Back to School 2019: Family Support, Routines, and Supplies to Consider
Author: Tara West
August 15, 2019
Back to school is the most wonderful time of the year!
There is something magical to be found in back to school supplies. You see, I am a sucker for a fresh box of crayons and new sharpened number two pencils. New notebooks fill my mind with endless possibilities. I am aware that not everyone shares my love of school supplies or the end of summer.
I admit I love routines, schedules, and afterschool activities.
So, my children going back to school is an exciting time for everyone in the house.
But if you’re not like me (and chances are, you aren’t!) packed schedules, packed lunches, packed carpools, and stuffed backpacks can be exhausting and overwhelming for anyone if you don’t have a plan.
Here are some tips and tricks to help you get through the school year that I have learned over the years with my children.
Back to School Supply List
Tip: Wait until after the semester starts to start stocking up on supplies.
First things first—you don’t have to buy EVERYTHING on the supply list.
I have learned that there are certain items teachers prefer over others. Most schools will provide a generic grade level supply list before school starts. I have found that by either asking the teacher at back to school night or emailing them personally what their most needed items are, teachers are grateful for the thoughtfulness and I don’t purchase unnecessary items.
My middle schooler’s teachers are very specific about the size and quantity of binders and notebooks they need for the school year. So, I wait until after the first day of school to purchase these items. That saves me from making multiple trips to the store.
Another way I save on supplies is to save items like scissors and pencil boxes from the previous school year. I have a plastic storage box that I place these items in when the kids bring them home from school. I get them back out, remark their names on them and send them off to school. I also look for clearance items during the school year to stock up on. Gluesticks and dry-erase markers make great Christmas presents for teachers!
However, there are two things I always make sure to get and make sure to do:
Purchase a Sturdy Backpack
This is the one area I splurge on and don’t regret it! I have purchased sturdy backpacks with back and shoulder padding for my older girls. They don’t have lockers at their schools and carry a lot of stuff around all day. I make sure they have quite a few pockets and a spot for a water bottle.
Write a Back to School Note.
I like to write a short note to each of my kids to put in their lunchbox on the first day of school. If I leave this to the morning of it will not happen. I take a few minutes during the week before, find a funny joke and write my note. While making their lunches the first day of school I slip the note in without being rushed.
Back to School Routine
Tip: Get a jump-start on the routine by practicing a week ahead of time. Find and designate space in your home for your children to complete homework.
Practice the Morning Routine
One week before semester starts, my kids start going to bed at their normal school-year bedtime. In the morning I wake them up at the time needed to get ready for school. We get back in the habit of dressing, eating, and grooming quickly. This makes the first day of school not as much of a shock for all of us. This is also a good reminder for me to grocery shop for needed breakfast and lunch items.
Prepare homework spaces
In our home, we have a designated spot where my elementary age children put their homework folders each Monday. These folders go back to class each Friday. My middle-schooler puts her planner in the same spot for me to review. I use a magazine holder that I can put away during the summer—who wants to look at the homework home during the summer?. I also make sure I have pencils, erasers, crayons, scissors, and glue sticks on hand for any homework needs. My kids each keep a book in this spot. That way I can keep track of what they’re reading and make sure they are reading.
I have also found that by gluing a magnet to a pen and putting it on my refrigerator I always have one handy to sign the many papers that come home in the first week of school. I also keep one near my children’s reading calendars that must be filled out each night.
Tip: Take time to discuss with your children pick up times, people, and locations before the start of the new year. Set rules and plan ahead to avoid confusion.
Have a Family Discussion
We sit down as a family and talk about expectations for the school year. We talk about academic and social expectations. My kids participate in the discussion and we all agree to the guidelines. We use this time to talk about being a good friend and student. This is also when we refresh the kid’s memories of our internet safety rules. Another item we cover is which people can and can’t check them out of school. It sounds like a lot but it usually only lasts 30 minutes.
Admittedly, there is bribery with a snow cone involved.
Coinciding a transition with a tradition is a great way to kick off the year! Ask your kids if there is a back to school tradition they would like to start. A few years ago, we started going out for dinner as a family on the Saturday before the new year starts. Our schools usually start on a Monday, so this works for us. We decide as a family where to go. This is a big deal to my kids because we don’t all go out to eat at an actual restaurant very often. This is just one example of a tradition to consider. Whatever tradition you and your family decide on, make sure it is mutually agreeable!
Visit the School
If your school hosts a back to school night prior to the start of the year, then plan to attend. This is a great way to meet teachers and other parents. It is an easy way to learn about opportunities to get involved with the PTA/PTO and your child’s classroom. We also find their classrooms, restrooms, and the main office. My oldest child is attending a brand-new school this year. They are hosting guided tours for students and parents prior to its opening. It was a great opportunity to get a feel for the layout of the school. If you’re unsure about tour policies or visiting before school starts, call the main office of your child’s school.
Before the first day of school, I like to show my kids where they will be dropped off and picked up each day. If your child will be riding a bus it is a good idea to ask the school secretaries where the bus drop off is and what the procedure is for getting on the bus to return home. Even if your neighborhood has had a long-standing bus stop, be sure to check with your district’s transportation department for any location or time changes. If I have a child walking to school, we walk the route to ensure they know the way I expect them to take.
Celebrate your kids going back to school and the start of a fresh new year! A new school year means new things to learn, new friends to meet and new possibilities! Embrace it! Going back to school doesn’t have to be just for the kids. Is there something that you want to learn more about? A hobby you’d like to pursue? Maybe you want to create memory books from all your summer adventures. Now is a great time to review the goals and aspirations you have for yourself and go for them! You and your family will benefit from your self-care. Remember to take care of yourself in all this hustle and bustle. After all, it is “the most wonderful time of the year”!