Back to School Tips
August is back to school season in Kentucky and I wanted to share what our family does to get ready for the big changes that happen at the end of summer.
Gather school supplies. Find out what your kiddo needs to bring to school and make a plan to acquire all of it. I like to make one list of everything we need so I’m not juggling four different lists in the store. I also like to take inventory of what we already have at home. Where’s the scientific calculator Boy16 used in middle school? With fresh batteries could Girl12 use it? Are the highlighters from last year still good? What about the headphones, are they still going to work? I try to purchase backpacks that will last at least two years. One way to do this is to not buy one with a character on it. I know that it seems like your child might like Batman, unicorns, Harry Potter, or Minnie Mouse forever but next year they will have moved on to something else. I also feel that character backpacks are not as good quality.
Inventory clothes and purchase new shoes. My younger kids in particular love to buy new shoes for a new school year. This is also a good time to get the next size clothes out of storage and take a look at what you have to work with. I have found that none of Boy16’s pants fit Boy7. Boy16 needed super slim pants and Boy7 definitely does not. The shirts usually fit just fine but it’s nice to get a few new things to reflect his personality. Schools are also notoriously on the cold side so I make sure everyone has a zip up light jacket.
Transition gradually. Have your kids been staying up way too late most of the summer? I know that mine have. About two weeks before school starts I start moving bedtime back to where it needs to be and waking them up a little earlier. It will be hard to do but so worth it that first school night and morning.
Set up communication channels. Our school district uses a one call system to get out information quickly either district or school wide. I have found that I like this to only be sent to our home phone number and I always let it go to voicemail. This lets me listen again if needed. There are also a couple of apps our schools use to pass on information, make it easy to text my child’s teacher, and check my kiddos grades. Our district also allows us to mostly skip the first day paperwork if we log online and update any information so check if your school will allow the same thing.
Have a food plan. Our school district offers free breakfast and lunch for all students but my kids are not a fan of school lunch. We use Mr. Bento jars from Zojiushi to make a hot lunch for the whole family everyday. My husband and I are planning a video we are going to share to show you how we do this every morning. We usually have the same breakfast for a week at a time. So one week is bagels, then the next is eggs. This makes the grocery list a little more simple but you can still mix it up. We get different kinds of bagels or use different toppings and we can cook the eggs several different ways. If a kid doesn’t like their options or wakes up late, or just wants to eat breakfast at school I am okay with that. My kids usually come home famished and super tired the first week of school so I plan an early dinner so they can crash in their beds right after dinner.
Manage expectations. We like to have a family meeting before school starts and talk about the upcoming school year. What are they excited for? What are they scared of? We also talk about their responsibilities. We expect the kids to handle their school and homework on their own. They can always ask for help but I don’t pester them with, “have you done it yet? Let me see.“ If they forget or choose not to do their school work then I let them suffer the consequences. I would much rather them fail a second grade math test and learn from that than have them flunk out of college because they never learned to handle their studies on their own. I have found that instead of asking my kiddos how their day went, and getting a “fine”, I ask them what they have going on this evening. This usually leads to a response like, “For English I need to finish that book and for Pre-cal I have to finish some problems. We have piano lessons tonight right?” By asking what they have going on they just made a homework list and realized that they have piano lesson to work around. So much better and less stressful than pestering them to death.
Check in periodically. On Saturday mornings I like to check in with my kids and look at their grades (I do this individually and privately) How did their week go? What went right? Do they feel they are getting enough sleep and study time? By checking their grades you can both get a handle on how they are doing and to catch any problems sooner rather than later. By doing this Boy16 caught that one of his teachers hadn’t recorded his make up work when he missed a class.
Make homework easy. We make sure the kids have a quiet spot to study. This sometimes means that I have to occupy girl3 with an activity away from her siblings. She usually wants her own “homework“ so I have her count things with me or practice writing her name. I also make sure we have pencils, crayons, markers, and paper available for everyone to use.
Have a back up plan. I think it is safe to say that Covid is going to be hanging around for another school year and while I am hopeful after talking with school administrators that they want to keep kids in school as long as possible, it may not remain possible. My husband and I have started talking about what we might do if the kids have to do school from home. Last year Curtis may a plywood divider for our dining room table so each kid had their own space that worked out well but we needed to keep better tabs on what each kid was struggling with. Lessons learned for sure.
Do you look forward to a new school year? Do you cry or cheer when they leave?