My life as a working mom doesn’t change much from school year to summer, and back again. We still get up routinely, get out the door, collect the kids after camp, and make dinner after long days at work. The days have a little less structure, and we do take some time off, but really summer is just a nicer weather school year routine for us.
That being said, back to school still means we need to get a little more organized. And as you know, I’m not the most organized lady out there. So it’s time for me to take stock of indoor shoes, pencil case supplies, and go through our hand me down bags and see if we actually need to buy anything!
Here are 7 Back to School tips from a working mom.
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Get a good backpack and you won’t need another for a few years.
When Rose started SK (senior Kindergarten) we bought the girls Roots backpacks from Costco. They came with matching lunch pails with ice packs and removable liners – great for washing. This will be our third year using these bags. The first few years we bought “cheap” (they weren’t really cheap, just not as high quality) bags and they didn’t last.
I know full sized backpacks seem giant for little people. Rose swam in hers for the first year. But kids grow fast. And neither of my girls had an opinion for what their backpacks looked like (as long they were different from each other’s.) I know in a few more years we’ll have to deal with tween opinions and “fashion” wants. So getting that decent pack in the early years so we could get as much wear out of it as possible was important for me.
Label everything in hopes you will see things come home again.
Despite labels and lectures, my kids lose so much stuff. Thankfully having labels on their stuff means I can find them (and I know they’re ours) in the lost and found. My girls lose everything, from clothes and hats to lunch containers, toys, costume pieces and every other thing they sneak into their backpacks. Emma lost a library book once, but I sent her to the library to disclose that she lost it, and it turned out someone found it and returned it for her.
The labels we use (Mabel’s Labels) stick really well. The clothing tags stay on the clothes, and the container stickers often last longer than the containers do!
Work your way back to early wake up/school morning routine.
Our summer mornings do have later starts than during the school year. I always try to work our way back to our early start slowly. The first step is trying to get my girls to turn lights out a bit earlier. This is very much a struggle, but I find waking them up earlier (again, slowly) helps them get to bed earlier.
Sometimes there’s chaos because the girls get overtired while trying to adjust back to the earlier routine, but that’s why I start working on this in August. We talk about it even earlier than that, but let’s be honest – summer is about having fun and relaxing. Staying up late(r) is a part of that.
Teach them to make their own lunches – and have them make choices at the grocery store.
Use the summer as a series of teachable moments. Help them learn more healthy choices, and how to repackage bulk sized food into lunch container amounts. Going to summer camps means my girls still take lunches every day over the summer. We just have a little more time in the mornings to make those lunches.
I know having my kids make their own lunches saves me about 10 minutes in the morning. Although sometimes I have to use 5 of those minutes “reminding” them to get going on their lunches. Plus there’s the added bonus them feeling like they’re in control of what they’re going to eat that day. Realistically you’ve provided some limited choices, but they feel they’ve made their own lunch with what they want to eat. The idea of the kids having control often helps my kids eat what they’ve taken (rather than bringing most of it home because “I don’t like that!”)
This tip works for those of us who live in climates that span the four seasons. But layering is a great way to get more wear out of your summer clothes, and it lets the kids have fun getting dressed in the morning.
My girls both love dresses. I try to buy comfy casual dresses that can be worn in any season. All you need for the cooler weather is knee socks (we have some over-the-knee ones Emma loves) or tights. And even tight fitting pants can be worn on cold days. Add a sweater, or button up shirt to keep the arms warm and you’re good to go!
You can do the same with tank tops or tshirts that are favourites. Add anything that buttons up overtop and you’re ready for any temperature.
Have them help you organize the house for better flow – fridge, cupboards, bedrooms – while still in “summer” mode.
Using summer as a time to declutter and organize can help when you get back to the more rigid September schedule. If the kids have their rooms straightened and organized, they will know where which clothes are, and can (hopefully) choose an outfit without sifting through too many clothes. (I’m speaking hypothetically here – my girls can straighten their rooms, but after about a week it’s back to major chaos!)
The same idea applies in your pantry, fridge and cupboards. We don’t have a pantry, but we do have a “snack” cupboard where we keep the lunch snacks. My girls routinely sort through it, breaking down empty boxes, and making sure there are more when an item gets low. I’m not sure how I got them doing that, but I LOVE that they do it. It was a natural progression after having them start packing their own lunches.
More organized people than me sort their refrigerators as well. Lunch foods on the lower shelves, or in baskets to keep them organized. I don’t do that, but I do see the merit in it! We do chop up veggies in bulk so the girls can just fill a small container from a larger one. That saves a little time in the mornings as well.
Design your school term schedules with the kids.
Open communication is the best way to run a household. My girls have school and go to after school care every day except Wed when they come home on the bus. And then there’s the 8 hours of kids dance classes, and one hour for me, every week. So we talk about it, a lot.
Letting the kids have a say in how much extra curricular activity they want to do is extremely necessary. We are not home much on weeknights, but there is still homework and dinner that needs to get done. Helping the kids learn how to block their time (and learning about that myself!) is necessary so everything can fit into the schedule.
This is where meal planning comes in as well. Learn to use your slow cooker, or find quick and easy meals that everyone likes. I will say we keep hamburger helper on hand, and make spaghetti sauce in bulk. As long as I remember to take a sauce, or a ground beef, out of the freezer, dinner can be ready in about half an hour. By having the kids help decide what they would like for dinner in the morning (or creating a weekly rotating schedule of foods they like) they feel included in the family decisions – and are more likely to eat what you’ve made!
When you’re a working parent, back to school isn’t as exciting as it could be. Or maybe that’s just me. But getting back to a proper schedule does have some advantages. I can better block my time for blogging because I know dance class runs on this or that night and I’m on pick up duty. Those are the nights I take my computer and sit and work. In the summer we don’t have routine evening things, so I have to sneak time in where I can!
What do you do to get ready for back to school? Are you “new outfit for the first day” family? (We’re not usually, it’s still often quite hot here when the kids go back. So no new stylish fall clothes for a bit yet!)
Our school doesn’t send out a “what you to bring” list before school starts up. That means I can’t really check everything off until after the kids have actually been back to school. So our back to school routine is very laid back and we just go with the flow. Do you have back to school tips to share? Or any fun ways you prepare your kids to head back? Let me know in the comments!