Can you believe another summer is winding down? Where does the time go?! As many of us prepare to go back to school soon, I wanted to share some tips I have learned to help make the transition back-to-school smoother. Top 10 Back-to-School Tips include my personal tips and opinions as a parent and an educator for a more successful back-to-school experience.
1. Meet the teacher and tour the school. If your school offers a “Meet The Teacher” and/or open house, be sure to go. This can help ease nervous kiddos by having them meet their teacher and getting some bearings on a new environment. If you are unable to attend either, try to look for your child’s teacher on the school website (or yearbook…remember those?) and at least show them their teacher’s picture. This will help them identify their teacher and hopefully feel more comfortable with their new teacher on the first day of school. You should also be able to tour the school before the first day of school. Call your school’s office to inquire.
2. Go school supply shopping. I am going to let you in on a (very embarrassing) secret I have. School supply shopping has been one of my absolute favorite things to do, since I can remember. Oh, the aisles of crayons, and post-its, and markers, and binders, and…ok…you get the point. I am a school supply junkie. Save yourself the hassle and shop directly from your teacher’s and/or school’s supply list. Teachers (I know…I am one…lol) can make very specific requests on their lists. Don’t guess by buying generic items; shop from their list. Be also to check for specific requests…like…”do NOT label anything, as all items will be shared.” Many teachers (especially lower elementary grades) make this request, so that children can share supplies especially without leaving anyone out. Please don’t be “that parent” and label just because you feel entitled to since you bought the supplies. Respect your teacher’s requests…especially the requests for Target, Amazon, and Dunkin Donuts gift cards for holidays! (ok…those are just my requests…and most teachers!)
3. Ease back into a routine. Going from relaxation summer-mode into strict schedule school-mode can be extremely stressful. Help ease the stress by getting your kiddos back on a schedule and routine the week or two leading up to school starting. Slowly get them back to sleep schedules and waking up when they will need to for school. And yes, that means you too, parents! Routines can help children feel comfortable, and establishing a school routine should help make the first day (weeks and months) of school go much smoother.
4. Establish homework procedures and after-school activities. Together, plan and set-up your child’s homework station. Discuss homework routines, such as when your child should start his/her homework, how to ask for help, when and how often he/she can take breaks, etc. My kiddos’ homework supply station includes: paper, pencils, markers, crayons, colored pencils, scissors, highlighters, dictionary, stickers, flash cards, and post-its. We try to keep this area as organized and clutter-free as possible to encourage good study habits. I also encourage independent work as much as possible. In addition to homework, discuss after-school activities. Last year, I signed my kiddos up for what I felt was most important for their current needs (aka swim team/lessons, gymnastics, therapy, etc.). Since they are older (sniff, sniff…how are they 5 and 7 years old?!) I am going to give them more say in the process. I am also going to hold off beginning any after-school activities until several weeks into the new school year. With our big family changes, moving, CG going into kindergarten, a new school, and me going back to work full-time, the three of us have a lot of changes to deal with. I want to make sure school/education is at the top of our priorities and then bring in the after-school activities after that. If your child does not want to participate in regular, extracurricular activities, check out some other options to help foster their interests and social skills. For example, check out your local libraries for Lego Clubs, Read with the Dogs Programs, music programs, art programs, etc. Most (if not all) of these programs are FREE. I don’t know about you, but this mama likes FREE. Also, see if your local YMCA and/or local community center offer drop-in activities. I also like drop-in activities, because again most are FREE or have minimal cost. There is rarely an application fee and if your kiddos are sick or unable to attend, you are not paying for classes that they are not at. You can also schedule regular play dates with their friends from school, church, etc. In regards to after-school activities, go for quality, not quantity.
5. Pre-make as many meals as possible. Find storage systems that help keep your family organized and use them! Organize your refrigerator so that food and drinks are grouped together by meals (breakfasts, school lunches, dinners at home) for easy access. I try to make the week’s school lunches on Sunday afternoons. I organize the fridge, so that non-perishable items (nuts, dried fruits, etc.) are grouped together for the week. I can then quickly put the more perishable items (tuna salad, salad, fresh fruit, sandwiches, etc.) in at the last minute. This year, my goal is to also pre-make dinners. Being a single mommy now and going back to work full-time means much less time for other things…like cooking dinner. I plan to freeze meals ahead of time, so that I can quickly and easily pull them out to eat at night with my kiddos.
6. Complete forms, paperwork, and physicals. Make sure that you have completed all neccessary school forms and paperwork for registration. Get your physicals scheduled and completed. Also make sure vaccinations and other medical necessities are taken care of. If your kiddos have food allergies, make sure you have a note from your doctor.
7. Organize important school and health forms. Yes…I am organized. For those of you who personally know me, “organized,” is probably an understatement (hey…I have gotten much better over the years!). Anyway, everything has a place and I like to know where things are. I recently ordered three large binders. One for CJ, one for CG, and one for me. Inside these binders I used tabbed dividers and plastic folders to help organize our important personal documents. Examples are: the kiddos’ IEP’s, registration paperwork, physical copies, immunization copies, school calendar, etc. When I go to an IEP meeting or bring the kiddos to the doctor, I can easily bring their binder and inside are their important papers and documents that I may have otherwise forgotten.
8. Celebrate the first day of school. I realize everyone is not singing, “It’s The Most Wonderful Time Of The Year…” like I am on the first day of school. However, it should be celebrated, not dreaded. Start a first day of school morning tradition. Whip up a special breakfast, make up a silly song, pack an extra special note in their lunchbox and/or backpack, do anything to make this day a little extra special!
9. Discuss chores and allowance. Children need responsibility. They want to help and the sooner you start, the better. Begin the new school year off with a list of chores and other household responsibilities, so that these expectations don’t get pushed aside (or forgotten about) when life gets extra busy with school, homework, and after-school activities.
10. Encourage conversation and open discussion. Encourage your kiddos to share their feelings and anything they may want to talk about. Explain that they are safe to share anything with you. Remind them that you are on their team. This is easier said then done, but remember to respond, and not to react. Foster significance and strength in your kiddos. Give them the freedom to make mistakes. So much of me wishes I could protect my kiddos in a bubble for the rest of their lives (believe me, I have tried!), but I know that would be a huge disservice to both of them. As much as it pains me to say this, my job as their mother is to teach them to become independent of me. As much as I want to fight all of their fights and win all of their battles for them, I will not allow myself, because they deserve more than that. They deserve to be happy. To be truly happy.
Our top pick for books about going into preschool:
Our top picks for books about going into kindergarten:
Our top picks for books about going into first grade:
Our top pick for books about going into second grade:
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