You know you’ve been seeing the signs for a month now. For some reason, some sick person decides to arm Targets and Walmarts with back-to-school materials the minute July 4th takes its last gasp. My kids and I shake our heads every July when we see those eager retail outlets trying to get us ready for school before we’ve used up all of our sunscreen. However, we do love school. Since I am a teacher, I look forward to meeting my new students, and hanging out with my incredible co-workers. My children love learning, and their elementary school and middle school are wonderful. Inevitably, as the calendar works its way to August, my family and I have routines established to get us ready for the impending school year.
School Supplies One at a Time
I have three kids, and the temptation to get all of the school supplies at once is almost too strong to ignore, but I have found that taking each one separately not only gives us a special time to talk about what excites us about their new grade, but it also ensures that I get everything on one’s list all at one time. This is the first year that all of my babies will be in school, so I enjoyed taking each one on a special trip. I always hit Walmart first, but I’ve learned not to go to the supply aisles only. Sometimes, the supply aisles have notebooks for 50 cents each, which seems pretty great until you spot the 17 cent notebooks in a different aisle (like the arts/crafts or stationary section). Take your time with each kid. The stores get sneaky.
Every year, we start each of our children with a mostly new pair of tennis shoes, a few new pairs of jeans, new socks, and new underwear. Purchase these items in late July and early August so you don’t have to worry about it some dark Wednesday during the school year when things start to get real. There are too many practices, recital rehearsals, homework expectations, etc. when school starts. Do your October self a favor and get the details covered in late July/early August, and be a happier human.
After School Snacks
Aside from pool breaks in the summer, my kids are never as hungry as they are right after school. There is some primal instinct in them to consume anything they can from 4-6 pm, and then, they are still able to eat dinner. I try to stock my pantry with crackers, granola bars, fruit snacks, and popcorn. I stock my fridge with cheese sticks, apples, oranges, and juice. If I am ready for that insatiable hunger with snacks they can operate themselves, I am much calmer during this time when I’m trying to get a healthy meal cooked for the family.
Plan Out Dinners
My teacher friends and I have found it incredibly beneficial to plan out meals a week ahead of time. I know this is not a new idea, but it is an old one that needs reinforced. By doing this, I save money at the grocery store, my mind is at ease on Monday morning, and my family likes knowing what’s for dinner each night. Sometimes I can’t name the exact meal, but I can name a meat or veggie that I’ll have. For example, if I’ve just gone to Sam’s for meat, I’ll label the weekdays on a calendar with: chicken, hamburger, salmon, and pork chops. (My vegetarian friends have done the same with their proteins.) That way I’ll know what to thaw and be more prepared for what I’ll cook. My favorite recipe site is: Jenny Collier’s ideas for meals. They are easy, healthy, and cheap.
School Year Pep Talks
I try to really pump my kids up for school. We do this throughout July, and I think it helps us all get ready. We talk about what we hope will happen this year; we discuss how much more challenging each grade will be; and we talk about how exciting the changes will be. We are always sure we will have it all together this year. Ha! No matter what, I have found that it is important to get my kids excited about school. My oldest is always thrilled to start a new year, but my middle guy struggles with the structure. We talk to him about his friends, his awesome teachers, and how much he loves learning. This usually gets him pretty ready to go back. My daughter is just starting Kindergarten. We use these pep talks to bribe her into doing things she is pretty ambivalent to most days. “Kindergartners make sure they clean their plates.” “Kindergartners eat all of their vegetables.” and “Kindergartners go potty by themselves.” It’s worked beautifully this summer. To be fair, we’ve done the same with my middle schooler. “Middle schoolers make sure their brother and sister are ready for elementary.” “Middle schoolers are nice to their younger siblings.” “Middle schoolers do the dishes.” They are so pumped about their new roles that my husband and I benefit.
Because I have to be at my school so early, my kids have to wake up at 6 am and be to school by 6:55 ish. Our last week of summer, we start to go to bed at a more routine time and wake up early. I used to be a proponent of the “cold turkey” approach to bedtime. That didn’t make the first week of school wonderful for any of us. My husband and I get the kids up a little later than 6 am, but we get them to bed by 8:30 or 9:00 the week before school starts. I know they aren’t too happy about it, but their health is so much more important to me than their approval of my parenting. They’ll understand when they’re older, right?
I always look forward to changes each year. The back to school change can be a positive one if your family prepares for it. These are things I find myself doing each end of July. We start school this week, and I think we are as prepared as we can be. What are your tips for school readiness? Please comment here or on our Facebook page. Here’s to a brilliantly successful 2016-2017. Thank you for reading.