Get organized for back-to-school

Transitions can be difficult, especially if you’re really enjoying the thing you’re doing and you have to stop to do something that might not be as fun. I suspect that’s how some children feel as the end of summer draws near. It’s the signal that they need to bid adieu to a relaxed schedule and, with help from their parents, get ready to go back to school.

To help your children get adjusted to a new routine …

Transition before school starts

In my former life as a preschool teacher, I sang songs with my students to help them transition from one activity to the next. While you may not want to break into song every day until schools starts, you can start the back-to-school conversation with your children to get them accustom to the return of stricter schedules.

Immediate actions:

  1. Help children emotionally prepare. A recent study by the Mayo Clinic suggests that some children may feel anxious in the days leading up to the start of school, particularly if there will be an unfamiliar or new routine. If your children will be attending a new school, take a tour or attend your school’s open house (back-to-school night) to get them familiar with their new classroom and teacher (and to find out where the bathrooms are). Find out if any of your children’s friends will be attending the same school or be in the same class. Knowing that they will have someone to talk to or eat lunch with can help them feel more comfortable.
  2. Adjust sleep schedules. Give your children some practice time with getting up and going to sleep earlier, a week to two before school year starts. Implementing the new sleep routine the night before the first day of school will probably put them in a grumpy mood, which is likely not a good way to start the year.
  3. Plan for new activities. New activities can put a well-designed schedule in state of flux. Figure out what changes need to be made (transportation, new gear) so that transitions can flow smoothly.
  4. Solidify routines for yourself. Parents will need to get back in the swing of things, too. If you’re the one who is on wake up duty, who prepares meals, or drops off children at school (especially if you carpool), consider doing a practice run to see what things in your system are working well and which ones need fine tuning.

Help your children remember what to do

Having a chore chart or a checklist will help your children remember the things they’re responsible for each school day. Purchase a chart (or download a list) that your kids like or create one with them. The tasks for each of your children will vary depending on age and how involved they are in preparing themselves for school each day. Younger children may have self-care items on their list (brush your teeth, put on your shoes, help make your bed) while older children may need homework or project reminders. They may also benefit from using apps (if they have a smart phone or tablet, or have access to yours) like Dictionary.com, Mental Case, iStudiez Pro, iHomework, or Evernote to help them manage their schedules and get things done.

Find out what the school needs from you

There are many things, in addition to shopping for supplies, that parents need to do before the class bell first rings (e.g. submitting a birth certificate, proof of residency, a doctor’s approval form if playing sports). Schools often provide lists of things you need for the first day of school, so check their website or give them a call to get more information.

Also, be sure to check on other school rules and ask questions:

  • Is there a particular dress code?
  • Will your child have a locker (and need to purchase a lock)?
  • What happens if your child is late for class?
  • What pieces of technology is your child permitted to have on school grounds?
  • What happens if a child breaks the rules?

Create a school command center

Having a central location for all-things school related will keep everyone in the know. Post a calendar of events (including volunteer and extracurricular activities), school flyers with important information, papers requiring parent signatures, transportation schedules, and contact information (main office, carpooling parents, after care, sports coach) in a central location everyone in the family can access. On days when things go a little wonky, having a command center will be very helpful, especially if you have more than one child and they attend different schools. If you prefer using an app, consider using Cozi Online Family Calendar or PlumLife.

Helping your children get organized and ready to go back to school doesn’t have to be chaotic. With a little planning ahead of time, the transition can run smoothly for the entire family.

9 Comments for “Get organized for back-to-school”

  1. posted by Nicleau on

    Or, do what we do, and don’t send your children back to school! Home learning is a great opportunity and provides a wonderful real-world education. (But thanks for the article anyway:) )

  2. Avatar of Erin Doland

    posted by Erin Doland on

    @Nicleau — So, for your home learning, you don’t do any preparation? You don’t develop curriculum or gather supplies or plan your yearly calendar? All my friends who homeschool have been spending the past two weeks getting things ready for their programs, too. They also have been rushing to get their kids into after-school programs like vocal groups and independent sports teams. Their lives seem more hectic than the lives of my friends who send their kids to traditional schools! How are you managing to avoid all the pre-school year preparations? This is a serious question. I think my friends would be interested in knowing how you organize it so you have nothing to do!

  3. posted by Marjoryt on

    I spend about 1 1/2 hours the first week in each of my college classes, getting the students ready for the semester – discussing schedules, books, supplies, when to study, where we’ll have class, resources for them, using the college and textbook software programs.
    I like to tell my students, “This is college, a different dimension. It operates NOTHING like high school. This is NEVER grade 13, and your high school habits applied here may earn you an F in the class before the end of the semester.” The example is the first classroom episode in Legally Blonde.
    We find many of our home school students find difficulty in adjusting to such timed scheduled – getting across campus, moving among activities, having to deal with so many people so quickly. We find our high school graduates expect to do all the work in class (especially if they’ve been a block schedule).

  4. posted by JayEff on

    Make sure your kids have all school-mandated shots/immunizations.

  5. Avatar of

    posted by Another Deb on

    Take advantage of the school and district websites. They publish the dates when grades will be sent (or e-mailed) home, sports schedules, contact information, class descriptions, social and music events, fundraisers and other efforts. Districts make the schedule for the coming year very early in the fall, so you can see when to book your travel to avoid missing exams, etc.

    Teachers are likely to also maintain their own websites and this can be a very good place to find resources specific to the class, such as digital copies of handouts, links to media that is available to view and even teacher-created video and pod casts (vodcasts) of actual class lessons.

    Please remember to label everything! The first weeks of school are chaotic enough and the brand new backpack will languish in Lost and Found if it is unidentified. It took me five days to return a cigar-box sized pencil box full of $10.00 worth of supplies to the right person, and we’ve only been in school 6 days! No name!

  6. posted by anon on

    Erin, I’m not Nicleau, but as a former homeschool mom, I thought I’d offer my $0.02. =)

    We avoided the hectic rush of “back to school” by schooling year-round. We still did our 180 days, but we took more frequent breaks. For example, in our education program, every birthday of our immediate family members was a school holiday!

    This left us with year-scattered transitions. We buy new crayons when the old ones wear out. We change books whenever a child finished the book they were currently using. Fall/winter our evenings were extra curricular church groups. Spring/summer the church groups ended and were replaced with activities like swimming lessons. For us, the transitions were just another part of the routine. =)

  7. Avatar of Erin Doland

    posted by Erin Doland on

    @anon — I can see how that works. Very cool. All of my homeschooling friends do two semesters and simply end the semesters when the curriculum for the semester has been finished. For most of them, this means their first semester runs from mid-August through Thanksgiving. One of my friends with a son who has autism, they do it a little differently, but it’s more about the routine of school. They still do just two semesters of lessons, but with the routine of the school day year round. None of them do school continuously like you described, which certainly explains why all of them are in high-stress mode right now.

  8. posted by OogieM on

    I was homeschooled, we did all the year’s lessons in one really long month or occasionally month and a half and then took off for the rest of the year. I got to study whatever interested me for as long as I was interested and then move on. Worked for me.

  9. posted by Nicleau on

    Erin–it’s taken me some time to get back to this post, but like anon, our schedule is very flexible and not tied to any particular institution, nor is it tied to any particular curriculum. As one piece of curriculum (and I use that word loosely) is finished we move on to another. This could occur in the middle of November or the beginning of July. We take a lot of breaks throughout the year and don’t follow the school’s schedule. Sure, I’m registering kids for soccer, dance, etc., but the only reason I have to do that now is because dance schools and soccer leagues tie their schedules to the school’s. It’s too bad really, because it means every family is tied to a similar schedule whether it works for their family or not. (And just for an example of why that bugs me, my husband is a landscaper by trade, which means he’s very busy in the summer. Do we get to take summer vacations? Nope, our vacations, if we get one, are usually taken in October when the season winds down, and maybe there’s a little money left.)
    I’ve never understood those homelearning parents who take on that hectic fall planning when they really don’t have to. But I respect everyone’s choice to do what they think is best for their family. I hope some day more of us will ask ourselves what truly works for our families and not what works for the perpetuation of a failed institution. –stepping down off soapbox now.

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