School is in session. Are you ready?
Every summer seems to bring it’s own challenges: keeping the kids busy, finding the right camps and activities for them, and hopefully having a little family fun - all within two months! Even though the summers are busy, they bring us all a breather from homework, science projects, making lunches, teacher conferences, after school practices, reading every night (oh, wait, we were supposed to do that all summer, too, right?!). And suddenly, here we are, it’s mid August and whether we are ready or not, it’s time to jump into another school year.
Here are some thoughts and tips from my family, as well as some ideas I’ve learned from others along the way, on how to best prepare for the new school year.
Squeeze in every last bit of fun while you can!Obviously, this is not to say that having fun is impossible during the school year, but seize the opportunity to run to the beach or the pool while you can. If going outside is too hot, head to the movie theatre, or close the curtains at home, make some popcorn, and have a movie night right in your own living room! Tell your kids you’re having a Back to School Party and give them each a cupcake after dinner. It doesn’t have to be fancy and your kids will love it!
Get ready (ahead of time).I don’t know about you, but Back to School shopping makes me cringe. Eight folders? Five packs of crayons? Four bottles of hand sanitizer? I have found that the earlier (and by that I mean, not only earlier in the day, but earlier in the season) we go, the crowds and selections are better. Every year that we’ve procrastinated and gone shopping, either after the school year has started or the weekend before, our experience has been crazy!
Put in the time.Even if your kid is a “big fish in a little pond,” you know, when your child knows just about everyone at his or her school, it’s still not a bad idea to make the effort to attend meet the teacher days, open house, and/or orientation. It never hurts to make a good impression on your child’s teacher, and one way to do that is to show up! After all, this teacher will be spending more time with your kid in the next ten months than you will. While you’re there, take note: Is their classroom organized or messy? Are they warm and friendly? New to teaching? Old enough to be your kids’ grandparent? All of these things can have some bearing on what you, and your child, can expect for the coming year. Plus, meeting their new teacher ahead of time might ease any anxiety your child might be feeling, which leads me to…
Talking about feelings.How are your kids feeling about the start of the school year? Excited? Nervous? Are they starting at a new school, or transitioning to a whole new environment, like starting Kindergarten, or middle school, or high school? Be there for them to talk about how they feel. If it seems helpful, share some experiences that you had when you were younger. Other things that might ease their mind could be to drive the route to school ahead of time so they can see where they’ll be going, or having older siblings, friends, or neighbors explain what to expect when it comes to things such as: switching classes, going to the Media Center, or what the PE teacher is like.
Do what you can do.It’s never a good feeling to feel like you’re the last to know. “A field trip this Friday?” “Today is orange shirt day?” Or worse yet, “Last night was the school play?” Ugh. This seems to happen to all parents, even the most involved. First of all, accept that it is going to happen, and it’s okay. No family is perfect. We all forget and miss things. Sometimes, teachers don’t send home the flyer until the day before. Sometimes, your children will forget to tell you about it. Sometimes, you will be the one that drops the ball. It’s frustrating, but it’s life. Do the best you can, because it’s not worth stressing over. If it was your fault, apologize, see if you can make it better, and move on.
Try to keep the best parts of your routine.We all start with the best of intentions. Thanks to Pinterest, our heads are swimming with ideas on organization and behavior charts with cute little stickers. We have all kinds of thoughts on new routines we’re going to try to implement, such as, “this year, the backpacks are going to get hung up every night on these cute little hooks by the front door.” By November, the backpacks are on the floor with mystery papers crumpled in them and the hooks are empty.
Some things we try will fall by the way side, but try to make the effort to hang on to the stuff that really matters. For example, bedtimes at or around the same time on school nights, knowing homework comes before television or computer time, eating dinner as a family, or reading together. You know, the good stuff.
Going back to school challenges us all - bedtimes and wake up times change, our kids’ mealtimes and schedules change, and it can take a bit of time for all of us to adjust. You may feel relieved to send them back, or you might be holding back tears when you reflect on how fast they are growing up (or a little bit of both).
If we choose to be optimistic, a new school year can hold the possibility of learning new things, making new friends, and hopefully encourage advances in personal growth (for our kids and us). Just don’t forget - your kids’ bright white socks will probably be gray by Halloween, they will probably lose their thermos in January (right about the time that stores are no longer selling them), you will probably have to work late and miss Skate Night, and you may look at their math homework and realize that you either a) have forgotten how to do it or b) never really learned it in the first place. And you know what, it’s really okay. Whether we realize it or not, we all go through it together. Let’s support our kids, our teachers, and each other as we embark on our latest adventure! Here’s to the 2013-2014 school year!