Rouse said. "Structure the child's day so they start lessons at 9am, have a break for morning play and a break for lunch just like in a regular school day.
"This will make it much easier to adjust when they go back to school."
University of Wollongong school readiness expert Dr Lyn Cronin said that for those with children already back at school or juggling the staggered return of siblings the focus should be on establishing a routine as quickly as possible and keeping it consistent.
Dr Rouse said some children would worry about reconnecting with friends they had not seen in person for many weeks.
She suggested parents arrange informal catch-ups and share school drop-offs and pick-ups to help their children renew friendships.
Dr Rouse said parents should have "open and honest" conversations with their children about how they felt about going back to school.
"Often parents and children are looking forward to very different things. So hearing what the child is thinking, what they are looking forward to and what they are concerned about is very important," she said.
Parenting expert Dr Justin Coulson said parents should not just tell kids everything would be OK.
"Assuring them everything is OK does not help," he said. "Explore what they are thinking and what can be done to help. Don't try to minimise their feelings of anxiety."
While kids might worry about fitting back in at school, many parents are concerned their children have been left behind academically.
But Dr Coulson said these fears were unfounded.
"I completely reject the premise that our kids are going to be academically disadvantaged because they missed a handful of weeks at school due to coronavirus," he said.
He pointed to research on the impact of missed schooling after the Christchurch earthquake in New Zealand in 2011 which showed students did not suffer academically despite weeks out of school and most not having access to online learning or discussions with teachers.
"They didn't just bounce back, they actually outperformed other students in their final exams," Dr Coulson said.
Dr Cronin urged parents not to "beat themselves up" over how they'd managed home schooling, saying "learning happens in many different ways".
Dr Rouse agreed, saying children would have learnt valuable lessons about resilience and problem solving over the past couple of months at home.
"That learning will position them much better to cope with academic learning," she said.
"They will catch up."
She said teachers were likely to use the remaining weeks of term two to informally assess where students were at, so they could hit the ground running in term three.
Dr Coulson said parents could also take lessons from lockdown.
"Many parents have said to me that the forced isolation and unavoidable slowdown has been a wonderful thing for their family," he said.
"I'd encourage everyone not to speed up again too fast, practise the habits you did in isolation because those habits have brought your family closer together."
KEEP AN EYE OUT
While most children would happily march through the school gate again, kids with mental health issues or who had experienced social issues, such as bullying, could really struggle with the return to school, Dr Coulson said.
"They have felt fairly safe and cocooned at home and now they're back out in the big bad world," he said.
He said parents might also have unwittingly passed on their concerns about the spread of the virus and its impact.
"If a child perceives a high level of concern or worry from their parents, it would not be unusual for them to carry those concerns and anxieties in the schoolyard," he said.
He said children whose regular routines had been severely disrupted during the crisis were also more likely to find readjusting to school tricky, as were children in their first year of primary or secondary school.
"It's almost like having to start all over again," he said. "They were really only there for a couple of months before being ripped out. So the nerves and anxiety will be there again for some of them."
Dr Rouse said students in the middle secondary years were most at risk of disengaging from school and often the hardest to re-engage.
"In this case, having conversations with teachers is really important because then it becomes a partnership," she said.
"Parents shouldn't feel they are in this alone."
BACK TO SCHOOL LUNCHBOX IDEA
HEALTHY ZUCCHINI SUPERFOOD SLICE
●2 tsp olive oil
●1 brown onion, finely chopped
●2 garlic cloves, crushed
●2 carrots, trimmed, coarsely grated
●150g chopped kale
●85g reduced-fat ricotta cheese
●3 zucchini, finely grated, squeezed of excess moisture
●2 tbsp continental parsley, chopped
●150g (1 cup) cooked quinoa
●200g grape tomatoes, halved
1 Preheat oven to 180/160C fan-forced. Lightly spray a 20 x 30cm baking pan with oil and line the base with baking paper, allowing the two long sides to overhang.
2 Heat the oil in a large non-stick frying pan over medium heat. Add the onion and cook, stirring often, for 3-4 minutes or until softened. Add the garlic and carrot and cook, stirring, for 1 minute or until garlic is aromatic. Add the kale and cook, stirring, for 3 minutes or until wilted. Season and set aside for 5 minutes
to cool slightly.
3Whisk the eggs and ricotta together in a large bowl. Add the cooled vegetables, zucchini, parsley and quinoa. Season. Spoon the mixture into the prepared pan. Top with tomatoes, cut side up. Bake for 25-30 minutes or until golden and puffed and firm to the touch. Set aside for 10 minutes, to cool, before cutting into 6 slices.
Originally published as How to get kids back-to-school-ready