Monday, August 11, 2014

How To Prepare For Another School Year

I'm relatively new to this school thing--it was only two short years ago that my oldest started preschool, but I've realized that the start of a new school year takes all kinds of preparations for both the kiddos and the parents. In our house there's a very definitive school schedule and summer schedule. Our summer schedule consists of A LOT of playtime, later bedtimes, naps, running around outside, special outings, and trips to the local ice cream shop. How does a school schedule even compete with that kind of fun when you've got early bedtimes, school functions, PTA meetings, and long school days??!? Oh yea, it doesn't. I find myself dreading the school year while my kids are thrilled to go back.

At this point, my kids are so far off of their school schedule that the first full day back in school is sure to end with overly tired, crying kids. Back to school is so much more than buying school supplies and new clothes after that summer growth spurt. Here are some things that we enforce to help ease the transition from summer to school:

  • Start earlier bedtimes! My kids are mostly laying awake asking why the sun is still up if it's bedtime, but I know (because it always happens this way) that one of these nights they'll actually fall asleep at the appropriate hour and I can stop making excuses why they can't go swing on their swings at midnight.
  •  Starting August 1st, I started our morning school routine. Our morning school routine is tight. I try to pre-make as many breakfasts for the week as I can on Sunday evening. During the summer, our mornings have been quite leisurely (for the kids, not so much for me): eat breakfast, get dressed if they feel like it (pj's have been totally acceptable as all day, everyday wear), a shirt and shoes are optional, and we've got all morning to get those teeth brushed. After August 1st, our mornings go something like this: eat breakfast, get dressed, brush teeth, and meds taken (allergy meds for the oldest). That way the first morning of school isn't a complete disaster. I also began setting my alarm earlier to prepare myself for the morning craziness that will soon come.
  • I lay out that night's jammies and the next day's clothes in the afternoon. This makes our bath and bed routine run much more smoothly instead of searching for jammies and it takes the guessing game of "what should I wear?"  "But I wanted the red shirt, not the blue shirt!" out of getting dressed in the mornings. I actually began this routine when my third baby was born because otherwise no one was getting dressed for the day. This alone helps make the mornings a bit smoother.
  • Stock up on K-cups, Tylenol, and tissues. K-cups for early mornings, Tylenol for homework headaches and/or calls home from the teacher (not that every kid gets those.....but mine has!), and tissues because as much as I hate to say it, junior will be bringing home germs. Especially if it's juniors first school rodeo.
  • Talk about school as much as possible. For us that means reading books about going to school (our faves this year have been "The Night Before Preschool," "The Night Before First Grade," "Pete the Cat The Wheels On The Bus") and getting out our Little People preschool set. This has really helped calm any nerves about going to school (especially first timers) and gotten kids really excited for the start of school.
  • Make sure your child meets all requirements for their incoming grade (example: a child going into first grade should know how to read and how to do simple addition and subtraction). I've found workbooks throughout the summer really help to keep their minds fresh with what they learned the previous year. It makes them much for confident going into a new school year.
  • School Physicals! Having worked (years ago) in doctor's offices, I can tell you not to mess around with school physicals. Schools can and will deny your child's attendance until your child is up to date with a school physical. That being said, don't call your child's pediatrician and expect an immediate opening for a physical. Peds offices are typically booked solid all summer long with sports and school physicals. Don't expect to call the first day of school panicking because junior needs a physical TODAY. Be prepared to wait at least a couple of weeks (if not months) to get in. Get it taken care of during the summer and your child's appointment booked in the spring. Have all doctors notes and meds ready to go for the first day of school if your child requires them. Que the Tylenol for yourself if you get calls from the school nurse.
  • School supply and clothes shopping. Don't save it until Meet the Teacher/bring in your school supplies night to get the items on your child's list or you'll be running all over town attempting to find the last purple folder in stock that your child must have for whatever class. Also, have your child try on clothes a few weeks before the school year begins. You may be shocked to learn that junior grew 2 more inches in the last week and no longer fits into any of his/her fall clothes. I'm speaking from experience on this one.
  • Go over safety rules/stranger danger/and bathroom etiquette. Prepare your child by explaining the school safety rules and precautions, what to do if a stranger approaches them on school grounds or elsewhere, good touches and bad touches (my kids are 6, 4, and 2--this is how I explain it), and also very important but also forgotten: bathroom rules. If you're my six year old, you'll need reminded not to turn the lights on and off on your friends who are peeing pretending to be a ghost (and not to talk your girl friend into doing the same to do the girls bathroom). I also remind them to watch where they peed, the proper amount to toilet paper to use when wiping, wash hands (there should be no poop on finger tips), and dry them. You'd be surprised at the "there's poop everywhere!" issues in the elementary grades.
  • Talk about schedules. This is really big for my kids because different people pick up and/or take them every day of the week. I go over "these are the people who are okay to pick you up (list people). If anyone else tries to pick you up, have the school call mom or dad." This falls under safety procedures but I also add in what we'll be doing after school (any special activities, afternoon snack, dinner, etc.). That way there's no big surprises which equates to much less likely for meltdowns.
  • Brush up on school policies and what your child will be learning throughout the year. Then you have no surprises when it comes to dress code and you can have time to re-learn fractions (I'm screwed on that front).

Now, who's ready for the "fun" to start!!???!