Going back to school is rough on EVERYONE. The students who are used to the freedom of summer, the parents who are schlepping kids to and from school and other activities…even the dogs who are used to sleeping late in the mornings. But once you start getting into a routine, just about everything gets easier. But in those weeks before that happens. Life is ROUGH. Or at least it was before I discovered these back to school hacks. On this list you will find a little something for everyone, from frazzled moms to sleepy kids…and dear old Fido.
Ok, let’s get something straight. Mom steers the back to school ship. Yes, you might have a partner who serves as a first mate, but YOU ARE THE CAPTAIN OF THIS SHIP. And along with all of the work you do such as packing lunches, knowing where your son’s missing shoe is and everything else in between, you also set the tone of the house. So if you want a calm morning, I’m sorry to say that it starts with YOU. How can you set a great tone for the day?
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Wake up at least 30 minutes before your kids. Use it however you please. I tend to enjoy a cup of coffee, respond to some emails, and get my work day rolling before my boys wake up. Some mornings when I know I won’t have time for it later in the day, I head to the gym for an hour before my kids wake up. Yes, it’s awful waking up early and leaving my warm bed, but I feel SO ACCOMPLISHED on those days. Interested in trying out a gym but afraid to commit? I’ve got a FREE three day pass to Midtown Palatine if you would like to try it out—no strings attached! Just leave a comment on this post if you want to use it.
Meal plan. Yes, I know, it’s hard to find the time to map out the week when your weekends are jam packed and exhausting, but it is oh so worth it. Pour yourself a glass of wine and divide a piece of paper into three columns (breakfast, lunch, dinner) and seven rows for each day of the week. Then divide and conquer. Slow cooker and sheet pan meals are game changers for me, in addition to picking up a pre-made rotisserie chicken from the grocery store and serving some of these popular lazy man suppers. For breakfast, you can’t go wrong with a protein and produce packed smoothie and for lunch? The options are endless.
Have a sorting system. For some reason, schools tend to send out paper reminders over and over again when a simple email would have sufficed. It’s not the teacher’s fault (I was guilty of this back when I had my own classroom) but it definitely does get irritating to drown in a sea of papers only two weeks into the new school year. So my advice is to edit and sort papers immediately when clearing out your kids’ backpacks. Yes, you might have to recycle some art projects without them seeing, but you can also save the highlights for festive holiday garlands or simply snap a photo of the project to use in a scrapbook before putting it in the recycling bin. As for school papers, it helps to have a different container for each child in your family. That way, you can keep his/her paperwork straight. My favorite fashion forward sorters are from the Land of Nod, which you can check out here. Lastly, it helps if you jot important dates down in your planner (either paper if you are old school like me or in a shared online calendar) so important dates don’t get lost in the shuffle of papers.
Do your homework. Yes, that’s right, YOU have homework, not just the kiddos. Your case study? Your kids, of course. Find out what their teacher is like by attending Back to School and Curriculum nights, ask your kids who they played with at school…basically try to be like the Russian spies we keep hearing about so much on the news lately. Oh, and one tried and true tip from over a decade in education? Have these discussions while doing something physically active to help them open up. Shoot hoops, walk the dog, go on a bike ride…the task at hand makes kids more comfortable and at ease so you can not only have fun together, but also have a meaningful conversation.
Outsource your dreaded tasks. I LOATHE packing school lunch. Why? I’m not really sure. I love to cook and I even have adorable bento boxes for my kids but I just can’t stand spending my nights packing lunches. I even tried out a lunch delivery service that my kids refused to eat. Sigh. So I delegated it to my husband and the problem is solved. I saw social media posts about parents individually labeling hundreds of school supplies the night before the school year started. WHY?!?! I mean, there’s Mabel’s Labels for that. Duh. What is your least favorite task? Either delegate it to your partner (or your kiddo if he or she is old enough) or hire someone to do it. It will be worth every single penny.
Schedule something to look forward to. One of the reasons why kids and parents dread the start of the school year is because they think the fun of the summer is over. Well, the summer might be over but the fun doesn’t need to be. It is the perfect time of year to go apple picking, explore a new park, take a long weekend away before the weather gets nasty…the options are endless. And having something to look forward to not only makes the weekly spelling test a little less daunting, but also helps you to fly through your work week knowing you have a reward at the end of it.
It will be summer again before you know it. Well…February REALLY drags on, but once that dark and dreary month is over it’s smooth sailing. Here’s to the best school year yet!