- Reestablish a regular bedtime routine.
Over the summer, it’s easy to let bedtimes slip—it’s still light out, there are fireflies to catch, you go get ice cream after a baseball game. One of the most critical routines to get back on track for school is a regular bedtime routine. Sleep is extremely important for student success, and a well-rested child is easier to get out of bed and out the door in the morning as well. Reestablish your bedtime routine a few weeks before school starts and be consistent with it. Start getting your late sleepers up a little earlier, too.
- Get back to your school time meal plan.
Younger children especially need to adapt to new meal routines before the school day requires it. Get your summertime breakfast-skippers back to eating breakfast. Aim for lunch around the school’s lunchtime. If your incoming kindergartner will be taking a lunch, pack a practice lunch a few days before school starts so you know they can open a drink or food pack. Have a regular family dinner around the dinner table rather than in front of the TV, and keep the phones put away (adults, too).
- Get organized.
The school year is a sea of schedules—school events, lunch menus, Scout meetings, music lessons, sports practices, and more. Confidently sail these waves by having a family calendar. Whether it is paper, whiteboard, or digital, make sure each family member can see what’s happening when for everyone. You can color-code each family member to make it easier to see who is doing what. Having even the youngest kids know how to read the calendar helps them build essential skills for the future.
- Plan now to avoid the morning madness.
Does launching your family out the door on a school morning look like it was planned by NASA or the Three Stooges? Think through your family’s morning routine and where it can be streamlined. What can be organized the night before? Can you set up the breakfast dishes right after clearing the dinner dishes, lay out clothes for the next day at bedtime, or get some lunchbox items prepared ahead? Consider creating a family launch pad, with each member having a place for the things they’ll need the next day: homework, permission slips, sports gear, purses, phones, car keys, etc. Make a morning bathroom schedule for shared bathrooms so everyone gets the time they need in front of the mirror. Remember that the kid who barely stopped in the bathroom in the morning last spring may now want to spend an hour there this fall.
- Make a practice run.
Make sure everyone knows how to get where they’re going in the morning and how long it takes. Whether it’s walking to school or the bus stop, riding a bike, being driven, or driving themselves, having a practice run at the time you’ll be doing it during the school year ensures that you can account for rush hour traffic. If you are driving, make sure you and your child know where the school drop off and pick up areas are.
- Plan for homework now.
Don’t make homework a daily battle. Develop a plan for where and when homework will get done. Figure out what works for your family, whether it is doing homework right after getting home from school and having a snack or after dinner before turning on the TV or computer. Plan to be available as much as possible while your child is doing homework, especially the younger ones. You might be reading the mail or cooking dinner, but you can still be available to check in on their progress and answer any questions. For older kids, it is important to have this be a decision that they help make, but even younger kids can help plan their homework schedule. Ask what they want to do first when they get home from school: play or homework? Use their answers to help build their schedule.
- Get involved at your child’s school.
Children with engaged families do better at school both academically and socially. Make sure you meet your child’s teacher, whether at open house or a scheduled meeting before or after school. Discuss the teacher’s approach to homework—is it to practice new skills, to learn what skills are still not solid, or to focus on accuracy of the assignments they turn in. Share any challenges your child may present in the classroom and how you handle them at home. Let the teacher know that you want to be a partner in your child’s education.
Milestones are meant to be celebrated, so celebrate your child being a year older and a grade higher. Plan a back-to-school pool party or an “entering X grade” party to wrap up the summer. Make back-to-school time something fun rather than something to dread.
Photo © 2015 by Geoff Livingston under Creative Commons license.