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Ten Strategies for Back to School Success

I always get a little emotional about the kids going back to school. The lazy days of summer are over and everything’s starting back up again. If you’re like me, that causes all kinds of anxiety. Both for me and my kids. However, I have a few ideas that may make the transition into a hectic school year a little smoother.

1. Set the Mood in the Morning

If you're not a morning person, do your best to act like one for your kids. This is something I've improved on over the years. The key for me is to start mornings on my terms. If the kids are up before me, I'm greeted with chaos. I don't like getting out of bed early, but when I do, our day gets off to a good start. I have time to read my Bible, drink coffee, do Wordle, etc. Then, when the kids get up, I'm not playing defense. I like to play some soft music in the kitchen in the morning. It helps cranky morning kids calm down a little. We often read a short devotion over breakfast. (something like 2-3 minutes) It's worth the time it takes to give them a chance to connect and be mindful before going to school.

2. Make a Menu

I’ve noticed that taking the guesswork out of my week makes things a lot better. One way to do that is to make a weekly menu. I don’t just plan dinners, but also lunches, breakfast, and snacks. I use this meal planner. (which I didn’t create)

Meal Planner
Download PDF • 213KB

I laminated it and use dry or wet erase markers to plan the week’s meals. When the kids get up, they check the menu. If breakfast is something simple like cereal or bagels, they can make it themselves. I sometimes make eggs or pancakes, but those are usually on the weekend, when we have a little more time in the morning. I find we waste less food when everything is for something on the menu rather than just shopping for random things. Also, we don’t impulse buy take-out with a little planning.

3. Make Ahead Meals

I always find those who do weekly meal-planning inspiring. Hats off to you. I’ve tried it and have been successful a couple of times, but not on any regular basis. One thing we do every school year is bake a whole bunch of muffins to freeze for easy breakfasts. We spend the good part of a day making jumbo muffins from boxed mixes. When they’re cool, we wrap them in wax paper and put them in freezer bags. This makes for a quick breakfast for school mornings. To serve, simply unwrap and microwave them for about 30 seconds. (Less if you use traditional sized muffins.) This year we made, blueberry, chocolate chip, almond, orange cranberry, and cinnamon streusel. They stay fresh for a long time if they’re wrapped well. You may make dinners or snacks ahead, but anything you can do to save time later will help.

4. Outfit Organizers

Probably my best time-saver is the kids’ weekly outfit organizers. I don’t use these in the summer because I don’t really care about everyone looking put together to go to the park or the pool. But during the school year, it’s important that some of my kids don’t have too much artistic license with their clothes. I know, kids need to express themselves, but I also want them to look back on pictures and not be mad at me. So, I use these hanging racks. I put their outfits in this rack all at once to make getting dressed drama-free. Well, almost. I actually pack the organizers while I’m folding clothes, so if it’s a favorite outfit, it never even goes into into the drawer. The kids get up, pull out the day's clothes and come down dressed. It's like magic. Obviously, my high schooler chooses her own clothes, but my 6th grade boy doesn't. No shame in that.

5. A Place for Everything

Another time saver is to have a place for everything. Shoes, jackets, book bags, lunchboxes -they should all have their place. I know kids may forget to put them back every time, but if they don’t have a specific place, they can’t put them back and you’’ll have unnecessary clutter everywhere. My dad made an awesome cubby system for us last Christmas, but even without it, just having a place that's set aside for these items will eliminate the "Mom! Where's my book bag?" freak outs. And no one needs those.

6. Morning Checklist

If your kids have trouble managing time in the morning, make a simple checklist. Use pictures if they’re not readers yet. Include things like: brush teeth, eat breakfast, pack lunch, and clear out take-home folder. Maybe allow kids to do an iPad game once they’ve completed the checklist. You may find you’re not running around like crazy minutes before leaving if you have one of these.

7. Homework Half Hour

We do something in our house called homework half hour. As much as we can, we all stop and sit quietly to do homework for a solid half hour each afternoon/evening. If the kids don’t have homework, they read for the 30 minutes. I often brew tea or put out a snack to make it more fun. We also have this caddy for supplies. It’s really helpful to have anything the kids might need in one place. No one wants to be digging for colored pencils or crayons in order to do homework. If your kids are older, you may need highlighters, pens, or scrap paper. You can find caddies like this just about anywhere this time of year and they're not expensive. Fill it up with school supplies that will be discounted pretty soon and you're in business.

8. Paper Organization

I’ve written about this before, but this wall storage rack is a game-changer. Years ago, I often got caught recycling my kids’ masterpieces. I don’t mean their actual art work, but the math worksheets they did EVERYDAY which were, for all intents and purposes, exactly the same. But I didn’t want to hold onto piles and piles of papers. Enter the KVISSLE Wall Magazine Rack from IKEA. No, I’m not sponsored by IKEA. I just love their stuff. I wish I was. Anyway, I have a slot for each of my kids and when papers come home, I slide them in. About once a month, when no one is peeking, I pull everything out go through the papers. Maybe I keep one of the math worksheets or two to show progress and I recycle the rest. This is a task that can be done in while watching a favorite show and with a glass of wine. (Only one glass because if not you might get overly sentimental and keep too much stuff.)

9. Chore Charts

Find a system for doing chore. We have a chart for each kid with chores they’re responsible for each week. During the summer, they have more responsibilities. I pick up some of the chores during the school year since they’re much busier. Do whatever works for your family, but it’s good for everyone to help out. My 7-year-old can pretty much do his own laundry. I help him fold it and put it away, but that’s it. Kids can do much more than we give them credit for. Allow them to own a chore or two or rotate the chores each week, but set the expectation even when they're young. That way, when you drop them off at college, you don’t need to worry if they can do laundry.

10. Bedtime Routine

It doesn't matter much what your bedtime routine is, but it's helpful to have one. If your routine is showers or baths, followed by a story, or reading time it's helpful for kids to wind down from their day. These routines are often ignored in the summer. I know we get more lax when the kids can sleep in. But school time means an earlier bedtime and that transition can be difficult. Make sure your kids are well-exercised or they will be rambunctious at bedtime. We use these Melatonin sleep gummies. If you're looking for a good bedtime book, I recommend Children's Bible Stories for Bedtime by Julie Lavender. Whatever your routine looks like, try to keep it consistent. Kids thrive in environments with structure and you have the opportunity to provide that for them.

Back to school time is always hectic and stressful. Anything you can do to make these days a little smoother will be helpful. Taking the guesswork out of mornings and evenings by having a system will give your kids the routine they need to feel confident. There are so many unknowns outside of the house with a new school year. Take those unknowns out of your home by creating systems that make your home the stress-free environment your kids need in this season.




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