10 tips to survive the school year
When I sent my firstborn off to school many years ago, I was ill-prepared for the realities of school life. I thought I’d just walk him to the school and that would be that. I had underestimated how managing my children’s school lives would consume such a chunk of my time.
Every day, I’d go through the list of the usual questions: is today the day they take money for lunch in the cafeteria or pack a lunch? What’s the deadline for that paperwork I have to fill out for the field trip? What time do I have to pick up my son from the after-school activity? Buy what for the science fair?
But through the years, I’ve learned a lot, not only through my own experience, but from seasoned parents who taught me the key to surviving the school years is to adhere to the adage “work smarter, not harder.”
Here are some tips I’ve gathered that should help you glide through the upcoming school year:
1. Organized parents are always seen with their organizers. Buy and maintain an agenda in which you keep all of your appointments and phone numbers with you at all times. It can be a paper, electronic or phone-based organizer.
2. Avoid going on a trip the week before school starts. That week is a great time to train the kids to start waking up early again and getting into other routines.
3. Have a strategy for purchasing school supplies. Consider getting together with another family (or two) and buying supplies in bulk and splitting the cost. As well, there are usually a few items you’ll always need on hand throughout the year, so stock up now. Paper and pencils seem to be the most-used items in my household.
4. Join the Home and School Association or other school groups and prepare to get involved in your child’s school. Nothing will keep you more connected to your child and the school than volunteering.
5. If your child is going to school for the first time, plan to have your child spend a lot of “down time” after school – perhaps at the playground – to help deal with some of the transition stress he or she may feel.
6. Set aside a specific time each night for the kids to organize their backpacks. This can’t be repeated enough. Mornings are not the time to be searching for the missing soccer shoe or the form that must be returned to school that day. You can even pack their lunchboxes with the non-perishable items the night before and add the items that require an ice pack in the morning. (Make sure the kids put the ice pack back into the freezer when they get home from school.)
7. If you’re the type of parent who likes to give teachers and the bus driver gifts at holiday time or the end of the year, consider buying items as you see them and can afford them, packing them away in the closet until needed, rather than making a mad rush for gifts at the last minute.
8. Talk to friends about organizing a car pool if the school is far from your home. The school may also keep a list of parents interested in car pooling. If your kids can walk to school, consider forming a “walking school bus,” where an adult or two walks a group of children to school each day.
9. Make sure you have set up a place where your child can do homework comfortably. This can be a desk or even the kitchen table. Keep supplies handy and make sure the area is well-lit. Establish rules for completing homework (for example, everyone can have a snack and then must spend at least half an hour working).
10. Consider paring down your child’s extracurricular activities to one or two. Many parents find themselves exhausted by the constant chauffeuring and the kids get tired of being overscheduled.