Back-to-school season has arrived! Here are 4 things you don’t want to leave off your back-to-school list!
Several of my friends’ children have already started back to school, but today is the first day of our new homeschool year. A new year with a first grader, a preschooler, a toddler, and a baby.
I have been telling my kids that today would be their first day back for days, hoping to build up a little anticipation for them and a little accountability for me. I spent most of the weekend sitting among all our homeschool things, organizing materials, reading resources, outlining new routines and goals for our year, and preparing lesson plans for the week.
As I worked, I thought of writing this post. At first I had homeschool moms in mind, but I realized that this list is for all moms– whether you are starting a new homeschool year or getting ready for a year of school outside the home.
We dutifully did our back-to-school shopping, though our list was significantly shorter than what it might have been if we were not homeschooling. We picked up more printer paper, a desk calendar, a special new pen for each of my boys, a three-hole punch to replace our broken one, and new big kid scissors for my daughter so she’ll stop taking her brothers’. I also snuck in a few surprises to wrap up for my kids to open in first-day-celebration–new markers, fresh modeling clay, and a special surprise I can’t share just yet (a DIY project I’m hoping turns out well!).
The list I’m sharing today, though, is not a list of things you can pick up at the dollar store or at Target. But if you leave these things out of your beginning of the year preparations, the loss will be felt more keenly than simply forgetting to buy enough notebooks or neglecting to send your child to school with the ample kleenex for the classroom.
No, this list is not purchasable. But everything on it can be acquired with just a little intention and helpful resources. And if you do the work to put these things into your new school year, you can look forward to a smoother start and happier family.
4 Things Every Mom Needs for Back-to-School
1. Discipline & Routine
I am putting this one right at the beginning of the list because without routines and the discipline to stick to them, the other parts of the list will lose much of their effectiveness.
After a summer of late nights, slow mornings, and days spent doing whatever everyone wanted, the return to school can be jarring. All of a sudden, instead of popcorn and a movie after dinner, there are lunches to be packed, clothes to be set out, and school supplies to be gathered. Or, if you are a homeschool mom, there are materials to set up, lesson plans to review, and still you must have an idea of what you will have for breakfast, lunch, and dinner.
Having routines in place and the discipline to follow through is ESSENTIAL to a smooth start to a school year.
I want to share a resource with you that is making a HUGE difference in my life right now. Crystal Paine from Money Saving Mom has an incredible video course called Make Over Your Mornings. Unlike me, Crystal is naturally more disciplined and has seen a ton of fruit in her life from the habits she lives by. In 14 short videos (each is only about 5 minutes long), Crystal takes you through key habits, how to implement them, and even how to stay motivated. In addition to the videos, there is a workbook and several printables to help you think through your priorities and to help you develop routines that work for you and your family.
Friends, I am only sharing this because I know it to be a really great resource. Crystal is like listening to a sweet friend share encouragement right where you are. Her ideas and strategies would be PERFECT FOR A NEW SCHOOL YEAR. And right now, Make Over Your Mornings is on sale for just $10 (almost half off!).
Instituting routines and discipline is my biggest priority this year because it is what I felt was lacking too much last year. Granted, my first year as a homeschool mom was also spent grieving the loss of a child, and then by the grace of God, spent pregnant with our fourth son. So all in all, the year wasn’t really big on lessons around the table. But, we did have lessons on how to trust God during hard times, how to help out when mama is sick and tired, and how to create their own fun and play together.
I am excited for a fresh start this year. No matter what your year looked like last year, you too can approach this one with a clean slate!
Enthusiasm is the funner sister of discipline. Routine and discipline make life and school effectual and productive. Enthusiasm makes them enjoyable and meaningful.
My husband and I figured out a while ago that more often than not, our children feed off of our emotions and our responses to things. They take their cues from us. When our oldest son was a toddler and would take a tumble or bump something, we learned to wait before we jumped to his aid. In that brief moment immediately after the accident, he would look at us and we would tell him he was okay, he was tough and he could keep playing. And you know what? He almost always did. Overreacting parents usually lead to overreacting kids.
The same principle applies to daily life. What attitude do we bring to the table in the morning? Our kids will pick up on it and mimic us. How have we been talking about the beginning of the school year? Are we modeling dread, complaint, or anxiety? Or are we giving them examples of enthusiasm and confidence? They will know the difference.
This year, let’s build up the enthusiasm in our homes. Wrap up special school supplies to let the kids open them as gifts on the first day. Talk excitedly about the things they will learn this year. Be positive about the changes the back-to-school season brings. And just enjoy the ride together!
We need to listen to the “been there, done that” moms. The ones who have been in our shoes. The ones who were hunting for their kids shoes while we were still staying up all night in college.
They have seen dozens of back-to-school seasons with their kids. Their experience has taught them what works and what doesn’t– and how to distinguish between the two.
They have been anxious, excited, and overwhelmed. Probably often all at the same time.
Ideally, we will have some of these moms in our daily lives. The “in real life” people, you know. There is not much that can beat a sympathetic look, a piece of advice spoken face to face, and the insight that only frequent observation can give. These relationships are a gift and a blessing, and it is our job to be open to the help. To receive advice with gratitude, and not be guilty of the folly of youth that clings to the belief that we know everything. After all, this is about the time when we begin to realize that maybe our mothers were actually right about a few things.
There are many, many other ways to learn from the “been there, done that” moms too. Good books, helpful blogs, and podcasts can all be great ways to glean wisdom from other mothers. Social media can even be an excellent source of wisdom if we are looking in the right places. I love being able to follow inspiring mothers on Instagram and am constantly finding encouragement and fresh ideas there. (Here are some of my favorite resources for Charlotte Mason style inspiration).
The point is to find a good source, stay open to change, and trust that one day, you will be the mom who has packed an infinite number of lunches, resolved countless conflicts, blown your savings on school supplies, and thrown years of back-to-school celebrations. You will be someone’s “been there, done that” mom too.
Back-to-school season…the time when school papers and crafts and supplies multiply like rabbits.
If you’re not prepared, any and every surface of your home will quickly become a landing zone for clutter of all kinds. And if you are at all like me, a house-full of cluttered surfaces is the first step towards getting overwhelmed and irritated. But we are supposed to be channeling enthusiasm and not crankiness, so we need a plan to handle all the STUFF!
The ways of organizing school paraphernalia are endless, especially when you consider how differently our houses are set up and how different our needs can be. But there are three principles that generally apply to us all:
1. Keep it simple. Whatever system of organization you implement, it needs to work EASILY for whoever will be using it. Simple and straightforward is always better than elaborate and complicated.
2. Less is more. Reduce, reduce, reduce! One of the most important ways to avoid being overrun by stuff is simply to have less of it. Do you need 100 crayons when 30 will do? Do your children need access to every book you own all the time, or could you rotate a smaller library?
3. Don’t do it all. School-age children are more than capable of being responsible for their things when given the opportunity and a working system. Start the year with a plan in place and be consistent to put the ball in their court to keep up with their things.
In the next few weeks, I will be sharing more of how I keep our school things organized. There will be tips for what to do with all those papers your kids are so proud of, and how to organize homeschool supplies without them taking over your house. Be sure to subscribe at the top of the page or follow on Facebook so you don’t miss a post!