There have been a few nights this week that my soon-to-be kindergartener has gone to bed well past 9 p.m., due to her older brother's athletic events... Since it's summer, and she can sleep in, it hasn't been a big deal. But last night I realized I really need to start reining it in and getting the kids ready to go back to school.
As much as I try to deny the summer is coming to an end, the school supplies are on the shelves, the summer clothes are on clearance and the emails from school are increasing. For our family, the kids go back to school before Labor Day, so the time is now for bringing bedtimes back to a more "reasonable" hour, getting our school supplies in order and going through the wardrobes to see what we've outgrown and what we need to shop for.
Bedtime adjustment is more of a challenge with my teenager, as the kindergartener is actually quite tired at the end of a busy summer day! For the teen, we try to give him a range, and then lovingly nag him until he complies. It's important to remind our kids (especially the older ones who seem to need evidence) that their bodies and minds need a certain amount of sleep to perform well, and to stay healthy. Most "experts" recommend shifting bedtime forward about 15 minutes every few days (or weeks, depending on when you start), until you get to where you need to be. For the younger set, it's a great idea to get into a routine that will resemble a school night — dinner, play time, bath, reading, hopping into bed, etc.
It's also important to consider the wake-up time — they need to get used to waking up earlier (some parents, do, too!), so there will be time to get dressed, have breakfast, do the hygiene routine and be ready for the bus or carpool in time. For some families, the times will change this year if their kids are moving up to the next level of school, and this will take some adjustment.
For school supplies, we like to reuse what we can — sure, it's frugal, and I like to save a buck, but it's also "green" and provides an opportunity to talk to our kids about being fortunate enough to be able to walk into a store and buy nice, new, shiny things every year if they need them. There's nothing wrong with sharpening the colored pencils and putting them back in the same pencil box from last year — the cardboard box they come in will be trashed soon, anyway, so there's really no difference. (I'm not making my kids bring 2" stubs of pencils and broken crayons to school, even though they'd still survive if I did.)
I'm not a fan of driving all over the state to find the cheapest 2-pocket folder, so I usually eyeball the ads, and then we go to one place, armed with our updated list from school and get it all done in one trip. We might make an extra trip for a calculator or backpack, if we need to. Everything gets labeled and put into the backpack, and then into the front closet, ready for school. Each family has their own traditions and habits here — my only advice for this is not to wait too long, or you'd end up driving all over looking for college-ruled paper or the requested Prang brand watercolors that have been requested, or paying $7 for them at an office supply store (hmmm, sound like I'm talking from experience?).
For the back to school clothes shopping, it requires some painful work in advance. The worst part is requiring a teenage boy to try to everything that is "questionable" — i.e. all of his pants and jeans, long-sleeved shirts, and those t-shirts that look a little short. We do it over the course of a day or two, and make piles of clothes for the trash, Goodwill, and to share with some friends from school. Shoes that are too small, if in good shape, go to one of our favorite organizations, Soles for Jesus (our school has a collection bin all year long). Everything is washed and put away or packed up.
Then we make a list of needs for the fall (new shoes for school and basketball, winter jacket, jeans, etc.), and we go out and get it done. Shopping for a 5-year-old girl who loves clothes is a lot easier than a 13-year-old boy who would rather not have his mom asking him how the waist of the jeans he's trying on fits, but over the course of the next few weeks, we'll be ready to rock, until either of them hits a growth-spurt, and we have to do it all over again!
For some families, you might need to talk to younger children about spending time away from home, and what a typical school day will be like. You might need to prepare your older students for being more prepared and organized, or how to manage time after school with homework, extracurriculars, etc. It might be a good idea to help reluctant readers get back into reading every day or night if they've gotten out of the habit, or to break out some flashcards — or even check out the Khan Academy math tutorials to brush up if kids are feeling nervous.
After the big tasks have been accomplished, I start looking at my old posts, blogs, and cookbooks, looking for inspiration for quick and healthy breakfast foods, fresh ideas for the the daily school lunches I will need to pack, and hitting up the Pinterest boards I've been pinning all those cute notes and treats for teachers and kids to send throughout the year. I am working on a better system for organizing all of the paper and information that we will be bombarded with, and on the best family calendar system for our changing needs (traveling spouse, multiple sports teams, work deadlines and projects, special days, field trips, social engagements, etc.) — more coming on all of that in the next few weeks...
How does your family get ready for back-to-school? Any tips to share? Teachers, any advice for parents prepping their kids for returning to the classroom?