Back to school season already? Keep the family a priority.

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by Tsh

Tsh is the founder of this blog and lives in Bend, Oregon with her husband and 3 kids. Her latest book is Notes From a Blue Bike, and believes a passport is one of the world's greatest textbooks.

In many places around the country, school’s just around the corner. It’s hard to believe, but the summer is (thankfully!) nearing the end, and for families with kids, a new school year means a whole new way of organizing your time, commitments, and priorities.

Together, we at the Life Skills Network have written a back to school series this past week, and today’s article is featured here at Simple Mom. Since my blog’s focus is home management hacks, and because most of my readership is moms with younger kids, I thought I’d angle my perspective on “back to school” with little ones in mind.

A new school year can mean craziness – new school supplies and clothing, requests to volunteer at the school, after-school activities threatening a coup on the family calendar. It can be a bit overwhelming for the home managers. Even those with preschoolers can feel the increased busyness and stress, not to mention those homeschooling. Here are a few tips for easing into the new school year so that it can be something the whole family eagerly anticipates.

Just for the Home Manager

momagenda• Take any calendars, syllabi, and schedules you’ve been given, and scribble events immediately on a central calendar. This might mean your Google calendar or simply a calendar on the wall, but wherever it is, keep it updated. I’d encourage you to make your calendar easily accessible for everyone in the family who can read. It can simply mean printing out your online calendar and keeping it your Home Management Notebook. I’m starting off this next school year with a brand new momAgenda, and so far, I’m digging it. Look for a full review sometime in the next week.

Keep your eyes open for those new line-items in your monthly budget. Is there an upcoming bake sale where you’re expected to contribute? Do you need to buy new ballet shoes or baseball cleats? And don’t forget about Christmas, either – As Dave Ramsey says, it falls on December 25th this year, so you have no reason to be surprised. Make a proactive plan to have enough money in the budget for Christmas – make it a sinking fund. You can even start keeping your eyes peeled for gifts now.

For the Whole Family

ballet_class.jpg
Photo by Peter Voerman

Sit down as a family and talk about what after-school activities everyone has in mind. Hear from the little ones, too. This can be really casual, around the dinner table, but keep your ears perked for what your kiddos want to do. Make a commitment as a family to keep after-school activities to a minimum – one activity per child is plenty. Share with your kids the value you place on having dinner together around the table as often as possible. Including them in this decision-making process helps them feel like a significant part of the family, that you value their feedback – and hopefully they’ll remember the family’s decision when they’re approached with another way to fill up their after-school time.

Pencil in some family outings during the school year on the calendar. You can keep the dates flexible, of course, but write them down so that you make a plan to do them. Even just once a month, make sure you spend quality time together, and not just with other people in the school and community. Consider simple outings like picnics at the park, attending the local high school football game, or volunteering together. Young kids can do all those things.

Start your bedtime and morning routine a couple weeks before school starts. Don’t begin the school year stressed and tired. Easing into an earlier bedtime and an earlier waking time means less grumpiness than if there was a dramatic change from “wake up whenever” to “wake up at 6:30.”

Still take time to soak in the summer. Is there something you still want to do this summer and you still have yet to do it? See if you have the time and finances to do it together as a family. It’s still summer!

For Mom and Dad Together

Sit down together one evening and talk about each child’s upcoming school year. Do you have any concerns? Any hopes? Any fears? Share them together, and possibly make a plan to work on any issues. If you anticipate a challenging year for Matt with his math, simply keeping Dad aware of the situation will help him tune his antennae to his son’s potential struggles – and make more time to help. Do you see any heart issues with your kids? Share them together, pray about them, and see if you can come up with a plan together. Write down your thoughts, and at the end of the school year, you can look at your observations and note any changes.

One-on-One Kid Time

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Photo by Vero & Vincent

Make an ice cream date with each of your children before the school year starts. Keep it just one parent and one child, and hear from their heart whatever they want to share. Make a note of any fears they have about being a big 3rd grader, or any sadness that they don’t have the teacher they wanted. Now’s a great chance for you to share some of your experiences as a child, and any life lessons you want them to remember. There’s nothing quite like a heartfelt conversation with your little one when you’re really paying attention to each other.

When They’re Too Young for “Real” School

Are your kids too young for you to even realize there’s a school year headed your way? I’m there, too, but I still make a (very) basic curriculum to do basic “school time” with my three-year-old. She thinks school is so cool, so I’m using that to her advantage and going over basic writing and reading skills, and just having fun with it in a no-pressure way. It’s just a few minutes every day, really, but it’s something she really looks forward to. See if your preschooler has a fascination with school time and learning, and plan something fun together on a regular basis.

Be sure to check out the other great back to school posts from the Life Skills Network:

What does this upcoming school year look like for you? Are you already overwhelmed at your upcoming schedule? Or is school so far away that you haven’t even thought of it? I’d love to hear any plans and ideas you have for starting the new school year off right!

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Comments

  1. avatar
    Cornélie says:

    Three ice-creams for me! I love this idea!!! :-)

  2. I agree that starting your routine a few weeks early is key- I just posted about the importance of routines earlier in the week. It is so important to keeping the school year running smooth! Great post…

    Melissa, Multitasking Mama’s last blog post…Organizing Your Home for Safety

  3. Great post! My daughter starts Pre-K in a week *faint*

    And thanks for linking me, much appreciated! I get the feeling once school starts, our weekly dates will be that much more valuable one-on-one time.

  4. @Emily – I thought your post and the photos were so sweet!

  5. I haven’t been on a date with my kiddos in a while. I may wait until school starts (Monday), because dad will be gone for several days. Those are good mom and kiddo bonding times.

    I just put in the two school schedules to the google calendar. Whew! It’s so incredibly essential to have that on the calendar. To make sure everyone is kept up with the weekly activities – I print the week’s schedule and post it on my info wall. (Speaking of info wall – I need to update emergency contact info – new teachers and all.)

    “Pencil in some family outings during the school year on the calendar.” Will do!

    Avlor’s last blog post…Children are strange…

  6. Wow, did I need this post! After coming home from my daughter’s registration nightmare, I actually went to my room and burst into tears last night just from the stress (and expense) of a new school year. Even experienced mothers of teens still get overwhemed!

    TX Poppet’s last blog post…Pressure

  7. Oooh…what a timely post! I’m actually being distracted from my back-to-school planning as we speak…by you! :D Hahaha. But you’ve given me some great ideas.

    This is our first year homeschooling (preschool, actually), so we’re all super excited. I can definitely relate to your preschooler’s excitement about “doing school.” When I was working on a few things for next week, Nolan (my 3 year old) said “Are you making things to go in my backpack? I love my backpack. YAY!!!” So cute.

    Sarah Bray’s last blog post…How to make a moving mouth puppet with arm rods

  8. @Sarah – My daughter loves her backpack, too, and wants to wear it everywhere with things like a brush, a Care Bear, and some magnets inside. Handy. Love your homeschool site, by the way! So very cool.

  9. Back to school is going to be crazy this year. My two oldest will both be in school, I’m starting my masters in Marketing, and my daughter will be going to the nanny’s full time. Writing things down in a calendar will be very, very important!

    I’m actually feeling really positive about the upcoming school year, and I think that helps everyone feel excited instead of stressed. Attitude is everything in my book!

    Kelly from Almost Frugal’s last blog post…En Vacances!

  10. Great list!

    I have three kids – 4th grader, 6th grader, and 8th grader. I don’t think of all of these things anymore – and that’s bad. Life always seems to get crazy once school starts. So, thanks for the reminder. In fact, today I am home with just my oldest. A visit to the local custard stand sounds like an excellent idea. The older he gets, the less he shares about what is going on – but, you know, if we keep at it, every once in a while we get some real tidbits of information. You’ve spurred me to action today – thank you!

    Lance’s last blog post…Maintenance, Do You Do It?

  11. Wonderful post!

    CONGRATULATIONS! You have won the Mrs Nespy’s Frugal World Gold Medal for August 15th. Go to http://mrsnespy.googlepages.com/grabyourmedalhere…to get the code to post your medal if you’d like. Thanks for the great writing!

    Kaye’s last blog post…Announcing….Mrs Nespy’s Frugal World Medal Winners!

  12. Wonderful post! Sorry for the double post…the link in the first one is not set up right!

    CONGRATULATIONS! You have won the Mrs Nespy’s Frugal World Gold Medal for August 15th. Go to http://mrsnespy.googlepages.com/grabyourmedalhere to get the code to post your medal if you’d like. Thanks for the great writing!

    Kaye’s last blog post…Announcing….Mrs Nespy’s Frugal World Medal Winners!

  13. We’re homeschooling — my oldest just turned five but we’re doing a pre-k approach. My youngest is 22 months and he’s along for the ride right now! We’re not going to officially start our school year until Sept 2nd.

    Last year we had a defining activity for each day (e.g., “home” day, or “circus class” day, “walk in the woods” day, etc.). We didn’t always only do one activity per day but I found that by defining our days we did limit other activities and it helped my son set his expectations and energy level for the day. We just finished registering for classes (he’ll be in three classes this fall), and have defined all our days for the new school year. We also have monthly activities we do, such as lunch with Papa at work and one family field trip on the weekend.

    We use an online family planning calendar called Cozi (which I like a lot), so my husband can share the calendar from work. We still use it but I also want to make a visual wall calendar with icons for each activity, so my son can add things and see at a glance what our plans are.

    We also have a morning rhythm we do… wake up, breakfast, clean-up, mama plays or reads with kids, kids play outside/on their own, and then snack. This helps our mornings go much more smoothly.

    As the home manager, I’ve been reading lots of books this summer about homeschooling approaches (we’re mostly unschooling inclined), methods, and resources, and planning what we’ll be focusing on this year.

    Thanks for a nice post and the chance for me to summarize our plans!

    Stacy (mama-om)’s last blog post…I Love You, Now Go Away!

  14. Once they enter high school, one after school activity probably isn’t enough for competitive college admissions, especially for very selective colleges. Not having a solid amount of extracurricular activities looks mightly lazy on an application…

  15. School days definitely gives more time for housewives to organize things at home. When you know how to manage your time, you would definitely love the few hours thagt your children will be away for school. It can be tough especially when you feel like not doing the tasks according to schedule. It takes a lot of effort on your part to manage your time and to do tasks really accordingly but it would make your life easier. It would give you the chance to tidy up your home before they go home ruin everything again… well, at least you tried. That’s how it is to have kids.
    .-= Therabreath´s last blog ..Therabreath Plus Coupons =-.

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