As the school year draws to a close, both my children and I breathe a sigh of relief. We’re all tired. They’re tired of being nagged, and I’m tired of doing the nagging. But before we start counting down the days until they leave for summer camp, I clean out their backpacks and all other vestiges of the academic year we’ve just left behind. So, here are some tips for delving into those backpacks while hoping not to discover anything too scary…(last week’s lunch?)
1. Throw out every sticky, gooey, extra large art project. The good news is, now that I have teenagers, these art projects and diaramas are a thing of the past!
2. Sort through homework and graded papers. Unless an assignments may help a younger brother or sister, these papers can be tossed.
3. Save creative writing, either in a specially labeled folder or an online folder.
4. Trash old school supplies that are dog-eared or doodled on. Reusable items like calculators and hole punchers should be saved.
5. Recycle notebooks, lined paper, pens and pencils that haven’t been used or are in good condition.
6. Determine the likelihood of your child using his/her backpack for another year. Chances are, you’ll be buying a new one in the fall, so if this is the case, don’t save it.
7. Rejoice at all the lost things you find inside the backpack: earrings, money, your child’s retainer, and more!
As the long, lazy days of summer dwindle, moms everywhere start to feel stressed about “Back to School”. There’s scheduling after school activities, planning carpools, shopping for clothing, finding babysitting coverage and attending the never ending orientations, class breakfasts, and curriculum nights (multiplied by the number of children you have) that schools love to host. It’s a lot for even the most organized of moms. So, before you throw in the towel, here are some tips to get you through the fall frenzy.
1. Edit your children’s clothes. Before you buy anything new for the fall, revisit all of the heavy, winter items that you saved from last year, eliminating anything that doesn’t fit. Check your stash of hand me downs to see what does fit. Once you’ve edited and purged, make a list and buy your child just what they need…and maybe just a few things that are so cute you can’t resist!
2. Create a study space in your home. This is nothing more complicated than having a clear surface, good lighting, and essential supplies. Use stackable paper trays that can be filled with lined paper, white paper, and colored paper. Then, use small plastic drawers for highlighters, binder clips, post-it notes, tape and glue. Pencils and pens can be kept in a decorative mug or cup on the desk. Where your child does his/her homework is less important than having supplies that are accessible.
3. Use a master calendar. Whether you affix a calendar to a wall, post it on the refrigerator, or keep track of your family’s activities electronically, what’s important is that every activity for each family member is recorded in one place. This guarantees that you’ll avoid the stress of double booked activities, impossible logistics, and overscheduling.
4. Institute weekly family meetings that prepare each member of your family for the upcoming week. Young children might remind you that they need to bring cookies for the bake sale, older children might remind you that they need to be driven somewhere, and you can remind your family that you won’t be home for dinner on a particular night.
5. Don’t be afraid to say no…to heading the school bake sale, play dates your child doesn’t want, and activities that are simply inconvenient. Volunteer if you’d like, but choose what you’ll enjoy and what won’t overtax you. For example, by volunteering to plan the parents’ night out, you can ensure that its location and date work for you, and you’re not roped into a year-long commitment.
Beating the Back-to-School Blues
Years ago (before I had children), Staples ran a back to school commercial that showed parents dancing through the aisles while the track to “It’s the Most Wonderful Time of the Year” played in the background. To me, that commercial was hilarious. But now, two children later, I’m no longer sure. After a three-month summer vacation, having them in someone else’s hands between the hours of 8 and 3 comes as a well-deserved break. Yet, at the same time, back to school is not for the faint of heart.
Between the PTA meetings, orientations, class breakfasts, curriculum nights, and after-school nonsense, a working mother has to wonder: when are you supposed to work? A friend of mine has a daughter who just started kindergarten. On the first day of school, her daughter had 30 minutes of school…from 11:00 to 11:30. On the second day of school, her daughter went to school for an hour…from 10:00 to 11:00. While this may be strictly a New York City phenomenon, in what universe is it convenient to drop your child off for one hour in the middle of a working day?
And then there’s scheduling after school activities. When I was growing up, there were about three choices for what I could do after school…and that included the choice of coming home and doing nothing. Today, there are literally hundreds of options. And this is as much a blessing as a curse. You’re trying to schedule four different activities per child, yet after-school activities (particularly travel sports) appear to be run by the only people in New York who don’t have a firm grasp on the concept of a time. Is baseball practice on Tuesdays and Thursdays, or is it just on Fridays? Is play practice going to be Mondays or Wednesdays? Just tell me the schedule. Meanwhile, my child gets shut out of tennis because I’m waiting to hear what day baseball practice is. And then the one yoga class that’s available takes place precisely in the one hour of the week that my child has some mandatory other activity. Scheduling is a nightmare, and the more children you have, the bigger the nightmare becomes.
And once you master the calendar logistics, you have to address the social issues. Your child doesn’t want a play date with the child whose mother is hounding you for one. Or, you’re trying to sign up for a group activity for three second graders, and they don’t have a single day and time in common. And your good friend’s child is a bully. And, your child is the only one that doesn’t have the FILL IN THE BLANK.
Isn’t this enough to make a sane person come undone?? Read on for a few of my tips for a Stress-Free September. And, as always, I love to hear from you. How do you cope with back-to-school madness?
Tips for a Stress Free September
1. Have a glass of wine. A chilled bottle of Pinot is as essential during this time as pencil cases and notebooks.
2. Don’t be afraid to say no…to heading the benefit committee, to play dates your child doesn’t want, and to activities that are inconvenient for you.
3. Do volunteer—for something fun and easy. By volunteering to plan the parents’ night out, you can ensure that its location and date work for you. By volunteering to plan the 6th grade graduation party, you can win points with your child without suffering through a year-long commitment.
4. Start your schedule by locking in the activity your kid likes most. Once you know when that meets, you can branch out from there.
5. Back up all homework on an external hard drive or flash drive. Saving these files externally will protect documents from being accidentally deleted by other family members.
6. Overscheduling is a myth, especially if your kids are old enough to have discovered the computer. Put it this way; if they’re playing tennis or doing ballet, they’re not i-chatting.