5 Simple Ways to Make It The Best School Year Yet
Being an elementary teacher for nearly a decade, I’ve heard from so many parents that the beginning of the year comes with so much overwhelm and anxiety. As a teacher, I always get really excited for a new year & a new start with students, and I want to help parents and students have a successful transition into a new school year with a few simple steps. Anticipating back-to-school pain points & developing a few simple systems will help you & your kiddos have the best year yet! So let’s get to it…
Here’s what I mean by that: The Back-to-School industry can be so overwhelming, and it can trick you (and your children) into believing you/they need wayyyyyy more than they actually do. Have a plan going in, so you don’t overspend and end with a lot of things you don’t need. Have a short conversation about shopping goals before ever entering a store, so all humans present are on the same page. ;)
We are going to get 3 new shirts and 3 new pants for the new school year for each of you. (Or whatever your threshold is…)
We are going to buy only the supplies that Mr./Mrs. Teacher recommended.
For buying back to school clothes, I recommend shopping in a color block. What is that, you’re wondering? It’s just working with your children to choose a color scheme to shop within. A lot of department stores actually display their clothes in color blocks, but it’s possible you’ve never noticed!
For example, all of my baby’s clothes fall within shades of these colors: white, gray, navy/blue. On accident, I bought one black outfit and you know what? I never have shoes or socks to match it because I refuse to buy extra socks/shoes for one outfit. But all of the other clothes? They go with every single pair of socks and his 2 pairs of shoes.
So why shop in a color block?
It makes laundry easier because you don’t need to sort by color! (By the way, I’ve been doing this for years now for myself and now the baby as well. I wash one load for myself, once a week, all of it together, and one load for my baby, once a week, all together. And I haven’t ruined anything yet! Less laundry? YES, PLEASE!
It creates less stress on your kiddos picking out outfits, because color blocked tops & bottoms all go together. No more battles over what looks right together!
For buying back-to-school supplies, I recommend following the list provided by the school/teacher. As a teacher myself, I can promise you that a lot of thought and work goes into making school supply lists. Maybe the list says 5 red folders, but your little guy wants 5 Superman folders. You have an awesome opportunity to explain why you’d follow the teacher’s recommendation. (And if you just can’t resist, maybe buy 1 Superman folder that stays at home to help with organization.)
Not only does that take the decision-making out of the process for you, but it also makes a teacher’s day when the correct supplies show up. Why? Well, teachers teach a lot more than just content. One thing I’m passionate about is helping kids learn organization skills that will help them the rest of their lives. That red folder? It has a specific purpose that will not only help your child in the future, it will also decrease the lost papers and supplies at home, too. Everyone will win!
2. Prepare The Night Before
This goes for kiddos and Mom, Dad, or the primary caregiver. Getting lunch, clothes, and all materials ready to go the night before each school/work day will reduce the chaos in the morning and result in a less stressful morning. Everyone will start the day happier!
Tips for preparing:
Designate a basket (inside their room, right outside the door, or in the bathroom) for tomorrow’s clothes. Each night, the kiddos or you should set clothes in this basket so there aren’t dressing battles in the morning.
Designate one lunch bag or box per kiddo, and pack it/leave it in the same spot each night in the fridge for a quick grab in the morning.
Designate a place for backpacks and work bags, and commit to hanging them up there each night.
Sign papers & empty the backpack each night to stay on top of the paper clutter.
3. Meal Plan & Prep During the Weekend
Since meal prepping and planning on Sunday, my life in the kitchen has gotten so much less complicated. I’m sharing a few examples of my “meal planning” so you see it’s not complicated; it’s more about being intentional and selecting 3-4 meals to cook for the week + a few snacks prepared, so we all have delicious and nutritious food and don’t have to have the “what should we have to eat” conversation a million times a day!
I’m also a big fan of freezer meals & like to stock up before school starts, as August and September can be so busy. That means during June & July, I double up a few recipes and freeze one or two meals each week.
4. Establish An Organization Routine For Papers
I’m so thankful to work at a mostly paperless school, because I’ve heard from so many parents how annoying all the paperwork is! Well, I’m here to tell you it annoys us teachers, too. HA! So I’m sharing how I organize my classroom system, in hopes you’ll try to recreate it at home. Better yet, talk to your kiddos teacher and see how they organize, and you could do the exact same thing. (Teachers are so good at teaching the routine, and if it’s done at school that may save you the battle of teaching it.)
Designate a “home” for the traveling folder when it comes home from school. I recommend somewhere very close to the backpack’s home so it doesn’t get forgotten. It should be a consistent spot, maybe even labeled with a piece of construction paper.
On the traveling folder, label one side “For School” and the other side “For Home”. Work with your kiddo each day until it becomes habit to teach that things that stay at school, such as a signed paper or lunch money, go on the For School side, and things that need to stay home, such as returned homework or letters to parents, go on the For Home side.
Commit to checking the folder each night, or at the very least pick one day of the week to check it. This will help prevent clutter and lost paper.
Designate one file in your home filing system for each child’s saved paperwork. Most paper from school doesn’t need to be saved, but the few VIPs should be stored in one file in your home filing system. At the end of the year, you can go through it and get rid of non-pertinent papers.
5. Do A “Temperature Check” Each Morning
You may be thinking, “check the temperature outside?!”, but not quite! I started this simple routine in my classroom last year and will do it the rest of forever. It’s so impactful from a social-emotional level, and it’s a simple way to help your children understand their emotions. Here’s how it works:
On the way to school in the car, walking to the bus stop, or even while eating breakfast, ask your child how he/she is feeling on a scale of 1-5. One is feeling mad, sad, frustrated, overwhelmed, or just not great and 5 is feeling awesome, excited, energized, happy, etc.
Ask WHY? Why are you excited right now? Why are you frustrated? Get to the bottom of how they’re feeling and try to empathize.
Share how you’re feeling on a scale of 1-5. This is important because it helps them see everyone has emotions, and it can even give them vocabulary to use in a future “check-in”.
Giving my students a voice-allowing them to share their emotions-each morning, helped me intervene early on to help each student have the best day possible. It also taught me so much about my students and how I could better serve them. It’s such a great exercise!
While it’s not a comprehensive list, I’ve found that anticipating pain points and developing systems for those pain points before they are a problem helps ease children into the school day and sets them up for success.
Shop smart, prepare the night before, meal plan & prep the weekend before, establish an organization routine for papers, and do a temperature check each morning. The beginning of the school year is such a great time to create systems to help everyone be successful and have a great school year!
How are you feeling about the start of school? Excited? Anxious? Optimistic? Please share in the comments below!