The media hype for back to school sales--starting while we're all still happily immersed in summer vacation--might have us believe that "back to school" is code for "buy more stuff."
In fact, back-to-school time should be about organizing ourselves and families for a successful school year. Getting organized does not guarantee academic success and family harmony, but it helps. A smooth back-to-school transition sets the stage for the rest of the school year, so the systems we put in place during the back to school period are critical.
The back-to-school media hype is not all wrong, though. One piece of the back-to-school puzzle is shopping for school supplies while they are readily available and on sale. In order to save money on school supplies, think long-term: Choose high quality items for durable goods, like water bottles, backpacks and lunchboxes, so they can be used year after year. Then, maybe go a little cheaper on the things that get used up.
School clothes or school uniforms are another item on every mom's list. Shopping early is a good idea, particularly when buying school uniforms. Do not wait until the week before school. The earlier you take care of this, the less stressful it will be!
Most likely by the time back-to-school rolls around you've got a child care plan in place. You've probably decided what type of child care you need and how much child care you need to fit with your work-at-home schedule. But school has a funny way of messing up the best laid plans.
When your child wants to join after-school clubs and sports, the babysitter you've lined up may not be needed. Or, you may need to put one child into after-school care if another has activities, so you don't find yourself driving to the school four times a day. If possible, leave a little flexibility in your child care plans as you head back to school.
On the first days back to school, start 15 minutes earlier than you think you need. Pack lunches the night before (or maybe even have kids pack lunches!), so all kids have to do is grab their lunchboxes and go. Use these other tips to streamline your school morning routine. And if all goes well you can push wake up time a little later once everyone is in a good morning routine.
Teachers use organization systems in school. There's a place for book bags, a time to copy homework assignments, a folder to bring home notices, a regular day for spelling tests, etc. But when kids get home they may forget how to organize themselves. Don't let them! Setting the tone during the back-to-school time will help keep them organized all year.
Find out how the classroom works. Often during the back-to-school period teachers send home letters explaining their curriculum and homework policies. If not, ask your child, and help him stay on track by using a similar system at home. But if he isn't clear on the details, ask the teacher at back-to-school night or set up a conference.
Routine makes unpleasant things, like homework, easier. Right when kids go back to school, set the stage for successful homework by instituting a regular place and time for homework. Younger students often need an adult to help with homework, so if possible, arrange your schedule so you can be nearby during homework time. However, don't let their homework become your homework. And a parent should check older kids' homework too to be sure they understood it. So figure how how much homework help is needed, and then set a homework schedule that works well for your family and stick to it.
During the back-to-school month of September, a family's schedule can balloon out of control, as each child signs up for activities. And when that happens so early in the school year, it can be difficult to reign in later. Carefully consider each child's activity that goes on the calendar. It may be OK to take a break from work to shuttle kids to sports or clubs during a slow period of work, but what happens later if you have a busy season or a new client? Find a family calendar that works for you, and then be careful what you put on it.
And it's not just the kids that need to be monitored for over-scheduling. Parents, particularly those who work from home, can find themselves taking on volunteer jobs, like becoming a class parent, or attending daytime school events. For many, being able to do these things are some of the benefits of working at home. However, these too must be balanced with work and home responsibilities.
Going hand in hand with volunteering (but much less fun in my book) is fundraising. Many schools and other kid-oriented organizations rely on fundraising to pay for the programs kids enjoy. And back to school usually means back to fundraising! Fundraising can be tough for work-at-home moms who don't have office buddies to sell to. But fundraisers do not have to be stressful; there are several strategies for handling fundraisers that a work-at-home mom can use.