Tips for a Stress-Free Back-to-School Experience
It’s back-to-school time for Jersey City students. While last year students were prepping their backpacks and picking out outfits, this year, it’s less about the first-day fit and more about figuring out the best way to make virtual learning as successful and stress-free as possible. We have some tips and resources for parents and guardians putting the finishing touches on their students’ setups while they do their best to strike that happy balance between work, school, and life as families build daily routines in the new normal.
Take the Pressure off School Lunches
One big obstacle many families face with having the kids at home all day is having the time or resources to prepare lunch every day, something conveniently handled by cafeterias before. Luckily, Jersey City public schools are there to remove that bit of stress from a parent’s or guardian’s day with the free school lunch program. Students ages 18 and younger enrolled in JC public schools or over aged 18+ enrolled in school programs with a disability can receive free meals from USDA through Jersey City public schools, starting September 14 extended through December 31. Meals are distributed for pick-up twice a week from 11:00 AM to 1:15 PM on Mondays and Wednesdays – meals for Monday/Tuesday distributed Monday and meals for Wednesday/Thursday/Friday distributed Wednesday – which was reduced from the previous school year’s every day distribution so parents do not need to pick up food more than twice a week. For a list of pick-up locations and restrictions, visit the Jersey City Board of Education’s website for an informational flyer.
For parents interested in other options for serving prepared lunches at home, but don’t have time, energy, or skills to put it together themselves, there are plenty of healthy meal prep delivery services based in Jersey City to take advantage of for guaranteed nutritious meals every day. Boyce Mode prepares a rotating vegan menu of weekly subscription meal plans sized for families or individuals that include everything from smoothies to chickpea and dill rice pilaf to buffalo meatless meatball subs. Busy Bee Organics, based in The Heights, offers a customizable gluten-free weekly meal plan that’s filled with lots of child-friendly treats, like banana pudding, orange chocolate berry breakfast cookies, and even flatbread pizza. Whealth Kitchen uses local farm ingredients in their weekly mix and match fully prepped, “no cook necessary” meal plans with regular and vegan options available, and also offers grocery delivery from their permanent farm store in Journal Square.
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Set Up For Success
Back-to-school shopping for supplies looks a lot different this year for families tackling remote learning. While the following are not necessities for a supportive, at-home education experience, here are some popular items with links to some examples that could make the day a little easier on students and parents alike.
- Foldable desk for easy storage at the end of the school day for homes without extra space and to help students make the disconnect between school and home.
- Charging hub to organize and keep iPads, phones, and other portable electronics charged without surprises throughout the day.
- Tablet holders avoid students needing to hold their iPads or prop them against less reliable items, like soda cans or pillows.
- Noise-cancelling headphones for students and families working from home to promote a sense of privacy and concentration.
- Blue light blocking glasses to filter out some of the potentially harmful light students’ eyes are being exposed to for hours a day.
- Adding parental control software to students’ devices to block inappropriate websites as well as keeping their attention on Zoom, not YouTube, during the school day.
- Back support pillow to add comfort and support to any chair as opposed to investing in an expensive office chair that takes up space.
- Reliable coffee maker (for the adults at home who might see their coffee intake spike as the school year goes on…)
We Get By With a Little Help From Our Community
While figuring out how to balance work, school, and family, it’s OK to need some extra help. There are reliable websites to find local, safe, background-checked nannies and tutors who can take some pressure off parents who cannot be present during school hours or want to give their kids more educational support after hours. Care.com and Varsitytutors.com are two of the top-rated sites with live online classes and personalized one-on-one tutoring. In Paulus Hook, Mathnasium of Jersey City teaches remote lessons and homework help from trained math tutors for K-12 students, while JEI Learning Center offers at-home programs for math, English, and reading and writing to help students stay on track with their online classes.
For those with young children in need of a daycare or before/after care, daycares and activity centers are opening back up with stricter guidelines for in-house students as well as offering remote opportunities for older children, like Hudson Play in Hamilton Park, Smart Start Academy with various locations around Hudson County, and Adventures in Learning near Exchange Place. Bring kids to burn off some extra energy after being cooped up all day at places like My Gym and The Little Gym Jersey City.
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After-School Self Care
At the end of the day, parents and guardians need to relax, too. After doing all they can to ensure their students’ success, that burden gets heavy, so taking time for self-care is just as important as taking time to care for others. We have you covered: treat yourself to a glass of wine or a good meal (while the weather is still beautiful enough to take advantage of all the outdoor eating pavilions); plan a date night away from the kids; plan to do a family day away from devices and give your students and yourselves a break from the screens; check out socially distanced events or just take some you-time to work on new quarantine hobbies with a timer that tells the kids it’s quiet time (even just for a few minutes a day).