When the world turned upside down in March of 2020, it flipped over a lot of the schedules and rhythms we usually use as the cadence of our days. And nowhere did that seem most evident for a lot of us than in our kids’ school experiences. Whether we had our kids in a traditional classroom or had already been homeschooling them, the landscape suddenly looked very different as the way we were living our lives completely changed, and our kids’ academic and social lives were upended.

“It’s just for a few weeks,” we all thought. “I can do this; I can make it work until the end of the school year. And then summer will be here, and things will go back to usual.”  

And then it didn’t.  

Depending on where you live in the country, the notion of getting the kids back to the classroom this fall is looking far different than you may have thought. Some kids are heading for a virtual-only option, while others are heading into a new semester that will have them with a small group of students, all contained in one classroom for the entire day. Add to that, you may still be working remotely, and it’s no wonder a lot of us are feeling some dread and fatigue when it comes to kicking off a brand-new school year.  

What can you do to put some steam back into the school year’s launch, no matter how it’s kicking off?  

Pick up some new school supplies, even if your schooling-from-home journey is continuing.  

Sure, it’s hardly the fix for the dumpster fire that is 2020, but it matters. It’s a signal that brings your heart happiness, the fresh possibility in a new spiral binder, the heralding of a new year through updated mechanical pencils and clean erasers. Even if your kids are heading back to school sitting at your same old kitchen table, honoring the start of a new year with crisp new materials makes the mundane feel a little more special. And while you’re at it, stock up on a few new things for your work-from-home desk as well. We’re built to appreciate fresh beginnings and new supplies, for yourself and for the kids, can help achieve just that.  

Embrace the new routine.

The day might not look like what you’re used to. That’s okay.

Determine a routine that will be workable and reasonable and dive in. If that means getting up early to work on chores and household needs before launching school and work, great. Or, if you and your kids are naturally more productive in the afternoons, and that would be a better time to try to knock out all the extra stuff, then embrace that. Whether your child is on an abbreviated or staggered schedule in a classroom, or is navigating an online class schedule at home, determine a flow and stick with it. And make sure you are building in ‘time off,’ where school and work get a cease and desist notice so that being home isn’t all work and no play. And don’t forget to keep your faith community in your routine. Whether you’re currently attending church services online or in a social-distanced in-person way, maintaining a time of family worship gives cadence and comfort to your week. 

Incentivize, not just the kids, but yourself.  

Research continues to show that we humans like to press for a prize. It works with the kids, and it can work for you. In our ‘usual’ work and school environments, we often encounter opportunities to be rewarded or acknowledged for our achievements. But in this brave new world of school-and-work-from-home hybrids, we can miss out on those opportunities.

Construct a Surprise Schedule in your Calendar

Intentionally set days to acknowledge your kids, with a ‘Best Pajamas’ award or ‘Craziest Handwriting’ achievement. Make it a mix of serious and wacky. It lets your kids know that you appreciate their flexibility as they navigate a start to the school year that feels wildly different. And don’t leave yourself out in the accolade cold! Whether it’s a promise to yourself to get that favorite coffee drink when you finish a big project for work or a hike on your favorite trail once you get the kids through some algebra facts, make sure to celebrate your own accomplishments in navigating your family through these times.   

Accept early that changes are likely as the year progresses.

Many of us want assurances that once we get this school year rolling, we’ve got it locked in.  

I hate to break it to you, but there are no guarantees.  

We’re already hearing stories of school districts that started out with high hopes and lots of precautions who have already had to reevaluate and suspend in-class meetings. It’s frustrating and discombobulating.  

And, for right now, it will probably be the way things go for a while.   

The sooner we can make peace with the understanding that this upcoming school year could hold some twists and turns when it comes to schedules and possible shutdowns, the faster we can get on with the business of doing life. Yes, there could be some inconveniences and challenges. Yes, it could profoundly impact work schedules and family balance. But to acknowledge that these things could interfere with the flow of the year already gets you ahead of the curve and allows you to take a proactive stance instead of living in a reactive frame of mind.   

This is where leaning into your faith and keeping God in the middle of what feels like your pandemic mess is so critical. When you keep your faith central when circumstances feel uncertain, your ability to stay in a place of peace is so much better.  

Do what’s right for your family.  

What’s best for the family next door, for your kid’s best friend, or whatever the opinions of extended family members or work colleagues, never has the time been more right than to evaluate what works best for your family and head that direction. No one has your family’s unique composition of learning and work styles, health conditions, and overall family dynamic. Sure, take a look at what others around you are doing; there can be some inspiration and troubleshooting ideas there. But at the end of the day, it matters most that you create a heading that helps your family achieve what best for your unique home.