When you have school age kids, September is a really the start of the year. Forget resolutions on January 1, September is the time to commit to new habits! Each year is a little different depending on the ages and stages of your children. Every September is an opportunity to set up your family, your home, and yourself for success, with as little stress and hassle as possible. Life is busy enough - these strategies can make the school year easier for you.
- Prepare the Closet
If back to school clothes shopping is part the deal for your family, the closet clean-out can be part of the process. Even if you are skipping the updated wardrobe (what is your secret??) it is worth spending some quality time in your child’s clothes closet. Remove the summer clothes. Remove the clothes which no longer fits. Remove anything stained or ripped beyond repair. Remove the toys and books and hair accessories and all the other little things your child has outgrown or lost interest in. Pack away the clothes and items which may be used next season, or by your next child. Donate items that will not longer be used by your household. If you don’t have a favourite charity, check to see if there is a St Vincent’s in your community, or look up your local women’s shelter.
2. Wardrobe Selection
Encourage your child to select their outfit the night before. If you are a real Type A planner, then make it a Sunday afternoon project to pick out their wardrobe for the coming week. Take it a step further by getting a small organizer with drawers you can label for each day of the week. This will save a lot of much time and hassle in the morning. It will also prevent the tears and stress of finding out last minute about a specific clothing need. Most parents have at least one story of being told at 7:45am that a white shirt is required that day for the choir photos.
3. Be a Master of Meal Prep
Nobody has as much time as they’d like for weeknight cooking. When homework and projects (and, ahem, the snow) piles up, you will want to spend as little time in the kitchen as possible. Fast food is a treat but will get expensive if it becomes a habit. Besides, you know that a nourishing meal is much better for the health of you and your family. Cook in bulk on weekends, or whenever you do cook, and freeze in neatly labelled batches. On a busy weeknight you can pop that home cooked meal into the oven, and spend time with your kids. Another strategy is to use a crockpot to have dinner ready for you as you get in the door. Have a handful of easy recipes available that your kids enjoy, and toss the meal ingredients into the crockpot in the morning.
4. Easy Lunches
If your local school has a lunch program, consider signing up for one or two days a week to give yourself a break on the lunch prep. If that is not available for you, get into the weekly habit of prepping lunches ahead of time. Involve the children with the task of rinsing the grapes or filling containers with cream cheese and crackers. This will make it easier to transition them to making their own lunches, at an age-appropriate time.
5. Set up a homework station.
If your kids are old enough to have homework, they’ll need space and supplies to use for their assignments. A plastic organizer with several small drawers is a great place to keep the materials your kids might need – paper, pencils, pens, highlighters, a stapler, and so forth. Label each drawer so it’s clear what goes where. When possible, create this space in an area where you can be available to them to answer questions and ensure they are staying focused. Keeping in touch with their homework is the best way to know how they are doing in school and supporting them if issues come up.
Some of these strategies may already be part of your school year routine. As children grow and change, take a few moments to evaluate your habits and see what can be changed, introduced, or improved upon so that you can find more ways to make the school year easier for you and your family.