Thursday, August 16, 2012

Jumping In With Both Feet: Back-To-School Tips

It seems everyone’s blogs this time of the year are focusing on back-to-school.  Whether it’s a mom capturing the bittersweet moments of her baby’s first day or giving pointers on where to get coupons for school supplies, the blogosphere is loaded.  So, why buck the trend?  Here’s my contribution.
Anyone who’s read my blog knows there are three kids living in our house: the Oldest is entering his junior year of high school, the Middle Child is going into seventh grade at his middle school, and the Preschooler is yes, once again, sentenced to another year of preschool.  With Hubby working second shift, any hints or shortcuts have been tried in our house to keep the peace, some sense of organization, and my sanity intact.
What can I offer moms just starting out?  A few ideas.
  1. Buy a number of stackable one- or two-cup containers with lids.  Open your kids’ favorite box of cereal and put a serving in each container.  Put the lids on and stack them in the cupboard.  Now you have ready-to-go cereal bowls that, if there’s time, hold milk.  You’d be amazed at the difference those few extra minutes might make on a crazy school morning.
  2. I bought two large glass jars with lids for our kitchen.  One is filled with granola bars, single-serve bags of instant oatmeal, and other breakfast items, while the other is filled with packets of hot chocolate.  Voila – self-serve breakfast bar.
  3. For those who find themselves constantly running late or just running, keep a stash of breakfast bars, Pop-Tarts, juice boxes, and other munchies handy in your car – a small box or bag works (I use a six-pack sized cooler we had in the cellar collecting dust).  If you’re running late in the morning, the kids can eat in the car, or if you’re running errands after school and someone starts complaining s/he’s hungry, you’ve got it covered.  It’s also cheaper and healthier than hitting a drive-through.
  4. Make meals ahead of time and freeze them.  Use a crockpot.  Use your microwave.  Even soup, salad, and a sandwich works on nights already packed with practices, homework, and meetings.  Again, having a few easy and quick choices on hand and a little planning can save a lot of time and money.
  5. Don’t be afraid to have your dinner hour be early, like when the kids get home.  If your kids’ schools are like my kids’, they’re eating lunch well before noon – like at 10:30 or 11:00 in the morning.  By the time they get home, they’re ravenous.
  6. Have your kids take baths/showers every weeknight.  My pediatrician told us this when the Oldest first entered daycare, and she’s got three kids of her own.  For those with allergies, it’ll give them a chance to wash the pollen and allergens off, while all kids will benefit from washing off the dirt, grime, oil, and germs gathered from a day in the petri dishes that our schools and daycares have become.  Don’t super-sanitize them – soap and water will do the trick.
  7. Find a calendar system that works for the whole family and stick with it.  If you use more than one calendar format, keep them synchronized.  We use two: Google Calendar and a blotter-sized paper calendar that lives on our frig.  The tech-savvy Oldest posts his work and sports schedule to the online calendar while Hubby and the younger children check the paper one.  Pluses for the online version – it emails daily reminders, and others can be added to get email updates or view it as well.  My parents were added to ours, making it easier for my mom to coordinate their calendar with the kids’ games and concerts.
  8. Find out if your school uses an email list server to communicate with parents, and if it does, sign up with an email address you regularly check.  A lot of people don’t sign up or don’t check their messages, which is fine, but then complain they didn’t know Curriculum Night was changed or some event was happening.  You have to be proactive on some level when you have kids, people.
  9. Once you’re signed up, open and fully read the emails.  Depending on how good a communicator the author is, you’ll either have an easy-to-read newsletter or a meandering letter with important information and deadlines hidden on page three.
  10. Whatever list servers you’re on for school, sports, or other activities your kids are involved with, ask that both parents’ emails are entered.  This provides a fail-safe.
  11. If you have more than one kid at the same school, save yourself some time filling out all those school forms.  Fill out everything but the child-specific info on one form - your home address, emergency contacts, etc.  Then make a copy for each child and fill in their specific info - name, DOB, classroom, etc.
  12. Make a copy of every form you fill out for school, sports, activities, and so on.  Put them in an easily-accessible folder, binder, or drawer.  They may not be needed at all, but if you do (like if the school has no record you turned them in - yes, it happens!), you can send them another copy.
  13. Make sure your kids get a full night’s sleep.  My husband dropped the Preschooler off every morning last year and was horrified at the number of tardy kids.  He was more horrified by the parents’ attitudes that it was no big deal.  It is a big deal – kids who are constantly late interrupt the classroom when they finally arrive, which affects everyone.
  14. Everyone is busy.  Everyone has their priorities on how and where to spend their time and money.  Some will choose to volunteer in the schools, whether in the classroom or at the PTO or Boosters.  If that’s not your thing, okay, but don’t snipe from the sidelines.  If you’re unwilling to participate, don’t yip about the decisions made by those who do.
  15. The more you can do ahead, whether it’s laying out clothes, packing lunches, or making dinners - even a little bit of organization and planning goes a long way in making a parent’s day easier.
Wishing you all a good, safe, happy, and successful kickoff to the school year!  And please, if you’ve got any hints, what are they?  I can always use recommendations.


LilMisBusy said...

I like the idea of the glass jars on the counter for a make-your-own breakfast bar. May have to implement that one. Thanks!

j-tony said...

All great ideas. Thanks for posting

Anonymous said...

All good advice, but I especially like #5 and #9. My kids do have lunch @ 10:30 and the school loves to send home reems of paper with absolutely no pertinent information.