Back-to-school survival list, 2020 edition

There’s no doubt about it, the end of the last school year was tough on parents, teachers and students alike. Due to the coronavirus pandemic, schools closed throughout the country, challenging everyone with the task of keeping education going at home — for kids in elementary school, high school and college.

Fall 2020 still looks uncertain. Depending on where you live, schools may or may not be open for in-person learning for the entire term, and it’s extremely likely there will be a continuing need for at-home learning capability for millions of students of all ages.

How can you be ready?

Preparing for uncertainty can be difficult, but it’s best to plan ahead for whatever may happen. It also helps to look back on the past school term to learn from your experience.

What were the biggest obstacles to learning, and how can you and your family improve the home environment to conquer those obstacles? What you learn may also help you improve your work-from-home setup.

The 2020 school supply list

Getting the academic year’s school supply list and heading to the nearest store is a yearly ritual parents know well. This year’s supply list will look different, for sure, and you will likely order all the items online. In addition, what you need may differ from years past — especially if your child or college-aged student has to continue learning remotely.

Review the past months with your kids to assess what made learning at home challenging. Then you can seek solutions to improve the home learning experience for them, and for you.

Noisy home?

Especially if kids have to study in common areas or shared rooms, noise may be a major distraction. Good-quality noise-canceling headphones can help students focus better. Another option is to get top-notch external speakers for listening to videos or lectures — as long as it doesn’t disturb others.

Computer problems?

Apart from improving your internet speed and connection, if possible, upgrading your student’s laptop can make a huge difference. A laptop with a top-grade camera and up-to-date audio features makes using online learning platforms like Zoom a much smoother experience.

Need reading help?

Students who have to lug around large textbooks or who need the flexibility to read in different areas of the home will appreciate a first-rate tablet or e-reader. E-readers are light, portable, easy to use and you can access tons of books for free — including lots of material from local libraries.

Struggle to find good study spaces?

For both students and parents working at home, consider what spaces are available for everyone to study or work. Review the past few months and recall any difficulties you had.

Too much clutter? Poor lighting? Insufficient surface space? Uncomfortable seating? Make a list of what would help solve these pain points, like:

  • Organizing bins, carts or shelves
  • Desktop or standing lamps
  • New table or desk at the right height
  • Ergonomic chairs with lumbar support

Making any of these purchases may seem out of reach when money is tight. A family member may have lost their job, been furloughed or had hours reduced, or you may be caring for someone who is ill.

To avoid getting into further financial difficulties by depleting cash or using high-interest credit cards, there are better solutions. Ask your employer’s HR department if they offer voluntary benefits like low interest installment loans, automated bill payment programs or employee purchase programs using payroll deduction without charging fees or interest.

With purchase programs like Purchasing Power, employees can select from over 40,000 products and services, including top brands of computers, electronics, office furniture and more to make your student’s study-at-home life more productive and comfortable. Check out services and products you may have access to through your employer at www.purchasingpower.com.

If your work-at-home productivity requires a better home study space, investing in the right set-up is well worth it. Be ready for anything you might need this year with a concrete plan.

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