Are you gearing up for the back-to-school sales tax weekend? This year presents some new challenges as schools face choices between reopening for physical attendance, remote attendance or a hybrid model.
When schools closed during the spring, parents and students were scrambling to adjust to an unprecedented situation. Suddenly, both parents and students were working and learning from home. Home networks were maxed out. Carving out work space was challenging. What were your challenges?
This fall we have a chance to look at what worked, what didn’t work, and how you can meet some of those stumbling blocks before school starts. Remember that demand may exceed supply at this time. Look to the schools to see what they have to offer your students, and what you may need to supply out of pocket.
While you’re focused on big ticket items, such as tablets and laptops, you may forget to add some of the smaller ticket items that can make a huge difference for your student. We’ve got a few suggestions for accessories and peripherals that can take some of the stress out of this school year.
Look for some over the ear headphones with a mic instead of ear buds for your student. There can be some marked advantages. The headsets provide at least some noise-cancelling effects, enabling students to hear better. By filtering out background noises, students can focus better. Headsets with a built-in mic allow students to participate in group activities more easily. Wireless Bluetooth headsets allow students to move around. However, there are less expensive kid-friendly wired headsets for younger students who need some encouragement to stay focused on the screen. These headsets start at about $15. Bluetooth headsets start at $50. Minimizing background noise is important for your student, but don’t forget to monitor their volume as well.
Younger students are still developing fine motor skills. If they are having difficulty with their touch pad skills, perhaps investing in a wireless mouse is the way to go. Although these require batteries, most wireless mice have a very long battery life. Encourage your student to turn the mouse off at the end of the day, extending the battery life even more, or invest in rechargeable batteries.
Printer and Scanner
Many households have long ditched the printer. This year, printers found new importance in the household. Worksheets, lesson plans and other information needed to be printed, and parents found themselves at a loss. The price of printers is much lower now, and a decent printer can cost under $80. However, the cost of ink has not matched the cost of the printer. Ink cartridges can cost upwards of $30 each, with a yield of under 500 copies. Suddenly that printer is not much of a bargain. Ink cartridges can be sourced online, and there are good deals to be found. Don’t overlook the value of higher-priced printer that uses an ink tank. While the printer may cost $200 – 400 upfront, one tank of black ink can last well over a year. Don’t forget to pick up a pack of printer paper.
You may prefer to find a multi-use copier that combines a printer with a scanner. Again, there are pros and cons. Depending on how many documents you may need to scan and email to your school, you may find that using an app such as Microsoft Lens works just fine. Lens is free, and available for both iOS and Android.
How is the quality of your laptop camera? The camera on an older laptop may not meet the speed and resolution necessary for the latest internet speeds. Many good webcams are available for under $50, and can make a difference in your child’s learning experience. While they can clamp to the laptop, you may find a desktop tripod is extremely useful for maintaining a steady stream. Wobbly images are not much fun. Many tripods come with an attachment to hold a smart phone. If you have to choose a smart phone over a webcam, a tripod becomes an invaluable accessory.
Network Router Update
Many families found their network router is not carrying the extra traffic load from so many devices accessing it. The first step is to check for firmware updates. If you lease your equipment from your internet provider, they can help you do this. You may find you need to add a signal extender to reach other areas of your home.
Don’t forget the low-tech items, such as notebooks, pencils, pens, and printer paper. Is your student a musician? Think about a music stand. An artist? An easel can come in handy.
When is this?
In South Carolina, the tax-free weekend runs August 7 – 9, 2020. For other states, this link to Kiplinger’s will help you find the date; or you can check with your local state tax office. There are rules about what is eligible for the program, so check with your state government before you go.
Don’t forget personal protection gear, like face masks and hand sanitizer. Cotton face masks can be washed by hand and dried overnight. Whatever your student’s situation this year, we wish you the very best.