Back to school can be a stressful time for a parent. Take these tips from a mom who has been there before.
If you're anything like me, you may have lots of feelings about the kids heading back to school. They probably range from the sentimental, "You're getting so big!" to the "Summer Camp morning routine is ending! Whoo-hoo!" (Is it just me or is summer camp morning prep harder than regular school days?! While I know my kids love it, I dread sunscreen-applications and swimsuit washes every day. But anywho….)
This isn't my first back-to-school rodeo, but this year will be the first year that two of my children will be in school as my 2nd child will be going into Kindergarten. So this year feels extra special . . . and extra stressful. In addition to emotionally preparing my strong-willed middle child for the fact that he will have more structure than he had in daycare, there are other preparations I will be making. These include things like figuring out the weekly plan for their lunches, making sure they have reminders for everything they’d surely forget, and the dreaded scheduling of field trips and parent-teacher conferences around my busy work schedule. My husband and I both work full-time and have a 3rd child in daycare, so I know a thing or two about trying to make things as simple as possible—or I'd probably be in the fetal position instead of writing this blog post. While I (IN NO WAY) will pretend to be the perfect put-together Mom, below are some of the preparations I plan to make the next few weeks to make our back-to-school as easy as possible:
- Have classroom supplies delivered to my house: Nothing sounds more painful than rummaging through bins of glue at my local store with 23 other Moms at 9PM at night, trying to cross all the things off of the classroom supply list- only to find out they only have black dry erase markers when I needed the multicolor pack. I plan to add all of these items to my online cart and have them delivered in 2 days, pack them up in a pretty bag and send them on into school. Because Elmer's glue and Kleenex are the same if I buy them online vs. in the store, I don't need to hand-pick those things nor do I want to.
- Letting my kids choose the specific PackIt lunch box they want: If you're not familiar with these lunch boxes, they're game changers. No more losing a minimum of 2 ice packs a week to the dreaded school lost and found. These lunchboxes come with the ice packs built into their design, and they go in the freezer every night to come out and be packed every morning- keeping my kids' lunches cold all day. This hack also means I don't have to head to the store to pick and feel every lunchbox to choose the right one- online deliveries again for the win.
- Bulk-buying some snack options and putting them in a place where kids can choose them: Every morning for four years, I've struggled with what to pack in a lunchbox. My latest solve was to create a specific formula that works for us and can be iterated on every day. This includes a sandwich/wrap by me, a prepared bag of veggies (done on Sunday night), a fruit cup/banana/pre-cut apple, and a bag of chips, pretzels, pita chips, etc. selected by my kid. Snacks are easily accessible in the pantry, veggies in the crisper, and my kid is able to choose the mix that works for him. That limits my morning stress to a sandwich or wrap, and the rest is up to them.
- Create a spot for homework and reminders: If I'm being honest, I've still struggled to keep the reminders, homework, and artwork at bay on my kitchen counter the past four years. Now that I'll have two children in school- I can no longer ignore the clutter that this will bring into my house. I've already cleared a drawer in my kitchen for these items with the hope that A) I'll know where they are when they scream, "where's my project description?!" and I can work on hanging or filing artwork away each weekend without it being clutter I have to look at all week. Which leads to my next suggestion….
- Buy a bin with grade-specific file folders for memorable items: I did this project years ago, and I'm so happy I took the time to do it. As mentioned previously, paperwork is the death of me. There are some projects and report cards that I would like to keep but struggled with where they go. I used this tutorial from A Bowl Full of Lemons and created waterproof plastic tubs to create an organized place for all of my kids' memorable items. I file away things on the weekend that I think we may want later, and throw the rest of them out. It's so worth the time it takes to set it up- promise.
- Get the kids’ bedtime schedule back to normal before school starts: I don’t particularly want to deal with tired children the first week of school or children that won’t go to bed, so I push bedtime up to the school night time about a week before the big first day. I’ll occasionally get some fuss because “it’s still summer,” but getting back in the swing of things early makes life easier for everyone, especially the kids when they try to wake up on the first day of school.
- Take inventory of clothes and toss the things that don’t fit anymore: Your kids, like my kids and everybody else’s kids, are surely rapidly outgrowing the clothes you only recently bought them. I usually take a Saturday or Sunday before I begin school shopping and spend it inventorying all of their clothes. Have them try on their clothes from last year and separate the ones that no longer fit or that they don’t want anymore. Take these to goodwill or local clothes donation place, so they go to good use. Now you can make a list of new clothing items your kids will need this year.
- Set up an hour of “school time” every day the week before school starts: If your kids are anything like mine, they’ve spent the last few months swimming, playing outside, and doing everything but thinking about school. That’s why I like to make some time in the afternoons for my kids to read or practice writing. This definitely helps them get back into the routine of quiet learning activities before school starts (and gives me some quiet time too, which usually only happens after they’re asleep). Taking a trip to the museum or library the weekend before school starts also helps my kids get back into “learning mode” while also having fun.
- Create a family calendar: With school, sports, and field trips coming up, this is an organization lifesaver. Now that I have to keep track of not one, but two kids in school, and one in daycare, having a calendar with each kid’s daily commitments listed out in a different color is a huge help. I can remember who needs to be where at what time so the baby doesn’t end up at soccer practice while the oldest is at daycare (knock on wood). I also use this calendar to map out homework and screen time for my two older children, so they still have structure afterschool and can take some responsibility in following their schedules.
I hope these suggestions can help you survive the beginning of school! Another suggestion for busy parents: keep your air clean without a trip to the store or a calendar reminder to change your filter. Save your calendar space for soccer practice, orchestra rehearsals, and sleepover plans. Trust me, you'll need it.