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Online Learning: The Best Back to School Supplies When Classes Go Remote

Our new reality requires a whole new approach to what we buy.

The COVID-19 pandemic has turned an annual milestone, the first day of school, into pure chaos. Many schools have delayed reopening, due to outbreaks, and quite a few won’t open for physical instruction at all. This means that remote learning, or distance learning, is once again the reality facing students and their already beleaguered parents. And that requires a whole new approach to buying back-to-school supplies. Instead of whimsical notebooks or trendy backpacks, online learning requires kids to have laptops, tablets, and other tools as they once again turn the kitchen into a classroom.

These headphones have Smart Active noise cancellation, which responds to the environment and automatically turns on if it detects background noise. They're wireless, water-resistant, and have up to 36 hours of battery on a single charge. There are eight built-in microphones, so speaking up in class has never been easier.

Younger kids will dig these colorful wireless headphones, with a volume limit of 93dB and 12 hours of battery life. And they weigh less than a deck of cards.

This 42 page smart notebook is endlessly reusable and lets kids send their notes to Google drive, Dropbox, Evernote, box, OneNote, Slack, iCloud, or their email. Which means that whole 'dog at my homework' excuse won't ever work again.

This 10 inch touch-screen calendar gives your entire family instant access to schedules and deadlines. It's a Wifi-connected digital calendar that automatically updates events, to-dos, and lists.

This LED desk lamp has five color modes and seven brightness levels. You can tilt the head up 135 degrees and swivel it 90 degrees; the base tilts down to 150 degrees and swivels 45 degrees. There's also a built-in USB port to juice up devices.

Instead of a boring chair, get this inflatable ball chair. It encourages kids to sit up straight and work on their posture, without even noticing it.

You need a printer. Let us repeat: You need a printer. This one churns out 20 pages per minute, plus you can copy, scan, and fax (yes, that's still a thing). One ink cartridge will yield roughly 300 pages. Plus it works with Alexa and Google Assistant.

A fantastic workhorse of a laptop, this one has a 15.6 inch HD display and a backlit keyboard. At just over four pounds, it's sturdy enough to last but lightweight enough to be toted from room to room. It runs on the Windows 10 Home operating system, and you get up to 10 hours of battery life.

Part laptop, part tablet, the IdeaPad's swivel design makes it great for kids who will be working on a variety of surfaces. It has a 14-inch screen, a fingerprint reader and a privacy shutter on its webcam so that you can rest assured you child is safe. You get roughly eight hours' of battery life.

If you'd rather get your kid a tablet, bear in mind that kids aren't great at typing. Get them this fantastic wireless (and silent) keyboard, which works with PCs,Macs, Chrome OS, Android, and iOS.

This 13 inch case fits with iPad Pro 12.9 inch, MacBook Air, MacBook Pro, Galaxy Tab S 12-13 inch, Chromebook 12-13 inch and other laptops up to 13 inches. But here's the thing. It protects against everything: Heat, cold, water. And thanks to its military-grade shock protection, even when your kid drops his or her device, it will survive.

This adjustable desk for kids won't win any beauty pageants. But it's damn practical. It can be raised or lowered from 21 to 31 inches, and it has a split top that tilts up to 75 degrees. The dimensions are 44 x 28 x 30 inches.

This small but mighty camera lets parents check in on their kids to make sure that they're actually, you know, doing math instead of playing Roblox. You can see, hear and speak to kids from your phone or tablet.

Kids can use this genius magnifier to read text, review photos, and look at objects at five times magnification, and move it across a flat surface to see whatever they want up close and personal. Especially ideal for reading dense textbooks, or looking at scientific photos in great detail, this LED magnifier lets kids get a five-times magnified view of anything they want. The magnifier comes with two lithium ion batteries.

Taking notes sucks. So make it a little more fun with this notebook, which has an elastic closure band and inner storage folders.

A dry erase calendar like this one is an easy way for kids to see what they have to do and when they have to do it.

The palm-sized stapler is on the smaller side, so it will work well for a few pages—the company recommends fewer than 12. But what it lacks in capacity, it makes up for in cuteness. Besides, your kid's not writing a term paper anytime soon. Sold individually or a set of four.

For accident-prone little kids, ceramic scissors are the way to go, because they minimize cut-related mishaps. These ceramic scissors have a rounded tip, cut through everything from cardboard to fishing wire, and have comfort-grip handles that work for both lefties and righties.

These are the coolest pencils we've seen, and kids will still be taking notes and writing assignments by hand. Choose between cactus, safari, or woodland wood pencil sets, which won't improve penmanship but certainly will make writing more enjoyable.

The Best Back-to-School Supplies For Kids Doing In-Person Learning

Some schools will, in fact, be open for in-person instruction. If that’s the case in your district, and if you plan on sending your kids, the following items are smart to have on hand.

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  1. Do you plan on sending your kids back to school this fall?
    Yes. I trust that our schools are taking precautions.
    No. We don't feel that proper precautions are in place.
    I'm not sure yet. It depends on how things progress.
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Load your kid up with hand sanitizer and more hand sanitizer, if hand-washing stations aren't readily available. After a shortage, stores are now well-stocked. The CDC recommends washing with soap and water for at least 20 seconds or using an alcohol-based hand sanitizer with at least 60 percent alcohol.

An even handier option is this spray, made with 80 percent alcohol; it fits easily into a backpack.

These super-soft cotton masks are sized for younger kids, and are cute enough they'll want to wear them.

Snug and comfortable, this face mask has elastic ear straps and water-resistant outer layer.

Why this backpack? It's one of the few that's this well-made while still being machine washable. And you'll want to wash it aplenty. It has water bottle pockets, a zippered main compartment, zippered and padded laptop/tablet compartment, zippered front folder pocket, zippered side-access front pocket and soft-lined top accessory pocket for phones.

Kids, for the most part, will be eating lunch in their classrooms. Make the process more seamless with this insulated lunchbox, which is incredibly easy to clean. Just wipe it down. It fits a sandwich, fruit, and multiple snacks.

With this water bottle, the devil is in the details. It's sweat-proof, unbreakable, a carry handle, and a spout that pops back in when your kid is done drinking. Which means, no leaks.

Kids won't be sharing pencils or pens, so get a case for your kid's supplies. These are plastic and can be easily wiped clean.

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