7 Best Tips for a Successful Back to School
Check out these 7 tips as your children head back to school. Practical ideas for a smooth transition for the whole family. Start the year strong!
Here we are again! Hard to believe that the “Back to School Season” has arrived. And I do mean season, because as a mom AND teacher, it definitely feels that way! Just like any season, there are pros and cons. Over the years, I have worked really hard to turn the cons into at least neutrals, if not pros!
Let’s chat today about some ideas for making this a season to celebrate…and set us up for success as we head back to school!
If you don’t have kids in school, I hope you’ll share this blog with a family or neighbor who could use a little hope in this season!
Let’s get started! Here are 7 back to school tips that have helped our family over the years and hopefully they will help you too! Whether you have little ones who are still at home, multiple children in school, homeschooling, or even have grandchildren who could benefit, I think there is something here for everyone!
#1 Tip for Back to School
Grace upon Grace.
Wait, Robyn. You’re supposed to be giving us practical tips as we head back to school.
I get it! But trust me. There is no tip more practical or more important than grace.
Grace for your spouse as they make the back to school transition. Grace for your children who may be nervous about a new class this year. Grace for the teacher…hands down, teaching is one of the most under-paid, emotionally and physically exhausting, and rewarding jobs out there. And your child’s teacher is going to need a lot of grace from you.
Because those new shoes that you planned ahead for and ordered in advance aren’t going to fit on the first day of school. The picture-perfect back to school photo? Someone is going to blink. The new backpack is going to get a broken zipper within the first week. Your child is going to forget their lunch on the first day. Your spouse is going to forget to pick up that physical needed by the office. You’ll be disappointed with the homework policy and you won’t agree with the way the teacher handled that playground disagreement. You’ll need grace and lots of it.
Last, but not least, grace for yourself. You’ve got this!
Tip #2 for Back to School
Work together…as a family…to plan for success.
Okay. We are a lot “extra” on this tip. I should say that I am a lot “extra” on this tip. I’ll blame it on being a teacher and an overly-organized, type A personality. That being said, I know the huge difference it has made for our family to get really detailed with our schedules and expectations.
A couple weeks before school begins, I set aside a few hours for planning. I take a big calendar page and write out everyone’s lesson, sports, and extra-curricular activities. I also make a detailed list of everyone’s daily chores. Then, as a family, we sit and block it all out.
For example, all three of our kids need to practice piano each day. This used to be very frustrating because we didn’t have a schedule for it and everyone would decide they wanted to practice at the same time. By working together to block out these kinds of details, each of us have clear expectations about the needs of our whole family. I like to think that this process is also teaching our children that the world…and our family…doesn’t revolve around one person’s needs. It’s a team effort!
It is also important to us that our children learn time management, responsibility, and independence. Having detailed schedules sets our children up for learning those life skills. And it also means a lot less nagging from Mom and Dad. Double win!
Even if your children are too young to read or maybe aren’t even in school, this can be incredibly valuable. There is a reason that picture schedules are hung in every early childhood classroom! Most children thrive with consistent and manageable routines. They can learn valuable lessons, even at very early ages, about time management and responsibility. Will they need a lot of guidance? Of course! But by the time they do start school, they will be in a routine of following a schedule that works for the whole family.
At the very real risk of having you think I am totally crazy, I’ll give you an example of one of our children’s morning schedule. It is super detailed. This helps him to know what he should be doing, without constant direction and reminders. It helps me, as the parent, to be able to focus on my morning tasks without constant interruptions too!
- 6:15-6:25 wake up and devotions
- 6:25-6:40 piano practice
- 6:40-7:00 breakfast, brush teeth, get dressed
- 7:00-7:20 morning chore
- 7:20 load car
See? Overly detailed. But our mornings tend to run very smoothly and we all get to school on time without undue stress. What can I say? It works for us! You may not need this extensive detail (though our kids love it and ask for it). But even minimal scheduling and expectations can make a big difference!
OCD much, Robyn? Yep! But you know what, I don’t spend *most* school mornings frantically trying to get everyone (and myself) out the door. I’ll take it!
Tip #3 for Back to School
Plan ahead for that first day of school. It matters…a lot!
I know, I know. I don’t like to think about the back to school season any earlier than necessary. But there is a noticeable difference in how both I and my children all feel about the first day of school when we have prepared in advance. While there are practical reasons, such as time to make sure those new uniforms and shoes fit and securing the “perfect pencils” before the shelves are cleared by everyone else waiting till the last minute, there are also emotional benefits.
It is healthy for everyone to start getting excited about going back to school. For my kids, this starts with choosing backpacks and school supplies. I feel more confident when I have a handle on the schedules and I know things are prepared. Planning ahead almost always has more pros than cons!
Here is an approximate checklist of things I try to do ahead of time:
- Three weeks before: Order uniforms and school shoes
- Two or three weeks before: Get school supplies
- Two weeks before: Work on schedules and coordinating our family routines
- One week before: Start practicing those routines (including going to bed at a decent time!)
- 2 days before: Get my first-day-of-school picture spot and signs ready, drop off school supplies (like hand sanitizer and lysol wipes) to the teachers so they have things to get started
- 1 day before: Lay out uniforms, backpacks, etc. and take some cute pictures! Plan a fun breakfast or after school snack.
- First day of school: Set the alarm early so there is plenty of time for relaxed pictures and a few minutes to shake off any first day jitters! Arrive at school a little early!
Tip #4 for Back to School
Treats for everyone!
This is a much easier one than tips one, two, and three! Who doesn’t love treats?!
Your attitude for the back to school season really sets the tone for your whole family. I’ll be the first to admit that some years it is a true struggle. Even though I love my job and I love the routine of the school year, I’ve taught long enough and had kids in school long enough to know the exhausting, frustrating, and downright disappointing days are going come. (Fortunately, more good than bad!!! But still…)
However, I have also noticed when I’ve let my poor attitude spill over to my family. Since we have to do this thing, let’s make the most of it! And for sure, I want my kids to love learning and love their educational experiences!
One fun way to help build the excitement and celebration is with fun treats. I tried the lunchbox notes and I was really bad at remembering those. Now that my children fix their own snacks and have hot lunch at school, those don’t really work. But they are a super cute idea!
Think of little ways to celebrate…a $1 ice cream cone after the first week of school. Surprise donuts for that first Monday. A family bowling trip after the first test. It doesn’t have to be fancy or expensive. But celebrate! It’s more fun for everyone!
And celebrate your children’s teachers too (even if its yourself, homeschool moms!) I like to get $5 coffee gift cards to send at the end of the first week. You can find a cute printable for that HERE.
Click HERE to subscribe to the blog and get a free printable for both teachers and for a first day of school treat for your kids too!
Tip #5 for Back to School
Schedule white space.
Yes, I remember that in Tip #2 for Back to School I waxed eloquent about the importance of schedules. And that’s why Tip #5 is so important to me.
Your family…and yourself…need white space. You need blocks of time that are reserved for nothing. Robb refers to it as his big “Nothing Box”.
My over-detailed personality can easily forget Tip #5. So I am putting it in writing in this blog post to help myself remember.
This might look like Friday night pizza and a movie. Or an intentionally slow Saturday morning. It might look like scheduling a trip to the beach on Sunday afternoon or a family walk after dinner. It might be all together or by yourself (I try to have some of both every week).
You’re working hard and your kids are also working hard. School is their “job”, so to speak. And everyone needs a break from their job on a routine basis. As the gatekeeper of my family’s schedule, I am intentionally making this a priority.
It isn’t always easy. Sometimes it’s an uncomfortable no to a family dinner or excusing ourselves from a group activity. Sometimes it’s forcing myself to put away my lesson plan book and save that work for the next day. Sometimes it is helping your child politely say no to a birthday party (that’s a tough one, but sometimes it must be done).
Whatever it looks like for your family, be intentional and purposeful about protecting your family time and “white space.” It is essential.
Tip #6 for Back to School
Create intentional spaces at home for work and play.
Whether it is the kitchen island, a desk in the home office, or a cute table in the bedroom, your child needs an intentional space for school work. A lot of frustration can be eliminated at homework time when pencils and erasers are readily available (pick up some extra packs for home when you buy school supplies!) and there is a distraction-free area to work. When the weather allows, I often send my kids outside for their reading homework time. Make it fun but also purposeful.
I use a vintage tool caddy for a portable “homework” caddy. I keep it stocked with pencils, erasers, glue sticks, erasable colored pencils, and washable crayons (hyperlink all of these). Eliminating all the little irritations can just help things run more smoothly…for everyone!
Tip #7 for Back to School
Grace upon Grace.
Yes. It’s worth repeating. Because from tips 2-6, you might have forgotten to give yourself lots and lots of grace.
Big hugs and best wishes for a successful and happy school year. And remember, success isn’t always a letter or a number. It’s in a lot of little moments worth celebrating! You’ve got this!