A Smooth Back To School

About mid-July, the airwaves light up with back to school advertising. While buying school supplies is important, it is only one of the tasks that parents & kids need to complete. To hit the ground running, be sure to do the following:

Buying supplies is fun, and can be a great way to get excited about the upcoming year. At the same time, we often buy more than we need. Before heading out to shop, take time to go through drawers, backpacks, and cabinets to take stock of what you already own. Be sure to check for…

  1. School supplies. Feel free to pitch the “dead” supplies (e.g. broken crayons, short pencils, pencils without erasers, binders which won’t fully close, “weak” markers/highlighters, etc.)
  2. Clothing. Try on the pants/sweater/jackets from last year. Donate (or hold) whatever no longer fits.
  3. Activity gear. Assess your sporting equipment, dance clothes, concert attire, etc.

Once you know what you have, you are ready to shop. Keep in mind that many teachers, coaches and directors have specific requests, meaning you will likely need to shop after school has begun. Nonetheless, stocking up in advance minimizes the time you will need with your child later when they are busy. Click here for a Back To School Supplies List.

Believe it or not, most children do not prefer to work at a desk in their room.
Talk with your children about where they like to work (e.g. kitchen table, the floor, the dining room, etc.) Once you have decided where kids will work, assemble the supplies they will need for daily tasks so they are handy. For example, have a bin or basket which can be set on the kitchen island, or a rolling cart that can be pulled out of a closet to the dining room. Also, discuss in advance where computer work will be done, and at what times of day. Setting limits now minimizes conflicts later.

Designate an area where extra school supplies will be stored. This may be a dresser in the hallway, a shelf or two in a closet, a kitchen cabinet or a bin under the bed. Teach children to keep only one or two of each item they need at their workstation, and to access the “supplies” area when they need a replacement. This keeps the work area from becoming overly cluttered. Be sure to group like items together in bags or smaller boxes, and label everything so family members can find what they need.

Children and adults alike walk in the door with “stuff.” It is critical to have a designated space for all belongings. For instance, set a tray where children should place all paperwork they need signed, a hook for jackets, a place for the backpack, a specific drop spot for the lunchbox and a hamper for dirty sports gear. Older children will need to know where they are expected to charge electronics and hang car keys.

The beginning of school typically requires a lot of forms. On the positive side, many schools, teams and activities are moving to online submission. The bad news is, you no longer have a physical piece of paper reminding you that it needs to be filled out. Set aside time in your calendar for working on these as school resumes. Typically, you will need to complete the following forms (and provide payment where necessary):

  • Emergency Forms
  • Enrollment Forms
  • Health Forms
  • Permission Forms
  • Release Forms

Establishing a routine makes life easier for everyone. Post a list (e.g. an index card on the bathroom mirror or near the door) that reminds children what they need to remember each morning and evening. Checklists can include reminders about chores, personal hygiene, homework, gear they need to bring and more. For younger children, consider a visual – such as a flip chart with a picture – that helps them remember which special activity they have coming up tomorrow (e.g. gym, library, art.)

As soon as schedules are available, put all dates into a master calendar. Whether you use a digital, paper or giant dry-erase system, commit to using one location where all of the family’s activities can be seen together. Color code by family member if possible. Be sure to include dates for:

  • Activities
  • Practices/rehearsals
  • Days off of school/early dismissals
  • Back-to-School night (book your babysitter immediately!)
  • Concerts
  • Field trips

Lastly, the first day of school is always a milestone. Consider planning something special to celebrate the day. Bake a special cake, serve doughnuts at the bus stop, take a photo in a traditional spot, serve a special meal, hang a balloon, etc.  Small traditions like this can help ease the anxiety of first day jitters.

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The start of school is a busy, and exciting, time. As with all life transitions, a little planning goes a long way.

What tip do you have for making the start of school run smoothly?

20 thoughts on “A Smooth Back To School”

    1. Wishing you and the girls a great start to the school year – but not yet, right? We still have a few more weeks… enjoy every moment of summer that we have left:)

  1. Perfect! This will help so many parents to prepare for all the demands of “time for school again”. It’s both emotional and demanding .
    Loved the picture !!!!

    1. It can be emotional and demanding, Robert! The start of school is definitely a time of mixed emotions. Fortunately, after the first couple of weeks, most families can settle into a new routine. I loved the photos too!

  2. As usual, you mentioned a lot of things that I would never have thought of. For the most part, I’m glad that part of life is behind me, but it did bring back some special memories.

    1. It sure can be a challenging time for families as they navigate new schedules and routines. The emotional component of uncertainty and change can also contribute to a a bit of anxiety. I always felt better after the first few weeks when we could settle into the new system!

  3. We just went through clothing and supplies last night, and are headed out to shop today. It’s easier than it was when they were in elementary school, but it’s interesting how they still like the security of taking inventory and getting everything prepped for the first day. Thanks for the timely post!

    1. I remember feeling that way… wanting to get my clothing and supplies in order. I think this gives a feeling of control over a time period which can feel a bit overwhelming and uncertain. Wishing you a wonderful shopping day!

  4. I have such fond memories of preparing the girls for going back to school. We loved assessing what we had and making lists for things that we needed. And a favorite part was bringing all the new school supplies home and labeling everything. They always loved using my label maker. Ahhh…to be the child of an organizer! Funny, right? I LOVE your idea about commemorating the first day of school with a special cake or treat!
    Linda Samuels recently posted…What Are Today’s Interesting Finds? – v16My Profile

    1. I am smiling big time thinking of the image of you sitting with your children using you label maker! I am in a rental vacation home right now, loving the homeowner who has labeled everything:) I think I loved getting ready for school more than the girls did… the anticipation was exciting for sure!

  5. Great reminder post, Seana. I totally agree. I find that going through the previous year stuff (school, clothing, etc…) really helps save me money. It really hits the pocketbook when you over spend on these items that may not be used for school.

    This year, we only needed a few items to start the year off. And, I am so grateful of that. =)

    1. That is so true, Sabrina. I always had “leftovers” from previous years. One year I felt like we kept running out of binder dividers, so I bought a bunch. I still have drawers of them:)

    1. Yes, it actually became something to look forward to on a day that can bring some anxiety. My children teased that they assumed I would come and bake them a cake on the first day of classes in college. Needless to say, this didn’t happen:) Routines often become traditions!

  6. You must have made all the cakes on that slideshow – yum! I like your idea about the daily checklist. If I make one with pictures, I think my kiddo could handle it this year. Thanks for the tip!

    1. Kids love pictures, right? My niece was just telling me how she remembers me giving points for good behavior one vacation, and she recalls how hard she worked to get those points. I don’t even remember doing this, but she does!

    1. One year we seemed to keep running out of the tab dividers for binders, so I bought multiple packs. Then for a couple of years, I automatically bought new ones. Finally I did a full inventory and realized we had tons of dividers, so I stopped buying them. I think I still have some left!

  7. Workspace. Landing space. Different from each other. Got it! That helps so much!
    We have never had to get school supplies for school. They provide them all there and rely on parent volunteers to occasionally up their stock.
    That said, we do buy them for Scarlet at home. She’s a school supplies junkie!

    1. How nice that your school provides supplies. Sounds like you are in a great situation! Buying supplies used to be a way to get a little excited about school in our house, so I totally understand Scarlet wanting to get some special things:)

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