Is it just me or do the summers seem to be getting shorter and shorter. My kids start school in two days! I’m shocked. I feel like I haven’t had enough time to do all I wanted to do with them this summer. But at the same time, I’m excited to not hear fighting all the time. Because it’s not just my kids who are about to kill each other by the end of summer, right? RIGHT?
I love getting back into the school routine, but with such busy schedules, things can get a bit chaotic. We try to plan ahead, but there are still days I send the kids to bed early and fall on the ground with a bar of dark chocolate weeping about how everything went wrong that day and how I’m sure my kids are going to grow up to become serial killers. But then I finish said bar of chocolate, look at the small successes we had and reassure myself that my kids are good people and will do their part to change the world for the better. As you can see, we need all the help we can get. Here are 11 tips and tricks I’ve learned over the years that help the school year go much better.
1. Lay out all clothes the night before (including socks)
This also helps avoid fights. If we take the time the night before to pick out clothes, we’re not rushed in the morning and my kids and I can agree on what they wear. That way, they have the freedom to pick, but my son doesn’t end up wearing plaid shorts and striped shirts every day… which he would if I had no say.
2. Have backpacks packed and by the door next to shoes and jackets
This not only makes things less rushed in the morning, but the evening before you can take the time to make sure everything is in there that needs to be. When my kids finish their homework, they put their homework folders right back in their backpacks. When I’m packing lunch the night before, I also pack their snack in their backpack. And shoes… I feel like if I could get back all the time we’ve spent hunting for shoes right when we’re supposed to leave to go somewhere, I’d have enough time to write the next great American novel. Make sure shoes are right by the door to avoid the pain and suffering that comes from hunting for missing shoes at the last minute. The struggle is real.
3. Pack lunch the night before
This is a huge time-saver. My kids never eat school lunch, so I have to prepare lunches every single day of the school year. If I waited until the morning, I’m sure my kids would go to school with a Ziploc of cereal. Now I have time to make sure they have a healthy lunch.
4. Pack a high protein snack during school (Click here for a list of our favorite snacks)
A lot of schools now have one or two snack breaks during the day. Don’t pack processed carbs for you kids (candy, crackers, etc). I’m not morally opposed to crackers for a snack, but include a nut butter (if allowed) or some cubed ham and cheese, etc. You may have to invest in a small lunchbox type cooler to keep healthy snacks fresh. Make sure your kids have protein, carb and fat to get them through the day. They’ll do better in school and for my kids, they’ll be less grumpy. My kids represent the epitome of HANGRY. They get it from their mother.
5. Lay out breakfast the night before
We lay out breakfast the night before because I work out first thing in the morning and my husband is in charge of getting the kids breakfast. Since I’m a control freak and want to be in charge of what they eat for breakfast, I started laying it out the night before. Now I realize this is also a HUGE time saver. For my son I set out granola in a bowl with a lid, a frozen mini muffin on a plate to defrost (click here for our favorite muffin recipe), and a bowl of yogurt in the fridge. For my daughter, I set some egg muffins I’ve made ahead in the fridge to defrost, or a breakfast burrito, a bowl of fruit, or the same breakfast as my son. Then in the morning we just have to stick the eggs in the microwave, or pour the milk on the granola. Having a healthy breakfast is a big part of having a great day, and I know I couldn’t pull it off if I didn’t prepare in advance.
6. Let kids have 30 minutes of free time after school
My kids have so many activities after school. Plus, they have their regular school homework and chores. This doesn’t leave them a lot of time. Because they have so much going on, we’ve made relaxation time a priority. Right after school but before homework, I give my kids 30 minutes to use how they choose. They usually have a snack, play with legos, or watch something on TV. This gives them a chance to unwind and do the things they enjoy.
7. Have family dinner
Yes, I know we’re all busy, but make family dinner a priority. This is a great time for conversation. Sit down as a family and talk about what happened that day and if there are any worries at school. And let’s face it, food softens people. I find my kids are more likely to talk to me if they’re not hungry. Again, we’re a hangry family.
8. Volunteer at school
Because my kids go to a charter school, we’re required to volunteer. But this has been great for both me and my kids. I like to get to know the teacher and the students. Then when my kids talk about their friends or the kids they’re not so fond of, I know who they’re talking about. And I’ve found getting to know their teachers makes talking to them about my kids much easier. Volunteering also lets my kids know that their school is important to me. I don’t ship them off for the day and forget about them.
9. Download the school calendar and add it to your personal calendar
Schools have so many holidays, half-days and events. At the beginning of the year, I put all those dates in my Google Calendar and share them with my husband. Now I don’t have to be that mom who gets the call at 1 p.m. reminding me to pick my kids up from school because it was a half day.
10. Cater to the kids, not the other moms
I love to volunteer at the school Valentine party. But every year, I’m more and more shocked by the Valentines the kids hand out. Last year, my son came home with a juice box decorated like a robot, several hand-made cards (made by either the moms or the future next Claude Monet) and plastic bag somehow formed into a fish with a custom poem sticker, decorated with glitter. I sent my kids with pre-made Target valentines taped to a granola bar. I’m pretty sure the kids only care about what’s inside and not the packaging. I feel like we constantly try to out due each other as moms and school events are no exception. Think about what will make your child happy and not what you can find on Pinterest that will impress the other moms. I’ve given up on impressing other moms, I only want to impress my kids.
11. Have a family planning session every Sunday
This is HUGE for making the week go more smoothly. Every Sunday evening, we sit down as a family and talk about the weekly calendar. If we have any recitals, sporting events, scout events, or work events (yes, shockingly enough my husband and I actually do have things going on as well!), we talk about those. This keeps expectations in place so there are no surprises. We also talk to the kids about how they’re feeling about school, friends and their activities. Like family dinner, this is a great way to talk to your kids about the things that are important to them.
What do you do to make the school year go more smoothly?