It’s about this time when the familiar Staples commercial makes its annual appearance.

You know the one. The kids reluctantly trudge down the aisles of a store, while the parent gleefully dances around to “It’s the Most Wonderful Time of the Year.” The message: those darn, pesky kids are close to returning to school and being out of your hair for a while.

As the 2020-2021 academic season approaches, alas, there is no joy in Staplesland. 

And tell your hair that those children of yours may not be going too far.

With the pandemic still a viable threat, the state and individual school districts are now tasked with preparing for a multitude of arrangements for how school may be conducted this fall and beyond.

How to “do school” is the million-dollar question. Do it virtual? Do it in-person? Do both? Do alternating weeks? Do seasonally in-person?

Do not think I want to be the persons making those decisions. 

Ultimately, because whatever “answer” comes, cannot and will not satisfy everyone. How can it? I ask the four of us what we want for dinner and I get five answers.

(For the record, I voted for both beef shawarma and burritos, so my fault.)

With a first grader and young preschooler-to-be, the decision for my family will be made based on our own comfort level. There are several scenarios that could play out, including homeschooling one or both of them.

Homeschooling is not my preferred option. While we have the resources to make it work, losing out on the classroom experience is something that would bum my kids out.

And for the record: there is no right and wrong answer to how to educate your kids in a crisis. Because this is still a crisis, no matter how favorable the pandemic numbers in Massachusetts trend. 

The only “right answer” is what is best for your own kids, parents. In a world still sifting through a pandemic, there are no clear-cut, one-size-fits-all solutions to academia when the first school bell rings.

If we do homeschool the kids, my wife and I plan to make it the most comprehensive experience our teacher-novice minds can handle.

We’re going to need a plan.

A big plan. A thoughtful plan.

The real fact: we will need to plan for the plan.

In other words, before the official plan is in place, I would suggest putting together a trial course load for your kids. This will help work out any unforeseen wrinkles in laying out an in-home school schedule, while simulating a routine that looks a lot like a school day.

Well, a school day where the dress code looks a lot like whatever pajamas they are currently wearing.

I am designing pseudo-courses to help bring structure. I recommend you do the same. As a bonus, if you play your cards right with the proper courses, it may help you around the house or help explain certain protocols you want the kids to follow.

Take a look at my course catalog and consider Farnsworth University for your own academic needs this August to prepare for the real schoolwork ahead…

Science

“The Effects of Extended Sleep Past 7 a.m. on the Adult Parent”

“Anatomy of a Stomach If I Continue to Give You Nothing But Chocolate Milk”

History

“When Daddy Said to Put the Toys Away 15 Minutes Ago, He Meant It”

“The Roaring ‘20s: A Trip in Time to February”

Reading

“The Complete Works of the Local Curbside Pickup Menus”

“Understanding That a Goodnight Story Isn’t Followed By an Impromptu Cookie or 5”

Spelling

“A is for Allowing Mommy Five Minutes in the Bathroom Uninterrupted”

“G-O T-O S-L-E-E-P: An Introduction”

Math

“Addition Time: Deconstructing Daddy’s Amazon Prime Delivery Bill”

“Percentages: If You Eat All of Daddy’s Chips, What Percent of His Patience is Left?”

Art

“Impressionism: I Would Be More Impressed If You Decided to Paint the Paper and Not the Newspaper Around It”

“Modesty and How to Gently Let Daddy Down Easy When Your Drawing is Better Than His”

Physical Education

“That Trash is Not Going to Empty Itself 101”

“Cross-training to Finish the Entire Walk Without Hitching a Ride over Daddy’s Shoulders”

Music

“Advanced Composition: Songs Beyond ‘Baby Shark’”

“Music Theory: Why is Dad Cranky When the Drums Are Played When he is On the Phone?”

Technology

“How to Assist Daddy with Locating the Remote in the Cushions”

“Typing: As In, Stop Typing and Adding Twizzlers To Daddy’s Online Shopping Cart”

So, yeah, I have some work to do.

Yes, these are silly course ideas, but something concrete can at least get the kids ready and on some form of schedule.

For all those teaching virtually, in-person or some combination of the two, you have my eternal admiration. For students and parents, know that whatever you choose is the right choice. There is no playbook for what we are in the middle of.

The school year will require a tremendous amount of patience and empathy and judgments need to be cast aside. Because when it comes to managing a full school year in a time like this, we are all freshmen.

The circumstances are not ideal, but the compassion for each other can be.

We’ll get through this.

And when we do, we will really, truly, float down the aisles of a back-to-school sale happy at what is to come.