This is the first
year both of my kids will be in school full-time. So my emotions are ranging from, “Mah babies! No!” to “Drinks are on me!” These last days of summer, especially, are getting a little ... rough, shall we say? (If you aren't nodding, please tell me your secret.)
But while I'm
looking forward to having a regular routine again (and a regular writing
schedule), I will miss the long, lazy days of summer with my kiddos. (No, really, I will! In a few weeks.)
dread most about back-to-school season is constantly feeling rushed and
unprepared. There is a saying that goes, “Start as you mean to continue,” and it’s
one I’ve followed since my kids were babies. So in the interest of starting the
school year off on the right foot, here are my back-to-school hacks to make my
life (and hopefully theirs, as well as their teachers’) a little easier. With preparation
(and a little luck), this school year will be a great experience for all of us.
1. Download the school's Google calendar and write all of the pertinent
dates for the school year (not just the ones in September) in your date book, including
the early release days that always catch us off guard.
You now have access to the
school schedule in both digital and paper formats—no excuses for missing
2. Follow the
school's Facebook page, which has frequent reminders of upcoming events as well
as helpful back-to-school information.
Plus you can post a newbie question and other parents will answer it rather than bothering the office staff or teachers.
3. Add the
school numbers in your cell phone so you will have them handy before the first sick day rolls around.
Ditto the school email
contacts, so those beginning-of-the-year school emails don't disappear into your
4. Buy the
back-to-school food staples in bulk (many stores are running
back-to-school sales right now).
I have enough fruit snacks, granola bars,
goldfish crackers, apple juice and dry cereal to hold me for a month. And enough wine for at least two months.
5. Instead of waiting until the end of the school year and Teacher Appreciation Week, plan to take
thank you notes to your kids' teachers on the meet-and-greet orientation days
to let them know I appreciate the work they'll be doing this year.
You might even
tuck a Starbucks gift card in with the notes, because who doesn’t appreciate
coffee in the first frantic weeks of the school year?
6. Minimize first day of school nerves with this game.
Since my kids are
in first grade and kindergarten and we just moved to the area, I’m trying to
minimize the beginning of school jitters by cheerleading them through a series
of questions: “What's your full name?" "What school do you go to?" “What’s your school mascot?”
“What grade are you in?” We just got teacher assignments, so I’ve added, “What’s
your teacher’s name?” I ask my questions with a smile and a “yay!” and a
high-give when they get the answers right.
7. Have the kids pick out their back-to-school outfits before the first day of school.
that first morning is going to be hectic and nerve-wracking, so the less we have to do—like deciding
which Minecraft shirt to wear—the better.
8. Don't plan anything—and I mean absolutely nothing—for
the first week (maybe even month) of school.
Starting school is
exhausting for my kids and for me. We don’t need to fill those precious after-school hours with activities before they have even arrived. Afternoons will be decompression
time—snuggling and talking about their day will be the focus until we’ve gotten
used to the new routine.
9. Bump the kids' bedtime up by 30 minutes.
Also for the sake of family peace, I will resist the temptation to let them stay up a
little later when I haven’t seen them much. I know the most crucial
part of getting off to a smooth back-to-school start is making sure they have
enough rest. So early bedtime it is! (It helps that they don’t really know how
to tell time yet.)
10. Decide now
how much you want to be involved before someone asks you to volunteer for
It’s hard to say no when you haven’t even thought about how much time
you really have to commit to volunteering. But by looking at your (pretty full)
schedule, you can determine in advance exactly how much time you have to give and invest it wisely.
11. Keeping your expectations low—really, really low—when it comes to behavior over the next
week or two.
Going back to school is stressful and nerve-racking. I may be
ancient (according to my children), but I can still remember what it felt like to walk into a classroom on
the first day of school and not know anyone and not know what to expect. I’m
going to try to be patient if my usually outgoing kid has a meltdown or my introvert
shuts down after school and only grunts at me (it’s practice for the teen
years, I hear). Taking it easy on them—and myself—is important right now. I'm reminding myself now that it's not the end of the world if they cry on the first day of school. (And it's OK if I cry, too.)