By: Lisa Kemble
Just this morning, as he got out of bed, my husband remarked quizzically, “Is it actually a little chilly in here?” Yep, it’s true–fall is approaching and back to school is imminent. For some of you, school may have already begun. For us (San Diego Unified), it’s a mere 10 days away. We are relishing these last days of summer like a quickly-melting popsicle, and at the same time, preparing for a new season of soccer and violin and drums and homework and early morning wake-ups. Now that we have three kids in school–first grade, fourth grade, and fifth grade–we are taking back to school prep pretty seriously around here, and we’ve picked up a few tips and tricks along the way that I’m happy to share with you, in hopes that they will make your transition smoother.
#1–Do a back to school PURGE.
Lots of people purchase extra things before school starts: supplies, clothes, snacks, etc., but we have also instituted a back to school purge time. A couple of weeks before school starts, we go through their rooms and closets and get rid of clothes that are too small, toys they don’t play with anymore, books that they’ve outgrown. At first, they are often reluctant to give things away, but as they start filling up the big box we give them, they actually start to get excited about passing on their things to friends or people in need. My little one will exclaim, “I can give these learn-to-read books to Ayden so he can use them this year in kindergarten!” and my daughter will say, “I bet Addie will like this My Little Pony better than I do.” They love to see our friends’ kids wearing clothes that we have passed on, and it helps them to develop a sense of generosity to consider how they can give of what they have to help others, rather than just constantly accumulating. In the process, I am often inspired to purge my own stuff too. I have found that less stuff brings more peace of mind, and a more organized household is a calmer and more relaxing one for everyone.
#2–Start the new routines early.
Summer is a season of fun for us, and during summer, we are far more relaxed about our house rules, including bedtime, chores, etc. But come fall, we desperately need order and routine to keep things on track. It can be tough to re-acclimate to the more structured school schedule. So we start early. In our house, this means:
• Earlier bedtime/wake-up time (we start about a week in advance)
• Practicing getting ready and out the door on time (we have been known to occasionally reward a successful “morning practice” with a doughnut run)
• No T.V. on weekdays (we also start this one early, since our kids are in the habit of watching cartoons in the morning during summer)
• A revised Fall Responsibilities Chart (we like to involve the kids in re-creating a household schedule of chores and responsibilities, and find that they are much more invested in helping when they are a part of creating our family’s system)
#3–Talk with them about going back to school.
Talking with the kids includes talking about things we will miss about summer, and anticipating what fall will be like. In considering how to end summer well, we started a new end-of-summer tradition this year. We declared a family “Night of Gratitude”. We make it a special night where we barbecue and we all take turns sharing memories, looking at pictures, and thanking God for all the blessings of the summer. We also take time as a family and with each child individually to talk about their hopes, expectations, and fears about starting school again. When I talk to my kids, I try to really listen to each child, and ask questions to understand them better. I share personal stories from my own life so they know that I can relate, and I do some coaching as well. Even simple things like reminding kids to smile, look people in the eyes, and introduce themselves can give kids more confidence when it comes to making new friends. I try to model positivity and confidence to them. And lastly, an encouraging note tucked into a backpack or lunch bag can’t hurt!