Back to School Tips: Navigating the School Year Like a Pro
It’s that time of year again – back to school!
The summer days are coming to an end, and it’s time to prepare our kids for the new school year. This back-to-school in particular is more exciting for our little family since Oliver is starting second grade in a new school!
Whether you’re feeling nostalgic or relieved, the transition can be a bit overwhelming. But amidst the nerves and excitement, we’ve been getting ready for a successful school year and gathering the best back to school tips from other experienced moms and teachers to help us navigate this exciting time with ease.
Getting Prepped with Back to School Supplies and Organization
1. Start Early and Shop Smart
When it comes to purchasing school supplies, it’s best to hit the shelves as early as possible. Many schools provide a supply list, so be sure to check it out and gather all the necessary items.
It’s a good idea to buy supplies in advance, as popular items tend to sell out quickly, and later in the summer everyone is doing their shopping in a frenzy (I used to leave everything until the last minute, so I can confirm). There’s a big difference between choosing what we want in a quiet, deserted aisle and fighting over who gets that fancy color set first.
We started shopping in early July this year, and nothing beats the moment Oliver tried on his uniform and chose his school supplies without hassle!
Additionally, it will give you time to look for sales and discounts to save some money.
2. Choose a Sturdy Backpack
Invest in a good-quality backpack for your child (my mom always says I kept hurting my back because of my heavy school bag, so I always make this a priority).
Choosing the backpack is a big deal at home (this year, Oliver chose a Zelda backpack that was next to impossible to find). But, regardless of the theme, we always make sure that it has wide and reinforced straps to ensure comfort and durability.
Since many schools limit locker or coatroom visits (or may not have a locker at all, like ours), your child may have to carry all their supplies throughout the day, so a well-designed backpack will help distribute the weight evenly and prevent strain on their shoulders and back.
3. Label Everything
Kids have a knack for misplacing things, especially at school.
To minimize the chances of lost belongings, label everything with your child’s name. We’ve labeled clothing, shoes, school supplies, lunch bags… everything!
Consider using initials for your child’s last name to avoid confusion.
This simple step can save you time and money spent on replacing lost items.
4. Get Organized with Apps
Does your school recommend any school-related apps? These apps can help you stay updated on classroom activities, grades, assignments, and important announcements. Check them regularly to ensure you don’t miss any essential documents or communications from teachers.
In Barcelona, where we live, school-specific apps are not a thing, so I use Todoist: it’s a simple checklist app that helps me stay on top of Oliver’s academic journey, as well as my own work. Most productivity apps will do, I even used Trello at some point, but I’d definitely stick with something simple like Todoist.
Preparing Emotionally for Going Back to School: Sleep, Nutrition, and Routines
1. Establish a Sleep Routine
Getting enough sleep is crucial for your child’s overall well-being and academic performance. If you’re anything like me, however, things tend to go out of hand during the summer. We don’t enforce a strict bedtime during the holidays, so we have to strive to get back on track the days before school starts!
Readjust their bedtime gradually to align with the school schedule to make sure they wake up refreshed and ready for the day from the very beginning. You can do this by advancing their bedtime to half an hour every day on the days leading up to that first day of school.
If you’re wondering how much sleep your child needs, here’s a useful guide by the Sleep Foundation!
2. Plan Healthy Meals and Snacks
Proper nutrition plays a vital role in your child’s energy levels and concentration throughout the day. But in the craze of the moment, we tend to disregard school meals.
Make sure they have a healthy breakfast to fuel their minds and pack nutritious lunches and snacks. If your child relies on school meals, familiarize yourself with the school’s menu and discuss healthy food choices with your child.
Offer guidance on making nutritious choices to support their overall well-being.
I love USDA’s My Plate resources for healthy-eating education!
3. Establish After-School Routines
After-school routines are just as important as the morning ones. They will help your child unwind and stay organized.
We usually have after-school activities, such as music, theatre, and swimming, but on the off days, Oliver has some time to wind down before doing any homework and organizing his things for the next day.
We have also found that limiting (but not eliminating) screen time helps him disconnect for a bit and clears his mind for his afternoon schedule.
After they’ve unwind, teach them personal responsibility by involving them in tasks like cleaning and stowing lunch boxes, packing their backpacks, and putting away their belongings.
By instilling these habits early on, you can empower your child to take charge of their responsibilities and develop important life skills.
4. Have Open Communication
Maintaining open lines of communication with your child’s teacher is crucial for their success.
As soon as your child is back to school, ntroduce yourself to the teacher and share any important information about your child. Email or use the communication method suggested by the school to keep in touch throughout the year.
If any concerns or questions arise, don’t hesitate to reach out to the teacher. Remember that teachers have your child’s best interests at heart and can provide valuable insights and support.
Making the Transition: Emotions and Friendships
1. Manage Expectations for Kindergarteners
The first day of kindergarten can be overwhelming for both children and parents. Usually, more for parents (I remember openly weeping once Ollie was safe inside his classroom).
For children, however, the first week will most probably be overwhelming and it will leave them tired and emotionally drained, so avoid planning anything out of the ordinary on their first Friday or even the first few Fridays.
Allow them time to rest and recharge, helping them adjust to their new routine.
2. Support Emotional Reactions
It’s normal for children to experience emotional meltdowns when they come home from school, especially if it’s their very first day or if they are changing schools.
The transition can be taxing, and they may need time to decompress.
Create a safe and calm environment for them to express their emotions and share their experiences. Consider implementing a routine like “Roses and Thorns” where they share the highlights and challenges of their day, focusing on the positive aspects.
If your child is anything like mine and speaks very little, make sure that whatever conversation you can have, counts. Our communication changed when we tried the “Truth and Lie” game. We told Oliver to tell us 2 things about his day that were true, and one that was a lie, and we would guess the lie.
It’s now become part of our daily routine, although we do let him win most of the time.
Additionally, remember that communication goes both ways: tell your child about your day, express your feelings, and explain your emotions. This will teach them by example, and make them a part of your day as much as you want to be a part of theirs.
3. Foster Friendships
Encourage your child to make friends and build relationships at school, at their own pace.
Let them know that you are a safe space and someone who cares about their well-being. Arrange playdates with their classmates to facilitate social connections outside of school.
By fostering friendships, you help create a supportive network for your child and enhance their overall school experience.
4. Be Involved but Flexible
While it’s essential to be involved in your child’s education, it’s also important to be flexible.
Not everyone has the time to volunteer extensively, and that’s okay. Find ways to support teachers, such as asking if they need specific supplies throughout the year or offering assistance with behind-the-scenes tasks.
Every little contribution counts, and it shows your support for the school community, but more importantly: it shows your child you’re involved.
Navigating Middle and High School: Back to School Comes With Independence and Communication
1. Encourage Independence
Middle and high school students benefit from having some control over their schedules, and they will start reflecting on some of that sense of responsibility you’ve been teaching them.
Allow them to explore different classes and extracurricular activities to find their interests and passions.
Foster their sense of responsibility by trusting them to make decisions about their academic journey. Encourage them to take ownership of their education and pursue what brings them joy, with your gentle guidance on the side.
2. Establish Communication with the Guidance Counselor
As soon as your child is back to school, reach out to the guidance counselor and introduce yourself.
Building a relationship with the guidance counselor ensures that they have your contact information and can reach out to you if needed. This connection can be valuable in supporting your child’s academic and personal growth throughout their middle and high school years.
3. Spend Quality Time Together
Make time for one-on-one dates with your child after school when possible.
These casual outings over ice cream or french fries create opportunities for open communication and bonding. By actively listening to your child without judgment or advice, you provide them with a safe space to share their thoughts and concerns about school.
Additionally, share your own experiences with your child, and trust them to give you advice on any issues you may have. By showing them how much you value their opinion and advice, you’ll be teaching them to seek your guidance whenever they need you.
4. Embrace Routine and Flexibility
Establishing routines in preparation for back to school, is crucial for middle and high school students, especially with increased responsibilities and extracurricular activities.
Encourage them to stick to a schedule that includes study time, homework completion, and leisure activities. However, be flexible and understanding when unexpected events or changes arise.
I’ve always said that the success of our extensive extracurricular activities relies on flexibility. If Oliver doesn’t feel like going to piano lessons on one particular day, we take that day off.
By adapting to your child’s unplanned needs or feelings, you’ll make sure that they will navigate the demands of school while maintaining a healthy work-life balance, and that sure looks like success in my book!
That’s a Wrap: Embrace the School Year with Confidence
As the new school year approaches, remember that you are not alone in this back to school journey.
Have confidence in yourself and, especially, in your child. From organizing supplies to supporting emotional well-being, you’ll contribute to a successful and enjoyable school year.
Embrace the growth opportunities, foster positive relationships, and be present for your children as they embark on this exciting educational adventure.
You’ve got this!
Are you working from home while your child is at school? I’ve been doing so for the past seven years (guess how old Ollie is!), and I’ve compiled my best tips for working from home!