After the fun-filled days of summer, moving back into the routines of the school year isn't always easy. So we've compiled a timeline of ideas to help you to build anticipation, get organized and establish schedules.
These ideas (geared mostly toward elementary-age kids) come from parents like you who have developed creative ways for getting through the back-to-school transition. Maybe their ideas will work for you, too!
Print a back-to-school checklist for your family.
The Week Before School
Hooray for School!
One year, my kids dreaded the start of school, so I began promoting school like a fun event. I started a countdown on the calendar, reminding the children of things they would get to do once the year began.
Each day, I promoted one idea. "When class starts, you'll get to see friends you've missed all summer." "This year you'll be learning more about . . ." "Soon you'll see your orchestra teacher again."
By the time the first day rolled around, anticipation and excitement had replaced dread.
To teach our kids wise spending habits, my wife and I prepare the night before our back-to-school shopping trip. We look over the kids' supply lists and store flyers to estimate the cost of basic supplies, and we add a $5 buffer for each child.
The morning of our trip, we visit a local doughnut shop. Each child chooses his favorite pastry, and we review the lists and determine if there are items we already own that could be reused or repurposed. Then we give our children their allotted money, and we go shopping.
Once the kids have selected their own supplies, they review them with Mom and Dad as we tally the cost. If the kids have money remaining, they can spend or save as they wish. If they exceed their budget, my wife and I determine if we underestimated the cost or if they selected a luxury item. Then either they exchange an item or we pick up the extra cost.
In this way, we hope out children will learn to ask themselves whether they really need the embellished scissors when the plain ones are half the price.
Retiming the Tummy
During the first week of school, students often ask their teacher, "When is lunch?" To help your child focus on his schoolwork instead of his tummy, consider establishing a lunchtime routine. First, find out what time your child will eat lunch. (For home-schoolers, decide their lunch routine.) Then every day for about a week before class starts, eat lunch at that time. (Resist the urge to snack at 10 a.m.) This simple step could help keep your child's tummy from interrupting his learning.
Last year before school began, my kids woke to a bathroom sink filled with cereal and silver spoons resting in the toothbrush holder. After their unusual breakfast, they found balloons in the bathtub, candy hanging from tree limbs and smiley faces painted on the grass.
At the day's end, we huddled under the kitchen table and acknowledged that the unexpected can be both fun and frightening. We discussed how the upcoming year would likely hold both good and bad surprises, but that God would be with us in every situation.
Dedicated to Serve
In the Old Testament, anointing oil was used to dedicate a person or object to God for His service. In our home, from kindergarten through college, our family meets together the night before a new school year begins. We talk about what it means to be a Christian on their school campus.
My husband then anoints each child by putting a drop of olive oil onto his finger and placing it on each forehead. This symbol reminds our kids of God's presence and the power of the Holy Spirit in their lives.
When my children were younger, I'd pack their lunches, and they knew to take their lunches out of the refrigerator before they left for school. As they grew, I added responsibilities.
Grade 1: Pack your snack.
Grade 2: Pack your snack and drink.
Grade 3: Pack snack, drink and fruit.
Grade 4: Pack sandwich (or main dish), drink, snack and fruit.
Some children may be able to handle these responsibilities at younger ages. If they can, let them! (Home-schoolers can use these guidelines for preparing lunch each day.)
To contain the paper clutter, I bought a four-slot, plastic wall-hanging file and hung it between the front door and the garage. Every night, the kids put their homework, permission slips, candy-sales envelopes and all other school-related papers in their slots. Every morning, they grabbed their papers as they walked out the door.
School Day Mornings
During the morning drive to school, the kids and I would pray about upcoming tests, relationships that needed smoothing or anything else on their minds. This morning routine helped the kids begin their day with a positive outlook.
When our oldest daughter started driving, she'd take her younger sisters to school. I was thrilled when I heard that they regularly prayed as part of their drive. I guess some things are better caught than taught!
Getting Up on Time
For my family, the hardest part of going back to school is getting into a sleep schedule. So to make the deal sweeter, I promise the kids that if they go to bed early, they will be rewarded with pancakes for breakfast, and if they get up on time, I will add chocolate chips. After a few days of plain pancakes, the routine sticks.
For the first few days of school, I'd include a love note in my children's lunches. I would find their notes still in the box when they returned home, after everything else had been thrown away. I used the notes to offer words of encouragement such as, "You'll do a great job," "You're such a good helper" or "I miss my buddy."
It eased the back-to-school transition for my children. (For home-schoolers, the notes can be put in a different textbook each day.)
Print school lunch notes of your own and personalize them.
—Jarmila Victoria Del Boccio
To help my daughter complete her homework, we created a simple system. Using colored folders, she arranged the colors from most to least favorite. Then she'd file her homework according to color — her favorite subject in her favorite folder, and so on.
She'd always start the homework session with green, least favorite, and end with pink, her favorite. We found that saving her best for last motivated her to complete her homework.
I can't part with my kids' artwork. I love their creations, good or bad, so I started saving them throughout the year. I use large plastic bins, one for each child. All the artwork for the entire school year goes into these bins.
Then during the summer, I buy inexpensive poster frames, and we create collages with our favorite pieces — one poster for each child, for each grade. The posters now line the hallway to our playroom.
When 7-year-old Josh arrives home from school, he gets 30 minutes of free time. He sets the timer, then has a snack and plays with his toys. When the timer goes off, he knows it's time to do homework. After he shows his finished homework to his parents, he's rewarded with more free time. Using a timer has helped him learn to take responsibility for completing his homework.
This article appeared in the August/September issue of Thriving Family magazine. Copyright © 2011 by Focus on the
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