In many places around the country, school’s just around the corner. It’s hard to believe, but the summer is (thankfully!) nearing the end, and for families with kids, a new school year means a whole new way of organizing your time, commitments, and priorities.
A new school year can mean craziness – new school supplies and clothing, requests to volunteer at the school, after-school activities threatening a coup on the family calendar. It can be a bit overwhelming for the home managers. Even those with preschoolers can feel the increased busyness and stress, not to mention those homeschooling. Here are a few tips for easing into the new school year so that it can be something the whole family eagerly anticipates.
Just for the Home Manager
• Take any calendars, syllabi, and schedules you’ve been given, and scribble events immediately on a central calendar. This might mean your Google calendar or simply a calendar on the wall, but wherever it is, keep it updated. I’d encourage you to make your calendar easily accessible for everyone in the family who can read. It can simply mean printing out your online calendar and keeping it your Home Management Notebook. I’m starting off this next school year with a brand new momAgenda, and so far, I’m digging it. Look for a full review sometime in the next week.
• Keep your eyes open for those new line-items in your monthly budget. Is there an upcoming bake sale where you’re expected to contribute? Do you need to buy new ballet shoes or baseball cleats? And don’t forget about Christmas, either – As Dave Ramsey says, it falls on December 25th this year, so you have no reason to be surprised. Make a proactive plan to have enough money in the budget for Christmas – make it a sinking fund. You can even start keeping your eyes peeled for gifts now.
For the Whole FamilyPhoto by Peter Voerman
• Sit down as a family and talk about what after-school activities everyone has in mind. Hear from the little ones, too. This can be really casual, around the dinner table, but keep your ears perked for what your kiddos want to do. Make a commitment as a family to keep after-school activities to a minimum – one activity per child is plenty. Share with your kids the value you place on having dinner together around the table as often as possible. Including them in this decision-making process helps them feel like a significant part of the family, that you value their feedback – and hopefully they’ll remember the family’s decision when they’re approached with another way to fill up their after-school time.
• Pencil in some family outings during the school year on the calendar. You can keep the dates flexible, of course, but write them down so that you make a plan to do them. Even just once a month, make sure you spend quality time together, and not just with other people in the school and community. Consider simple outings like picnics at the park, attending the local high school football game, or volunteering together. Young kids can do all those things.
• Start your bedtime and morning routine a couple weeks before school starts. Don’t begin the school year stressed and tired. Easing into an earlier bedtime and an earlier waking time means less grumpiness than if there was a dramatic change from “wake up whenever” to “wake up at 6:30.”
• Still take time to soak in the summer. Is there something you still want to do this summer and you still have yet to do it? See if you have the time and finances to do it together as a family. It’s still summer!
For Mom and Dad Together
• Sit down together one evening and talk about each child’s upcoming school year. Do you have any concerns? Any hopes? Any fears? Share them together, and possibly make a plan to work on any issues. If you anticipate a challenging year for Matt with his math, simply keeping Dad aware of the situation will help him tune his antennae to his son’s potential struggles – and make more time to help. Do you see any heart issues with your kids? Share them together, pray about them, and see if you can come up with a plan together. Write down your thoughts, and at the end of the school year, you can look at your observations and note any changes.
One-on-One Kid TimePhoto by Vero & Vincent
• Make an ice cream date with each of your children before the school year starts. Keep it just one parent and one child, and hear from their heart whatever they want to share. Make a note of any fears they have about being a big 3rd grader, or any sadness that they don’t have the teacher they wanted. Now’s a great chance for you to share some of your experiences as a child, and any life lessons you want them to remember. There’s nothing quite like a heartfelt conversation with your little one when you’re really paying attention to each other.
When They’re Too Young for “Real” School
Are your kids too young for you to even realize there’s a school year headed your way? I’m there, too, but I still make a (very) basic curriculum to do basic “school time” with my three-year-old. She thinks school is so cool, so I’m using that to her advantage and going over basic writing and reading skills, and just having fun with it in a no-pressure way. It’s just a few minutes every day, really, but it’s something she really looks forward to. See if your preschooler has a fascination with school time and learning, and plan something fun together on a regular basis.
What does this upcoming school year look like for you? Are you already overwhelmed at your upcoming schedule? Or is school so far away that you haven’t even thought of it? I’d love to hear any plans and ideas you have for starting the new school year off right!