Being organized and not enjoying chaos and clutter has served me well as a military wife, mother, teacher and principal but nowhere has it served me better than in preparing my children for another year of school. As most of us across Canada now prepare for the return to school I have created my top tips for starting a year just as successfully as it is finished.
- Teach your children to spend less time on how their year will start and more on how they would like it to end. By thinking about the end your children will be forced to act in ways that will get them to achieve their goals and dreams rather than living each moment as it comes.
- Set an alarm with no radio or music. They tend to enjoy lying in bed much longer when there is something remotely interesting being said on the radio or a good song is playing. An annoying buzzer will get your child out of bed much quicker.
- Begin the back to school morning routine a week before school actually starts. Since it is no small feat to do this (I am usually met with, “This is our last week to sleep in!”), make it worth their while. Get tickets to a waterpark and get up early, take them for breakfast at their favourite place, etc. By setting fun things to get up for, you may have more success getting them up earlier a week in advance and this will pay off tenfold when school actually starts.
- Get them into the lifetime habit of eating breakfast. Make sure that there are plenty of things that they can easily make or eat before starting their day. Make it mandatory (I threatened to fine them for each breakfast that was missed – money really can speak when I can’t!).
- Prepare clothes, bags and lunch the night before. These are all things that can add to the stress of an already tough morning. Take the guesswork out of mornings by making their evening routine about being organized and prepared for the following day.
- Set the house clocks five minutes ahead. This will help you on those mornings where you are all but dragging them physically from the house.
- Check their agendas or class website/blog each night and confirm that you are all aware of what is due, coming up or needed. We do this before dinner so that we can chat over dinner about what is happening or coming up at school. By doing this we also get a sense of how they are doing at school.
- Friday night bag clean outs – It is amazing how much can be shoved into the average backpack. Friday night we usually have movie night (mainly because I am too tired to stray far from the couch). Before the movie can start the backpacks have to be cleaned out. Then you have the weekend to fill in forms, finish assignments, etc.
- Get the contact information for each teacher your child has and make contact in the first week. If email is the easiest way for them to get in touch with you, give them your information and let them know you are there to work with them throughout the year, they have only to ask. Volunteer to do something – big or small so that you can put names to faces and have a good sense of what is happening in your child’s lives. Since I also work at a school, I ensure that I volunteer to help on something that falls outside of school hours.
- Children need a lot of sleep. Ensure that your children know what their bedtime is and stick to it. Create a bedtime routine that supports them getting a good nights’ sleep (no screen time an hour before bed, no snacks an hour before bed, lights out at a certain time, etc.)
I would love to tell you that I am utterly consistent and successful with all of these all of the time, I am not. But… when I am, our house is a better place for everyone to be and our kids are happier at home and school.