It’s that time of year again: Back to School—a season I have experienced for nearly 20 years with my six children. My kids have always attended a small rural school where there are less than 450 kids from Pre-K to 12th grade. They have seen each other in the halls daily, experienced the same teachers over the years, wore the same sports jerseys, signed their names in the various textbooks, and cheered at the same school-wide pep rallies. Every year, I fill out their registration forms (yes, almost a tree-worth of paperwork), meet up to 30 different teachers during parent/teacher night, buy hundreds of dollars’ worth of school supplies and outfits, and pack 30 lunches a week.
This year is different. This year, I have one child left at home. While that brings mixed emotions, I am excited for a simpler life, one where I can focus on my last child and use all my years of experience to make the school year a breeze.
So what’s the biggest piece of advice for back-to-school organization from a Mom who juggles a small business and is the COO of a large household? Start the night before!
Pack the backpack. This sounds like something that wouldn’t take too much time or make a difference, but this ensures your child will be ready the next day, allows for time for forgotten assignments, and helps you to see what they are working on. Sign permission slips, put books and homework away, and place the backpack by the exit door.
Take the guesswork out of what to wear and pick out the outfits for the day. Lay out everything—from shoes and socks to accessories. Don’t forget the gym bag. This prevents morning fights over what to wear or last-minute searches, such as the old familiar, “Moooooom, where’s my other shoe?” You want to avoid any changes to the morning routine that can lead to delays—if you have more than one kid, these pitfalls can multiply quickly and divide your time unnecessarily.
Prepare lunch and pack snacks the night before too. Lunch is very important from grade school all the way up to high school, and it’s always important to pack protein to fuel your kids’ brains for an afternoon of learning—my go-to’s are PB&J, ants on a log (celery, peanut butter & raisins!) and WC Jerky for that protein punch. If you choose healthy foods that don’t need refrigeration (like fruit, pretzels, peanut/almond/sun butter sandwiches), you can pack your kids’ lunch the night before, giving you extra time to pop in a fun note or a favorite snack. I have been known to send extra snacks for my sons’ friends who aren’t as fortunate to have a home-packed lunch—the crusts from my PB&J sandwiches are legendary! We all know it takes a village to raise our kids.
In the morning, you now have a system to get your kids out the door on time, but whether you say goodbye in the car or at the bus stop, my final tip is to leave your child with a positive, supportive thought. Let them know they are loved and valued because of who they are, not because of the medals or grades they earn. Your kids will experience many ups and downs during the 8+ hours away from your home, but you can make sure they start the day knowing that they matter. Be ready to remind them of the same thing when they walk back through the door later that day—they will need it, and so will you.
Here’s to a great year! From one parent to another, we’ve got each other.