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It’s that time of year again in Ohio. The kiddos have been back in school for a few weeks now, and we are once again back in the busy family routine. I sometimes feel like the whole “back to school” season is meant to see which parents are the best, and which ones are behind in the game. It does get a little ridiculous with all the pressure to get things ready, but honestly, back to school has been happening every year. It’s not a new thing.
With 4 kids (3 in school), the number of supplies is always high. It seems like the list is increasing every year. How do you organize it all and make sure you aren’t forgetting anything?
I’ve come up with 10 back to school hacks and tips for you to consider. No matter the family size, these tips will ensure a smooth transition to a new school year.
1: Don’t wait until the last minute to get supplies
Has this been you in the past? Don’t lie. I think we are all guilty of waiting until the very last minute to get school supplies. Schools release their supply lists well before school starts, and our school even gives out the option to order a package of all the supplies through them – thus eliminating the need to go shopping, or even procrastinate about shopping.
We didn’t go the pre-order route this year. I have to give kudos to my wife because she bought all the supplies this year with all 4 kids along for the trip. She’s truly a superstar in my book, and the greatest mom my kids could ever have.
If you are one of those that procrastinates, you risk the chance of supplies running out at local stores. Don’t be the parent whose kid is the last to have everything. While you may not think it’s the end of the world, it’s embarrassing for your kid.
2: Get everything ready the night before
Our kids have to be up around 6:30 a.m. and out the door by 7:30. Scrambling for clothes, lunches, snacks, forms, and other items in the morning only adds to the chaos. That’s why we strive to get everything ready the night before as much as possible.
Heaven forbid we go one day without some form needing signed, or field trip money to be sent in, but that’s the reality of school these days. It’s all worth it because our kids deserve a great education and school experience.
3: Get in the routine before school starts
Just like adults need a routine, so do kids. My wife and I try to get the kids back in some sort of routine a few weeks before school starts. During the summer, the kids usually go to bed later and wake up later. We try to start pushing their bed time closer and closer to their normal school night bed time a few weeks ahead so that by the time we get to the big first day, everyone’s back in a good sleep routine.
4: Attend your school’s open house
I know a lot of parents who skip the open house. For our family, open house is a good chance for us to meet the teacher, see the classroom, and gather important information for the year. Our kids enjoy going because they bump into all of their friends they haven’t seen since the last school year.
You’ll get a lot of information at open house, but it saves a lot of time and headaches searching for information down the road. Our kids get to take their supplies on open house night and get their desks all ready to go for the year. Believe me, taking supplies to school before the first day makes a huge difference (and reduces first day stress!).
5: Set expectations with your kids from day one
All kids are different when it comes to study habits, abilities, knowledge, and social skills. But, this doesn’t mean that expectations can’t be the same for all kids. All parents want their kids to succeed and do the best that they can.
We teach our kids to always try their best in every subject, but we also teach them that it’s ok to ask questions. My oldest sometimes loses confidence when he sees something new in class. Helping him understand that he’s not alone, and that all kids learn new things makes a big difference in his self-esteem.
One big expectation we set for our kids is to always be respectful at school. They are expected to listen to their teachers and respond appropriately, don’t spread rumors about other kids, and respect those with different values, cultures, opinions, and physical abilities.
Another expectation is that our kids are to always be truthful to us about what’s happening at school. I love that they each have their own assignment books that we have to read and sign every night. They are expected to tell us when work is due and when they have tests coming up. The important thing here is to teach them that two-way communication is the norm at home.
6: Don’t do too many activities at the same time
Your kids are going to get invited to join clubs, scouts, teams, and other activities at school. Don’t feel like they have to participate in everything. Remember, the more activities they are involved in, the more challenging it becomes to allow for studying and homework.
As a general rule for our family, we allow each of our kids to participate in one activity at a time. Our 9 year old is in dance and our 7 year old just started swimming at the YMCA. Our 10 year old usually plays baseball in the summer and basketball in the fall or winter.
Remind your kids that it’s important to find an activity they love, but that school and homework come first. If they can’t keep their grades up and participate in the activity at the same time, they will have to stop participation until grades improve.
7: First year at the school? Visit it in advance of the first day
My kids have switched schools several times in the past 5-6 years. One thing we found was very helpful to them was to visit the school before the first day. You won’t believe how much pressure is relieved by getting them familiar with their school environment before the first day.
Your kids are going to have so many questions about their new environment. Where are the classrooms? Where’s the lunchroom? Is there a gym? Where is the playground?
By visiting the school ahead of time, your kids will have fewer things to worry about on day one.
8: Buy calendars and stick to them
I don’t know how my family would function without a calendar to provide us with a visual of what’s going on for the day, week, month, or year. We use calendars on our phones as well as a physical calendar hanging in the kitchen and office.
Teach your kids about calendars and how to use one to organize their world. Even though the world is pretty much digital when it comes to calendars, nothing is better than having your schedule physically in your hand.
I highly recommend Calendars.com. They are an online provider of just about any type of calendar you can imagine. I love their site because not only do they provide all types of calendars, but they also have planners, puzzles, toys, games, gifts, and even things for dogs and cats! Right now they are offering free shipping with $30 + calendar purchase.
9: Teach your child about bus safety
You may ask me how your kids can practice getting on and off the bus without a bus present, but it can be done. Practice waiting outside or at the bus stop with your child. You can also practice looking both ways before crossing the street.
You can also teach your child what’s acceptable behavior while on the bus. Most buses don’t have seatbelts, so help your kids to understand that standing up and moving around while the bus is moving is dangerous.
A lot of bullying happens while on the bus. Encourage your child to not participate in bullying, and if he or she sees it happening, encourage them to report it to the bus driver. If your child is the victim of bullying, it’s important to stop it right away. Report it to the principal immediately.
10: Encourage hard work, but have fun
Too many times parents are stressed out about their kids’ school more so than the kids are. Yes, there’s a lot of work involved in school activities, but there is no reason why going to school can’t be fun. Make learning fun at home by finding creative activities on Pinterest to supplement what they are learning at school. Find fun videos on YouTube or online quizzes to help them retain information.
Parents, guess what? You have homework…
Relax. Yes, your homework is to relax. There’s a lot going on during the school year, but keeping calm yourself will translate to your kids. Your kids are not perfect, and they are going to make mistakes. Learning from our mistakes in life is very important. Don’t criticize your kids for making mistakes. Teach them why they made them and what to do to correct them going forward.