Preparing for Back to School
by Sarah Hamaker
It’s the most wonderful time of the year . . . for parents eager to have their little darlings back in school. Whether you homeschool or send your kids off to public or private school, taking some time to prepare for re-entry into academic life will make the path easier for all involved.
Here’s how we get our four kids—two high schoolers, one middle schooler and one upper elementary schooler—ready for the new academic year. Plus, four parental resolutions for mom and dad to enact this school year.
1. Declutter clothes and shoes. Even if you’ve already gone shopping for back-to-school clothing, have your kids go through their drawers and closet. Not having to weed through pants, shorts, skirts, shoes and tops that are too small or too out-of-fashion will make finding something presentable for school easier.
2. Stock up school supplies. Now’s the best time to buy extra glue sticks, pens, pencils, notebook paper, binders and poster board. I know from personal experience that it’s very difficult to find three-subject notebooks in October, for example, so take advantage of the back-to-school supply sales—and stock—now.
3. Review the family schedule. Look ahead and see what changes to the family calendar the school year will bring. For example, will you need to stockpile quick dinner recipes for Tuesdays when both kids have after school activities? Thinking through the intricacies of the coming year now will save you a mad scramble later. Also consider posting a weekly or monthly calendar that everyone can reference. We have a small white board we update with appointments and other general information the family needs to know each Sunday for the coming week.
4. Revise the chore distribution. It’s also good to see what household tasks might need to be shuffled around, depending on new school schedules. For example, we’ll have a middle schooler in our house this year, which means that child will be leaving the house for the bus very early in the morning—much too early to do the breakfast dishes. So I’ll be reassigning that task to our elementary school son, given he’ll be the last one to leave for school each morning.
5. Figure out the lunch plan. There’s nothing more frustrating than having nothing to make for the kids’ lunches ten minutes before the bus comes. We came up with a list of 10 acceptable lunch entrees that our kids take turns making for themselves and their siblings. A weekly list posted on the fridge says who’s making lunch—and what—each day (and also who’s buying lunch at school). Most school systems now allow you to load money on student lunch accounts online, making it super easy to keep track of a student’s lunch buying.
6. Start earlier bedtimes a week before school starts. Most of us allow our kids more freedom for staying up later during the summer, so it’s a good idea to move back to their regular bedtime ahead of school. This will help get them back on track quicker in the sleep department.
8. Renew (or start) a technology contract. With more schooling done online, chances are your students will need to spend time online to complete homework and other assignments. Putting a plan into place now as to how much online time you’ll allot for each child will help eliminate arguments later. One hint: Instead of using hours (like giving a child 2 hours of computer time daily), use the clock (allowing your child to be online between 2 and 4 p.m.). That will remove you as timekeeper and reduce arguments as to how long a teen’s been online.
Resolution 1: I will not complain about my children’s teachers. This means, you will speak well of their teachers, not ill. That publicly and privately you will not disparage their teachers, especially in front of them or within their hearing. By the very position as a teacher in your child’s school, that person deserves your respect.
Resolution 2: I will take the teacher’s word over my child’s. It used to be common that if a teacher said a child had misbehaved, the parent would believe the teacher over any protestations from the child. This stemmed from moms and dads knowing that a child is an unreliable witness to situations in which he has a stake. Make it clear from the outset that you will not tolerate misbehavior in the classroom and that it’s your child’s responsibility to learn to get along with any “difficult” teachers, much as it is with any “wonderful” teachers.
Resolution 3: Homework is the sole responsibility of my child. In other words, you as a parent should not take the onus of getting homework done on your shoulders. “But what if my child doesn’t do her homework?” you ask. That’s the teacher’s responsibility to address. If the teacher gives a poor grade on uncompleted homework, then your child will suffer the consequences. If the teacher makes your child sit out recess to finish her homework in class, then your child will suffer the consequences. The only responsibility you have as a parent regarding homework is to make sure your child has a place to do it. That’s it. Other than that, leave the homework to the child.
Resolution 4: I will not bring homework, musical instruments or lunches to school when my child has left them at home. It is the child’s responsibility to make sure he leaves for school with all the things he needs that day. The parent who takes that responsibility on herself of bringing a left-behind item to school later is not helping her child learn that responsibility. It’s better to have a child figure out how not to forget things early in life than later in life. Less stress on the parent, too. And no school is going to let a child go hungry for forgetting his lunch, either.
We’d like to hear from you. Please share your comments below or like us on your Facebook page. Be sure to check back each month for more articles and products available at your local Christian bookstore.