Friday, July 27, 2012

Back-to-School Checklist

August arrives on our doorsteps next week, which means the start of a new school year is just around the corner. 

For me, I have three gearing up for the event this year.  And, excuse me while I grab the tissue box, but one of those three is my last one to enter kindergarten.  We've sent four off onto that same journey, two of whom are now adults.  So, the fourth day of September this year will be quite the bittersweet one for this mom as I face the reality that I will have no more little ones at home between the hours of eight and three everyday with me. 

I think the first one we send to kindergarten and the last stirs about a little extra emotion for parents.  For me, sending the last one symbolizes a new phase in my own life.  I have always had children at home with me as I've always been a stay-at-home parent.  When I began a relationship seventeen years ago with my husband, he had two amazing kids from a previous marriage.  So, I was instantly in a mom role.  That year, the oldest began kindergarten.  Our second oldest started two years later.  Then, we had the first of our three children together thirteen years ago.  And, ever since that time, I've had, at least, one younger than five at home with me.  So, facing an empty house on that first morning of school is going to truly be unchartered territory for me.  I know many of you out there can probably relate.

Besides the obviously school shopping, there are some things to consider jotting on our to-do list during the month of August as we prepare for getting back into the swings of all things scholastic.  Some of these are geared towards simplifying our lives and getting organized.  Some are important to our children's safety.  Others are things many of us probably don't think of until we're in one of those "I wish I would have thought of this sooner" moments. 

So, get out some paper and a pen and jot down those that may apply to you and your family.  These are twenty things to consider as we make the leap from lazy summer days to the sounds of school bells and alarm clocks.

  1. This is a great time to go through your child's closets and drawers.  Have them try on things.  (Yes, they will probably complain!)  See what fits and what doesn't.  More than likely, you'll be needing extra space soon to store their new school clothes.  Donate or pack up the things they won't be wearing any longer.  Toss the socks that lost their mate.  Sort through their shoes, too. 
  2. Assign each child a "Play Clothes" box or tote in their closet.  This is especially helpful for younger ones who usually still need your help picking out their clothes.  Maybe you have a few items that have a little stain or you come across a t-shirt that isn't quite their favorite anymore.  By designating a "Play Clothes" box, it'll be easy for them - on their own - to pick out things for after-school playing outside or trips to grandma's house to work in the yard.  They will know exactly what is allowed for outdoor play and where to find it.
  3. As you purchase new school items (backpacks, gym shoes, lunch totes and such), grab that black Sharpie and label with their names (and a contact phone number, if needed).
  4. If you have older kids with cell phones, now is a good time to make sure their emergency numbers in their contacts are up-to-date.  Has grandma recently gotten a cell phone and it hasn't been added as one of the ways to get ahold of her?  Did your husband change jobs and now has a new work number?  Is there anyone close to your child's school or activities that you'd like listed in case your child needs to call someone to pick them up quickly in case of an emergency? 
  5. Now is a great time to ready designated homework areas.  It may be a desk in your child's room or the kitchen table.  Purchase a little tote or basket that will hold all the homework necessities to have available in one spot as they work.  Items may include pencils, erasers, a calculator, a dictionary, extra paper, a ruler, compass, scissors, erasers and the like. 
  6. Since the family's daily schedule will be changing, create a chore chart on the computer that you can hang on the fridge.  Make one for each child.  Their summer schedule was probably a bit more laxed, so they may need some guidance and structure (in black and white) to help them make sure they accomplish what is expected of them.  Things like, feeding pets, unpacking their backpacks and lunch totes, changing into after-school clothes, homework, cleaning their rooms or alloted t.v. time are just some things you may want to include.
  7. If you have children participating in various after-school activities, it may be a good idea to create a weekly or monthly calendar of activities.  This ensures that all members of the family know what the week or month holds ... and who needs to be where and at what time.
  8. During the week before school starts, have your child work with you on doing a mega cleaning and total organization of their own bedroom.  Children suffer in disarray and unorganization.  When everything has a place and you encourage your child to keep it that way, they'll be less stressed and more productive.
  9. Right before the school year begins, go over any bus-stop or pick-up instructions with your child and make sure they know where they are supposed to go after school.  Explain to them a back-up plan in case they miss the bus or in case someone isn't home when they are dropped off. 
  10. This is a good time to talk to kids of all ages about emergency situations and safety regarding before and after school.  Talk with them about strangers and not going with people not approved by you!  Make sure they have a plan if approached by someone suspicious and walk them through scenerios that could happen.  Get them prepared!
  11. If you child will be riding his or her bike to school, purchase a padlock.
  12. If an older child will be coming home to an empty house after school, get them an extra key made.
  13. On a more sensitive note, if you have a daughter at the age when their monthly cycle could be starting, make sure you've talked with them about what will happen and how it all works.  Give them a little pouch to store in an inside pocket of their backpack that includes some essential items they'll need in case of emergencies at school or during sports practice.  Include an extra pair of underwear just in case.
  14. Since most sleeping schedules are pretty flexible in the summer, your child may need to get back into the swing of bedtime and wake-up rituals.  A few weeks before school begins is the ideal time to start modifying to an earlier bedtime and earlier wake-up.  If your child's summer bedtime and rise schedule is off by more than a couple of hours compared to what will be expected during the school year, start by adjusting these times by 30 minutes every few days until they've reached the ideal times.  Ease them back into the school year schedule gradually.
  15. If you haven't already, schedule your child's sports physicals as soon as possible.  It's, also, a good idea to make sure they are up-to-date on eye exams.
  16. For a child just beginning kindergarten, it may be fun and productive to "practice" what their new morning routine will be like.  Doing this once or twice the week before school begins could help ensure he or she knows what is expected come the first week of school.
  17. In addition to the chore and schedule calendar mentioned in #6 and #7, it may be helpful to create an organized spot for some sort of binder or fan-style file folders to hold all of the necessary paperwork and notes from school.  You can group things according to each child or by week.  This will be a place you can store school handbooks, permission slips that need returned, field trip information, conference reminders, picture day forms, sports or activity borchures and all of the important papers that you'll need quick access to.
  18. Before you head out on that journey called "school shopping," sit down with your child and have a talk about budget, style limitations and what is needed.  Create a list together and maybe even browse the online sites of stores you plan to visit. Having an understanding of expectations and shopping guidelines will help eliminate or, at least, lessen tantrums from the younger ones and attitude issues from the older ones in the middle of an aisle at the mall.
  19. Once you have purchsed all of your child's school supplies, why not turn organizing and getting all of their supplies ready into a "Back-to-School" family night?  Maybe plan something fun for dinner or order pizza.  Put on some good music and spread everything out onto the floor while you go through it.  Pack the pencil pouches, unwrap the new erasers and get their name written on their folders.  Talk about memories from last school year and discuss what they are excited about for this year.
  20. Set aside time on the first day of school for some photo opportunities.  Take a few pictures of them going about their morning routine ... tying their new shoes, eating breakfast, standing at the bus stop and the bus driving away.  If you take your child to school on their first day, snap a shot of them putting things into their new locker or greeting their new teacher.  Switch your cell phone to video mode and capture their excited moments after school of them telling you all about their day.  These are all priceless momentos of what is sure to be the start of a great school year ahead!
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