Back-to-school season, usually a time of fresh starts and new beginnings, is bringing more of the same in 2020: anxiety, uncertainty, and chaos.

National Back to School Prep Day happens on August 15 each year and usually captures the exciting new beginning that is the start of a new school year. However, as schools here in the Berkshires, throughout Massachusetts, and across the globe grapple with the challenges of reopening and balancing in-person and remote learning, it looks like there is a lot more to prep for this year.

National Today, the internet's #1 authority on holidays, and Brainly, the world’s largest online learning and homework help community, have combined forces to offer a few really great tips to help parents and students get ready for school regardless of whether your children will be working remotely or attending in-person class sessions:

1. Talk to your child about how this school year will be different. Be upfront about the situation and empower your child to make smart choices and do their part to help stop the spread. Things like hand washing, social distancing etiquette, and mask-wearing should be discussed. Having an open conversation and presenting all the facts will make both you and your child feel less anxious.

2. Create a learning command center. Spend some time creating a space in your home for your child to study or do homework. If you don't have a spare area, or if you have multiple children who want to work together, create a way to store school supplies in a cart or container that's portable and can be used at the kitchen table or anywhere.

3. Build excitement and inspire positivity. While getting mentally prepared for this back-to-school season may be a particularly tough assignment for many people, it still deserves to be celebrated. Consider having a back-to-school themed TV marathon, creating an end-of-summer countdown with construction paper loops, or planning out a special breakfast for the first day.

4. Make face masks fun (and familiar). For those returning to in-person classes, have a mask for every day for your child, and make sure they like the mask and feel comfortable wearing it for extended periods of time. Cloth face masks come in countless patterns and colors, and kids can use them to express their personal style while staying safe. Pro tip: it's also smart to make sure kids have an extra mask in a plastic baggie every day just in case something happens to the first one.

5. Tech tools to enhance learning. Students who are starting out the first part of their fall semester online may find themselves needing some extra help on assignments, and luckily there are plenty of safe online resources they can utilize. Brainly is a social online learning and homework help community that brings all the benefits of in-person study groups into a digital format. Another resource is the popular Dictionary.com which is perfect for students needing to look up definitions for vocabulary words, synonyms or antonyms, as well as wanting to expand their personal word bank with a word of the day. There is also MyHomework Student Planner, a digital resource where students can input due dates of assignments, homework deadlines, and reminders for almost anything under the sun to help them stay on top of their work and feel confident in class.

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