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The 2 things that make our school day so. much. better.

Exhausted but happy, we rumbled into town last week under a dark, star-spotted sky and pulled into our new non-driveway driveway (it’s just gravel, with patches of grass peeking through). We finalized the purchase of our new-old house while we were traveling, which meant this was the first time we looked at this house as our house. Ours.

Over the 6,400 (sixty-four hundred!) miles of travel the past six weeks, Kyle and I talked and dreamed and hatched plans about the house: paint colors, moving walls, what goes where. And of course, what’s under the carpet? (The entire house was carpeted, even in the bathrooms and kitchen.)

But in the back of my mind this whole time, I’ve been thinking this: the renovations are an on-going project, yes, but really? The real project is making this our home. Our home base for a long-time, Lord willing, because while we still plan to travel, we want to come back to this sweet little house for years to come.

This has been a long time coming.

(More thoughts on this, soon.)

Tate painting the walls

Making this house a home isn’t so much about the paint colors as it is about the day-to-day living here, the rhythms and routines. The kids have already claimed which room is theirs, they’re imagining where their beds will go, and they’re eager for a new school year.


We start school next week—a bit later than usual, gratefully—and I know many of your kids have already started their new school year over the past few weeks. It’s always a bit jolting, isn’t it?—waking the kids up and giving ourselves grace and time to find that sweet spot of living well during the school year.

For us, living well during school means fostering a home environment for learning, to keep hearts, minds, and bodies ready and eager. And for all five of us, the foundation to making this happen, before anything else, is:

1. getting enough sleep, and
2. eating well.

Seriously. If these two things don’t happen, all bets are off academically, emotionally, relationally. We’re a mess. Your family, too, eh?


Sleeping for school

Our kids tend to be night owls + sleeper-inners, so we’re working on adjusting the clocks back to a school year’s rhythm. It takes time. Grace upon grace right here.

The key for us is channeling all our focus on earlier bedtimes, which means starting the evening rhythm much earlier than we expect (why is that still surprising, after all these years?). Dinner, showers, final school prep, and storytime all need to happen on the early side.


If our bodies are in beds reasonably early the night before, it makes our morning rush a million times easier.

Then in the morning, I do my best to wake up first, get my coffee going before the madness, and get myself dressed for my day before I ask the kids to dress for theirs.

And a final lovely ingredient to our mornings? Playing soft-but-energizing music through our speakers before we wake the kids up. Seems to create a happier, less-dragging mood as our night-owlers eat breakfast.

Eating for school

The number one key I’ve learned for better school-year eating is making lunches the night before. For me, this is essential. It’s not part of our morning routine, it’s part of our evening routine.

Once they’re made, they wait overnight in the fridge. The next morning, it’s simply a grab-and-go before we head out the door.

healthy school lunch

We also have the kids make (or if they’re still young, help us make) their own lunches. This speaks volumes to them about responsibility, ownership, and making healthy food choices.

The sandwich thing works for us every now and then, but daily is too much (we’re trying to avoid a grain onslaught). The best lunches, for us, are dinner leftovers with sides of simple fruits and veggies.

The right containers help, naturally. We use these wraps for sandwiches, these for soups, and these for leftovers and sides:

Stainless steel lunch container

(The clamped lid means things stay put, and it’s dishwasher-safe, hallelujah!)


When our kids eat at school the way they eat at home, there’s less stress on their bodies and minds, which work so hard during the school day. And it’s a thousand times easier on us parents, because we’re thinking of our family food consumption as a whole, not as though lunch is unique from our breakfast and dinners.

Good food, good sleep. When we prioritize these two things at home, our kids’ time at school is so. much. better.

healthy school lunch

And so, after six weeks of cross-country travel, the school supplies are ready and the kids are counting down the days to school (they genuinely can’t wait!). The heat still screams summer at our new-old house, but the school year on the horizon whispers fall.

I’m grateful for a new beginnings, for season’s changes, and for fresh starts. I love the laziness of summer, but we’re ready for the school year. How about you?


MightyNest is a wonderful resource for those of us who care about using ethically-made products that enhance our quality of life. And their new MightyFix service is right up AoS’ alley.

With a $10 monthly subscription, they’ll send you a new product that makes your home healthier (something always valued at least $10, and often more). You can always add more to your monthly fix, and shipping is always free. And you can be a subscriber for as long or short as makes sense for you; there’s no mandatory subscription period.


MightyNest is offering Art of Simple readers a special $5 rate for the first month of your subscription—this means when you sign up for MightyFix, you’ll pay only five bucks for your first month, and you’ll receive the same stainless steel food storage container I love as your first fix!

That means you’ll get a fantastic lunch essential, valued at $15, for only $5! Your fix will arrive at your door within a week or so—to sign up, head this way. 

(MightyFix is currently available to US customers with free shipping, and Canadian and Australian MightyFixes ship for a small fee. Details are here.)


This essay was written in partnership with MightyNest. Thank you for supporting ethical businesses that keep the AoS lights on, friends!


Reading Time:

4 minutes





  1. Emily

    Hey, Tsh: would you mind sharing a playlist or some suggestions of “soft but energizing music”? I’d love some ideas so I can implement this with my own family.

  2. Sharon

    Hi Tsh. What is this ‘soft-but-energizing’ music you speak of?! Any recommendations ?

    • Angie Storlie

      Yes, make us a Spotify playlist, please! 🙂

    • Tsh Oxenreider

      Hmm…. That’s a good idea for a future post! Duly noted. 😉

  3. Tracy Alsterlund

    The grace upon grace is so important for us as no matter what (we prepare every year with sleep and food routines) my kids have a very hard time with transitions. The weeks leading up to school and the first few weeks into school are landmines. Plenty of buffer time, easy favorite dinners, snacks in the car for pick up time, and quality time to unload at the end of the day are so essential to our limited sanity. Yesterday was our first day back. Grace upon grace to us all. Momma’s hidden chocolate stash is going to take a beating these next few weeks. Emotional eating is okay if it is high quality, fair trade, dark chocolate, right?!

    • Tsh Oxenreider

      Totally! 😉

  4. Laurie

    Thanks for all of the ideas!

  5. Nicole

    Grace upon Grace with a side of Grace. That’s how we are getting through the summer to back to school transition!

    • Tsh Oxenreider

      With extra grace for dessert, right? Right there with you, Nicole….

  6. Beth @ Turn2theSimple

    We home school, so heading back to school isn’t quite as drastic of a change for our family. We have three highly sensitive kids…and therefore FOOD and SLEEP are an integral part of our every day lives…but keeping food healthy and “normal” and getting enough sleep (which for my family means early bedtimes…they don’t sleep in) is essential as well as plenty of free play and down time. It still amazes me how much impact such daily and simple things have!

    • Tsh Oxenreider

      We homeschool two days a week still (and with our youngest, he’s still homeschooled all the way), so I understand this, too. No matter how you do school, sleep + food makes everything different, for good or bad, eh?

  7. Kimberly Knowle-Zeller

    Even as a mother to a toddler, those two rules are top priority in our home. Sleep routines and eating well. Yes! And lots of love and grace. And when we work hard a lot of the time to eat well and get rest, when we can’t or when we need a splurge, it’s still much easier to get back on track.

    • Tsh Oxenreider

      So true! It’s just as essential for pre-schooling little ones….

  8. joanna

    I am trying to change our (beautiful) summer of slowness to school routine. It’s hard on all. My husband and I are both teachers so we (all5 us) must be out the door at 7:00 a.m. I love a slow simple way and this just feels crazy I will remember your advice of good sleep and healthy food as we transition here back to school next week.

    • Tsh Oxenreider

      The transition can be oh-so difficult, can’t it? I have to give my family a solid month before assuming any sort of smooth flow to our school routine…. I looooove the slowness of summer as well.

  9. Alicia

    The MightyFix sounds so great! Unfortunately, the free shipping doesn’t apply to those of us in the Alaska/Hawaii US. It seems they do offer a slightly discounted option, though.

  10. Erin

    Good advice! With a high school teacher, third year law student, and first grader in the house plus a puppy, mornings can be crazy! I am definitely planning to pack our son’s lunch the night before and maybe mine as well, so I can get to my classroom early in an attempt to avoid staying late. 🙂 Our son has trouble getting out of bed and my husband often sleeps later depending on how late he was up doing homework. I wonder if a little music may help both of them get going. I know it would help me! Time to go make a playlist on Amazon!

  11. Naomi

    Amen and amen to sleeping well and eating well! For me as well as my son. Also, not straying too far from our weekday routine on the weekends, as tempting as it may be.

  12. Ceajay

    Grace indeed..We are finishing up week 2 of homeschooling (3rd, 5th, 11th grades), a student teacher in college and another college student. Of the 7 of us my husband is out the door the earliest (2-3am..OTR Driver). I’ve never given thought to preparing lunch for the others and storing it when I’m up fixing his. Because of homeschooling I thought it wouldn’t matter. But after reading and giving much thought…My God I have wasted a lot of time on lunchtime..I really have. Thank God for Grace.

  13. Annette Silveira

    I have a week-old granddaughter and I want to send this to my daughter so she can keep it for when Zoey starts school in 5 or 6 years! Such great advice. I especially love the lunch advice, both what to eat and get the kids to make it. I’m secretly hoping that I get to take care of Zoey into school-age (I will be taking care of her when my daughter goes back to work) so I can be her lunch packer!

  14. Melissa

    With one dual-enrolled High School student, two grade schoolers and 1 homeschooler, I am going to have them all make lunch the night before. Then when the day gets busy, lunch will be ready even for our homeschooler, and mornings for our schoolers will be more peaceful. I love to have reusable containers that encourage packing several fruits and veggies is separate places. Those stainless steel containers make the food look appealing!

  15. Meghan

    Sleep, yes! I’m solo parenting for a few months, which is hard on all 3 of us left behind at home. I agree with a previous commenter — making time for sleep and decompression and play each evening can be tough! That’s where helping each other out and tackling all the chores together makes such a difference. boys make lunches (they’re 6 and 3) and put away non-breakable dishes while I fix dinner. Eating well sometimes just means eating at all, so I don’t stress the endless procession of PBJ lunches as long as there’s fruit and yogurt along for the ride. And *I* need to go to bed early, too — if I can wake up first, we’re all much happier.

  16. Steph

    This is what I’ve been working on for the last rw months, though I didn’t realize it at the inertia. We’ve structured our fall to be as unscheduled as possible. Then there is time to make dinner, sit down together, do homework, have a consistent bedtime routine, etc. Otherwise life just feels like a whirlwind.

  17. Jane

    Yes! I also want to know more about “soft-but-energizing” music!!!

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