Back to School Parenting Tips for:
- First Day Jitters
- Find back to school deals FAST
- How to reel-in your morning routine and ACTUALLY get out the door on time
- Ease Car rides
- and more back to school parenting tips from a teacher mama who will be doing the same very, very soon!
Whether your child is getting ready for their first day of public school or is homeschooled it’s time to stock up on supplies! I am sharing my best back to school parenting tips from a teacher-mama on how to have a smooth transition into your school schedule.
I have been a teacher for 12 years now and every year I STILL have butterflies on the first day of school. EVERYTHING is new and it takes some time to adjust!
Last year was a really rough transition for us. I took a new job at a new school and he switched preschools so we could be closer to each other. I went from full-time mom and full-time teacher to full-time mom and part-time teacher and homeschool mama. It was too much newness all at the same time but we got through it! We both absolutely love our new schools (NOW) but those first 2 weeks were not the smoothest transition.
I hope you can learn from my overwhelm (Scroll down for the printable timeline) and use these tips to help your family get through back to school mode seamlessly!
BACK TO SCHOOL TIMELINE
Start 3-4 Weeks Before:
The first thing I think about when someone says back-to-school is SHOPPING!!! I am a notorious bargain hunter by nature and necessity! OMG, do I LOVE me some back-to-school sales… 25 cent crayons and markers, ummm YES Please! I stock up for both my classroom AND my homeschool!
Between planning for my classroom and getting us all set up a home I don’t really have time to run around town and see who has the best sale. That’s when I call in the experts, err… I mean Google the online experts!
Back to School Deals
Has a downloadable list and an app that can help you out with your back to school deals!
Tom’s Guide– Tom seriously has the low-down on Amazon Prime day shopping, so if you’re a prime member and you want to know about the best back to school deals, check him out. His site is fantastic but it’s more for tech reviews- FYI.
Start making adjustments to your routines and slowly transition closer to a school schedule at least 2 weeks before school starts. It takes 30 days to create a habit so I say 4 weeks before school starts is NOT too early, it’s IDEAL in fact but you know your family best so you decide!
Regulate bedtime and naps (if your child still takes them) so that your child will be more successful when school starts.
This was one of our biggest problems. My son was a great napper at home but the school’s nap schedule was much later than what he was used to. If I had looked at their school day schedule ahead of time and adjusted his nap time it would have been easier for him those first few days of school. Sorry bug, live and learn!
If your child is old enough to start self-care routines consider a pictorial “chore chart”. It’s just a visual reminder of bedtime or morning self-care routine and for some kids, it can really help bridge the gap between needing help and independence.
- If your kids are tactile you can use a clothes pin (that they decorate) and they move to the self-care item they are on
- Hang your chart low so they can reach- pant hangars on a towel rack work well for this. Just tape or glue the photos in a verticle line). I think simple, home-made (kids help to make them) charts are the best and ours was more of a self-care routine than chores but it really helped us both!
- Take photos of your child(ren) really doing some of the self-care chores (they LOVE being in the chart)
- For bedtime, I took pictures of my son brushing his teeth, the bathtub(itself), him in his jammies & a stack of books (we do bedtime story). I taped them to the bathroom mirror in order of our bedtime routine and we looked at them and talked about our routine each night for the next week. Now he’s independent and I just stand in the bathroom while he does his bedtime routine.
- For morning routine I took photos of him dressed in his school clothes (weeks before), his lunch, water, and backpack.
The more we practiced it the less we talked about it and now at the age of 4 he dresses and bathes himself, brushes his teeth and picks out a story all by himself!
Had we started working on this before school had already started and worked on it consistently before we were completely independent (as in NO reminders and no photo referencing). This would have been a WAY smoother transition.
Tame your Car ride:
BUSY BAGS & EMERGENCY SNACKS
Busy Bags- or as my son says “fun bag”
If you have ever gone on a long trip or had to wait longer than your fair share with a toddler then you know the importance of busy bags!
We refresh our busy bag (rotate toys and books in and out) every couple of months. The video shows great examples of skill building busy bags, one of our staples at home. Legos a great for fine motor and STEM, as is drawing and writing. I used a repurposed scholastic book bag from my early teaching days and added a few books, a zippered pouch for crayons and markers (a new favorite alternative to Legos) and a blank notepad.
I keep emergency snacks in my car just in case. I usually just stash a box of graham crackers in the trunk and call it a day. When we start school I also pack an extra snack like strawberries or an apple to make sure he has something healthy for the ride home.
One Week Before:
Prepare a homework space or an after-school activity (or kit). I prefer making kits because they’re open-ended and you prep it once and it’s done until yourrun out of supplies. (For us it lasts about a month.)
This is our process arts kit. It’s perfect for multi-age households and will keep kids busy, works on important pre-academic skills (creativity, fine motor, cutting & pasting). It is not pictured but we also have a large glue stick that he uses (by himself) to glue down his creations.
To make this I bought an organizer from Target and dug into my craft drawer to fill it. I had the sparkle pom-poms, pre-cut construction paper pieces & Goog-ly eyes leftover from a school project. If you do not have craft supplies it’s still pretty easy to fill. You can use nature items like different kinds of leaves, sticks, and pebbles from the yard (might want to do this outside though) & just glue it to construction paper. ( You may want to use school glue for nature items. I use Modge Podge or Elmer’s.)
Buy some extra markers and crayons, kid scissors and a glue stick when you’re doing your back to school deal hunting. That will be a good start. The next time you’re at the dollar store or target swing by their craft section and pick up one or two things that can go in your process art tray.
This one is silly and frankly annoying but SUPER handy! If your kids are going to public school or a big preschool it is a good idea to write their name (room number and or grade) on their jackets and lunch boxes. I found fabric labels this year and am (sadly) super excited to
For Kindergarteners and preschoolers it really is helpful for them to see there name in print to learn to recognize it AND they can easily identify their lunch box if there are other kids who have the same design (which happened to use last year.n My son kept taking another kid’s lunch box- whoops!).
Don’t forget to write their name on their water bottle and inside their jackets too! You would not believe how many lost and found jackets get donated each year and lost lunch boxes (without a name) almost never make it back. I’m sure well-meaning people see moldy old food and just toss it out.
The Night Before School:
Decide what chores you will do ahead of time!
My son, albeit cute and hilarious is the most argumentative and stubborn person you’ll ever meet in the AM. It’s just how he rolls and I have no idea where he got that from… uhhhh or maybe I do.
Because of this we take showers and pick out our clothes the night before sometimes he even helps me make his lunch (also the night before).
The other saving grace is to pick out a “happy thought” toy for him to play within the car. Something he loves or will look forward to playing with tomorrow but understands that this is not a right now item (this also took some time).
We started this transition by making a Lego Car kit together. It’s an empty metal lunch box with a base plate ¾ the size of the lid hot glued to the inside of the lid so he can build as we drive. He ADORES it and it’s our “go-to” travel toy. This is a super fun family activity that you can do over the summer! It is multi-age too (we brought it to the park and even the “big kids” wanted to come to play with him).
First Day of School
The Morning Of
Our AM to do list on the smaller side (eat breakfast, brush teeth & hair & put on shoes) since we did most of the chores the night before and that (after many tears and struggles) has turned out to be one of our Morning Routine saving graces. We set aside the things we need right in front of the door as we’re getting ready (backpack, lunch, water bottle and his travel toy). This helps us not forget anything important.
The backpack is packed, lunches are made, clothes are all picked out… why does it feel like I’m forgetting something? Oh yeah- now I remember! Do 1 special thing, anything, that your help your child feel instantly feel loved (when you’re not there)!
One year when I was teaching Kinder one of my students the first week of school asked to use the phone point blank in the middle of the lesson. It was the first week of school so I humored her.
“ Let me guess, you want to call your mom… “
An emphatic “YES!”
Do you need to call your mom (because you got hurt) or do you want to call your mom(because you miss her)?
I want to call my mom.
Ok Sara, why do you want to call your mom?
“I don’t feel special”
I assured her that she was special and that everyone in the room is special too but sharing with 24 kids feels different than sharing with 1 sister.
I also had a talk with mom after school and let her know that she may want to schedule some mommy and me-time or start doing lunchbox notes. They went with lunchbox notes (and still to this day do them going into second grade).
The hardest transition for some preschoolers and kindergarteners is the adult to child ratio. Most Preschools have a ratio of 6:1 and most kindergarten classrooms are 20:1 (some schools are higher).
Sometimes the first few weeks of school kids need that extra reassurance that they are loved. It can be a lunch box note, their favorite snacks with a heart sticker, an extra storytime or whatever fun things your family enjoys.
THE FIRST WEEK
I am hoping and praying for your child (and mine) has a wonderful first day (and week) of school. I have to keep track of my schedule, as well as the preschool, so I use an online printable calendar (Google). It may be helpful to use a free to help keep track of important dates, sharing and school festivities.
School Organization Tips for Parents at Home
It may be beneficial to set up a homework space. Preschoolers are more like a project or craft area with additional (brand new) crayons, kid (safety) scissors, washable markers and drawing paper. For older kids, it may be a desk in their room with the equivalently appropriate school supplies. We have one now but it’s a project space (where I set up our afterschool activities and art projects).
Did you skip to the bottom? Here is the cliff’s notes version:
- Homeschooler’s: make adjustments to your schedule as needed (if your school over the summer you may not need to), stock up on supplies & make a busy bag for the car.
- Fine tune your routines and make them closer to a school schedule (adjust lunch and naps if your child still takes one) you can look online at your school’s schedule to see what time they eat lunch- if you don’t already know.
- Make a Travel busy bag & Pack an emergency snack. They’re a total sanity saver.
- Plan 1 special thing for the first day of school; some mommy & me time extra early morning snuggles or story, an afterschool trip to their favorite park, a note or joke in their lunch box- you get the idea!
- Get a planner or smartphone app to help you keep track of important dates and or multiple school schedules.
Every day should get easier of a transition from there on out, You’ve got this Mama!
Serena Dee, M.A.Ed. is a full-time mom, a part-time teacher, and blogger. She teaches at a wonderful STEM-based school and when she is not teaching (at work) she’s homeschooling her preschool son. She blogs in her “free” time www.mudpiesandmanicures.com.