It’s that time of year again…already! Summer is bidding its sweet farewell, and I am starting to once again hear the rumbling of school bus tires on the roads. The end of summer is bittersweet for most parents. The end of summer brings tears as we say farewell to our tiny tots on their first days of kindergarten and watch our young adults speed away to their first years in college. The end of summer means that its time to get our acts together and embrace that routine that we carelessly tossed to the curb last July. The end of summer also means we can work from home again and get things accomplished on time and without distraction. Yay! What a mashup of emotions! Although one size never fits all, I have found some ideas over the years that have helped to ease my own family’s transition back to a new school year.
Manage the Paperwork - If your kids are still in elementary school, you know how much paperwork comes home in their schoolbags the first few days back. Between field trip permission slips, picture day forms and pest control notices, the kitchen counter can quickly start to feel more like the local recycle center than a part of your household. My advice is simple: establish a “drop zone” and tackle paperwork every night as it comes in! Evenings can be super busy, especially for dual working families, but allowing paperwork to pile up only creates more effort later. Schedule 10 minutes each night to talk through paperwork with your child, complete and/or sign forms, toss the trash and put those “return to school” items back in the school bag.
Join Forces - Back-to-school also represents a huge fluctuation in activities as kids join sports teams, school clubs and other social events. Failing to centralize everyone’s schedules will eventually result in missed appointments and late meetings. If your family responds best to a visual cue, create a command center in a high traffic area, like the kitchen or laundry room and clearly write out everyone’s schedule. If your family is more tech savvy, there are a ton of apps, like Google Calendars, Cozi and OurHome, that allow the whole family to track the same set of appointments and to-do’s right from their smart phones.
Conquer the Homework - I hear my clients commiserate all the time about their struggles with homework. Right after school most kids need some downtime to decompress from their day. Too close to bed and everyone is grumpy and tired. As kids get older, homework becomes more difficult and time consuming, so without some sort of schedule or routine, your child’s habits can go sideways quickly, especially if school sports are also involved. The option that I have found works best for my own kids is to schedule out the hours of the afternoon and evening to something like this:
Post this schedule on a chalk or bulletin board in a central location of the house. If homework will take a long time or be too complex, it’s okay to break it into smaller, more achievable chunks throughout the evening. Trying to force completion in one sitting just leads to anxiety and frustration for everyone, so be flexible and experiment with the timing to see what works best for your household. If sports are a factor, this schedule will need to be compressed to some degree. Another option for very busy families is to sign your child up for afterschool study sessions that usually run for an hour right after school ends, or have an older child use their study hall time more wisely to complete the next day’s homework before leaving school.
Prepare, Prepare, Prepare - Prep the night activities are essential, especially when mom and dad are running out the door in the morning the same time as the kiddos. Select outfits, including shoes and accessories. Put all returning forms, books and folders back into bags. Pack lunches and discuss tomorrow’s happenings with the whole family before bedtime. Most of these tasks are intuitive, but busy schedules and exhaustion at the end of the day are most frequently noted as reasons for procrastinating. There is nothing worse than running around in the morning, screaming at kids, while trying to find Jimmy’s other shoe and Katy’s permission slip with 30 seconds to spare until the bus arrives. Trust me, I have been in this situation all too often. Just do the work the night before and I guarantee that your morning will go alot smoother!