Well I have officially called it. It’s back to school season. You only need to watch five minutes of TV advertising to know I’m right. This is my sixth time around the ‘back to school merry-go-round’ and I like to think I’ve learnt a thing or two – or ten. So below I have written, for your reading pleasure, my top ten tips to make back to school happen right.
Be prepared with lunch-box idea.
Start making decisions now about how you want to fill your kid’s school lunch-boxes. Around this time of year Pinterest and Facebook feeds are filled with eye-rolling images of perfect, container free, super-healthy school lunches that seem to be designed to make us regular mums fall to our knees with guilt. My advice – ignore them. Instead spend time thinking about easy lunch-box foods that will satisfy and provide nutrients and fun. Look for simple easy recipes and even shop-bought snack foods that you feel good about giving your kids. Don’t make it too hard for yourself and don’t fail to plan. The end result of both of these is a worn out mumma throwing whatever pre-packaged, sugar filled junk she can find in the pantry into lunch boxes five mornings a week. (Trust me – I know.)
Develop a system to deal with school notes.
Any seasoned school mum will tell you that school notes can drive you nuts. Our school has very strict rules about when notes are returned and what happens if you forget. So I’ve been forced to become a bit of a school-note-nazi. I fill them in the night they come home and send them back the next day – no questions asked. I pretty much treat it like my own school homework. A couple of ideas that can help ward off the permission form crazies. Consider getting a stamp made up with the regular details your school asks for. This will save you writing them out again and again and again. (For example, your Medicare number, doctors contact details, emergency contact name/phone number.) And have a regular place to file notes, newsletters and other important paperwork like blank bus change permission slips and absentee notes. This saves you from the last-minute scramble to find lost notes and permission forms.
Have a morning routine.
Cannot stress this one enough. Don’t be fooled by the first two weeks of term – they will not always be that excited to get organised for school. We have a routine mapped out and stuck to the fridge. It goes something like this. Breakfast, brush teeth, get dressed (always have them brush teeth before they get dressed – coz white spit marks on school jumpers are not cool at school), pack bags, get shoes and sock ready, brush out hair, have hair done by mum and then free time until it’s time to leave for school. I refer the kids back to the fridge again and again over the school year and despite the system not being perfect it really does help.
Be prepared to deal with lice.
I know nobody really wants to think or talk about this one – but it’s reality people. Doesn’t matter how much you pay for your kids education, how careful you are or who your kids play with, you will eventually have to deal with head lice. And that seriously is not fun for anyone. Do some research about treatments and prevention. For us what works best is nit prevention spray every day. It’s become part of our morning routine. Once their hair is done it’s sprayed. You can purchase a great spray from Nit Free For Me or other similar places. Or you can make your own from essential oils. Both work – it just depends on how you roll with things like that.
Be internet wise and ready with your kids.
These days our schools are training kids to operate in a technological age. One of their goals is to make sure our kids are able to do their day-to-day school work on a screen and use the internet. That’s great. It’s necessary. But something I learned the hard way is that you have to be equally prepared for internet safety at home as they are at school. When one of my kidlets wandered onto You-Tube looking for loom-band tutorials I hadn’t had time to set my computer up in a child friendly way. (Let’s be honest I hadn’t even started to think about it.) It was a near-miss to her coping a eye-full of inappropriateness when she somehow decided to switch to looking up bedroom makeover. Be aware of things like google safe search and study up on how to set age appropriate restrictions on any devices they will be using at home.
Get to know your kids teachers and the school.
This can be hard if you’re shy yourself and time poor but it’s honestly worth the effort. If you have time, volunteering in the classroom or for the Parents and Friends Association is a nice way to really understand what goes on at school. But let’s be honest a lot of parents simply don’t have the time for that type of thing. Parent teacher interviews are good – but brief. You’re lucky if you have 15 minutes twice a year and that’s not nearly enough. Don’t be afraid to make an appointment to talk to your kids teachers before or after school and use that time to let them know you’re ready to support your child to thrive at school. It opens the lines of communication and you’ll find most teachers are happy to call you or catch to you in the yard, even for the small stuff, if you’ve made the effort to let them know you want to be involved.
Get prepared to pay for school.
Who knew that public school costs? With three kids at primary school I’ve worked out I’m paying around $1400 a year for books, excursions, stationery, camps and other miscellaneous school stuff. (Uniforms not included.) That’s a reasonable amount and I’ve found it works out much better if you plan ahead for it. Talk to your school about payment options. Our school produces a list of expected costs for each grade for the following year and the end of the current school year. This helps a lot. You can then work out a monthly or fortnightly payment plan to help ease the end of term account nightmare.
Talk to your kids about school.
This one does seem kind of obvious but it’s easy to forget once the busyness of family life kicks back in. Kids spend six and half hours a day, or thirty-two and a half hours a week, at school. That’s a pretty big whack of their life. I strongly recommend starting early to chat to them about what happens in class and in the playground. While they are in the lower grades you might find yourself listening to a lot of chatter about playground antics and show-and-tell. But fingers crossed this will establish some good routines and connections that will be seriously useful when your child hits the higher grades (usually around grade four in my experience) and the issues of life start to become more intense.
Yes everything. Buy a label maker and go mad. Clothes, shoes, books, bags, hats, lunch-boxes, drink bottles, toys ……. if it goes to school it needs to have your child’s name firmly attached to it. I’ve tried every type of labelling available on the planet and most of them work pretty well. Frankly, how you do it doesn’t really matter – what matters is that you do it. The plain fact is that things with labels come home – eventually. Things without tend to get lost in the abyss of no return.
Having done all – don’t stress.
Yep. Relax. You will never get it all right. Ever. So don’t be too hard on yourself. Prepare and plan as much as you can and then simply live the school year with your kids. Learn as you go and know that we all have weeks when the kids lunches aren’t perfect and their readers don’t get read. They survive and so do we.
Happy 2015 back to school season everyone! Have I missed any other good back-to-school tips? Share your own in the comments. I’d love to hear them