It’s almost time. Back to School. September is coming and I’m always here and ready for it.
Back to School is a big transition in our house. In addition to all 3 kids being in school now, my husband is also a Principal. He has a whole new class of incoming freshman faces and their corresponding parents. He has new teachers and other new staff.
Our kids have new classrooms, teachers and classmates. Our youngest will be going into 4 year-old preschool and will have school 4 full days a week now.
I love back to school time. Each year, school changes my routine although in less drastic ways. Bus schedules, pickups, after-school activities, work schedules, everything tweaks a bit. More importantly for me, it’s like a bonus “New Years” where I can set new routines. New goals.
Every August I get hyper motivated. Ready to maximize every checklist, every plan to make the next year as smooth as possible. I get all the school supplies for teachers and get them organized. Kids get new school clothes, backpacks, shoes etc. I even do a little back to shopping for Mom and Dad. We need new supplies too! (Man do I love office supplies) And a few clothes for the fall. Here are some areas I’m focusing on this year.
Area #1: Meal Planning & Prep
I start thinking about meal planning. I make lists of recipes that are easy and everyone loves (that list is small, by the way). I include slow cooker and Instant Pot recipes on days when we’re most busy. A list we quickly tire of while still in September, but I digress.
Meal planning is a work in progress and my biggest focus this year. I use my bullet journal for keeping meal ideas and I use my phone’s Notes app to save links of recipes I find. That way if I need to see ingredients while I’m at the store I can pull up the recipe on my phone to double check. If you want to save recipes from a website, you can select the little paper icon with the arrow and click “add to notes”. At least that’s how I do it with my iPhone.
I also think about lunch planning for the kids. Man, kids lunches are the worst. I hate packing them. My oldest doesn’t like sandwiches and my middle doesn’t like anything that’s fresh. It’s a very guilt producing process each morning. Ideally this would be better done at night, when the kids aren’t tire and temperamental, but the majority of the time it falls to my responsibility in the morning, for the sake of just GET ON THE BUS.
Area #2: Before / After School Routines
For the kids, my number one focus is that they take more responsibility for getting themselves ready without prompting from me. I despise having to remind children over and over to do the things they need to do in order to get out of the house on time. I’m sure they hate my nagging too. So this year they will have dry erase sheets that they can check off so they need little to no reminders from me. Last year, I kid you not, in my nagging fit to get our youngest out the door, she put on 2 different shoes and I didn’t notice it until we arrived at school. I laugh about it now but in the moment it felt like a total #momfail.
After school habits are another area to create better processes. Getting the kids to hang up their bags, take out their folders, empty lunches and water bottles and put them where they belong will be a focus this year. Having healthy snacks ready for them so they can make a good choice before dinner and unwind a bit. I find for at least my 2 oldest kids, when they first get home they do better with fewer questions about their day, a snack and a cartoon or 2 to wind down while I’m making dinner. My middle child may even head to her room for so me alone time to decompress. After dinner is best for the questions about their day and then, finally, to handle homework and reading.
We will also be adding in a few chores for each of them so they can help contribute more to the work that goes on around here. I’m thinking dishwasher unloading and loading, helping with the pets and simple wiping of counters in the bathroom.
Area #3: Get Organized
This year we created a command station where we added a dry erase calendar for the month, a weekly sheet for meal planning and a cork board for anything we need to keep track of temporarily. We also bought 3 wall files so the kids can keep their school papers in there and I can go through them weekly and all the paper can stay off of the counter and table.
I like to think I’m a pretty organized person but 3 kids in elementary school threw me for a total loop last year. There was paper everywhere!! This year I want to stay in front of the scheduling madness.
The monthly calendar will contain only the things that pertain to the kids and anything happening after school. My husband and I both keep separate planners for work-related items so it doesn’t need to fill that calendar. The kids all seem to thrive when they know what the plan is and this will help them feel a bit more in control.
My husband and I use Google Calendars and we share our individual calendars so we know each other’s availability. In addition, we can add our school calendar automatically, which is super helpful when random “no school in session” days pop up. I can add all the kids activities and we always have everything available at a glance.
Area 4: Making time for Movement
The evenings are when I enjoy exercising most, so having a plan to fit in my workouts is important. The evenings can get away from me if I don’t have a plan. Usually I’m better about getting in workouts when I schedule them. I’m even better at getting them in when I plan to workout with someone else! The accountability helps me and it’s always more fun to work out with someone else.
When I have the opportunity I will play volleyball but the majority of my workouts will be weight lifting and just getting in movement via walking.
Over the winter we added a gym to our basement, which I really enjoy using. It’s much easier to get in a 30 minute workout when I only have to get dressed and walk downstairs to do it. Planned weight lifting sessions coupled with walking at lunch are my plan.
It’s a Clean Slate
This time of the year, I also think about how my habits affect our budget. New routine, new plan, less spending. I find that the more I actively plan our family meals, the better I am about planning my breakfast and lunch so I can spend less money during the week. I’m not a coffee drinker so Starbucks has no appeal to me. However I frequently partake in a breakfast burrito in the morning. Without doing a good job of planning dinners, there often aren’t leftovers for lunch, which means using gas to go get lunch and overspending on fast food. This change of routine is the perfect time for a clean slate to start some new habits. Planning these areas most certainly saves time and money. Also, not running out for lunch leaves me time to walk at lunch, which is a much needed moment to move my body and get in some “me” time.
August is notoriously the most expensive month of the summer, with back to school needs and camping trips. Starting a clean slate with new habits helps get us back on track with saving vs spending.
Each year I have hoped that our transition will be smooth and we’ll all have a great school year. I’d like to think the planning helps everyone but it definitely helps this Mom feel better about orchestrating all the moving pieces that are required with a house full of back to schoolers. I’ll probably have it all figured out just as the last one graduates high school. Here’s to the next 13 “New Years!”
What works for you?
What have I missed? What do you reset at the beginning of the school year? Any tips to share? I’d love to hear them.