There are two types of moms out there—the ones who never want summer to end, and the ones who start planning for the fall in July. As much as I’d like to believe I am an endless summer fun mom, I am decidedly not. I like structure, a quiet house, and people learning things from professional teachers. My kids actually really like school too. We are all much happier once school starts.
I want to share a few things I’ve picked up along the way that help us live our best back to school lives.
Treat Back-to-School like it’s New Year’s. Have the whole family come up with resolutions (goals) for the school year. Whether it’s learning a new instrument, trying out for a new sport, making straight A’s…harness those New School Year vibes and make some goals. Talk to your kids about coming up with goals that are within their control (tryout for the soccer team vs. make the soccer team) and that are measurable (read all 20 Bluebonnet books by December vs get better at reading). Don’t forget to make goals for yourself and share your goals with your kids. Somehow my kids did not realize I was writing a novel until I shared recently that my New School Year goal was to finish my novel by January. It was motivating to share that goal with the kids and get their encouragement.
Think about setting three big goals in three different categories (personal, professional, family). Be real about what you can do each day to accomplish those goals. This translates to looking at how much time you have and how much time it takes to accomplish your goals. When I really looked at what it would take to finish my novel by January, that translated to writing 10 pages a week, which meant I needed to carve out two hours a day every weekday for that goal. And I needed to do that at a time of day when I’m not totally brain dead. Which leads me to my next tip…
Make a schedule and be realistic about where your time is going. Look at drop off times, pick up times, soccer practice, after-school tutoring, gymnastics, church youth group. Write down everything you will be doing in a week in some sort of calendar—you could make one yourself, bullet journal style, or use a printed Google calendar set to a weekly view. But I would recommend using paper and pencil to write down a master calendar with what is happening every day at what time. Don’t forget to add the driving time. The amount of time I spend driving is always a shock to me. And it is a huge reminder about why it’s so hard to figure out family dinners during the school year. So much of my time between 4-6 is spent in the car on weekdays. This year I actually wrote down what time we need to eat dinner each day to accommodate all of our activities. The timing of everything then led to my next tip…
Make a weekly meal plan that aligns with your driving schedule. Refer to your weekly schedule. If you have to be in the car during prime dinner-making hours every Tuesday, then that is not a good night to make a dinner that requires a lot of time and babysitting. Plan to make a slow-cooker meal on days when you know you will be out all afternoon. I love to wing it in the kitchen, so this has been a hard lesson for me to learn, but, man, once I started doing this, I felt like I had cracked the dinner code. I actually went next level this month and made a month-long meal plan, which I’m going to share in my next post. Stay tuned for that.
And while I am loving having a plan, and I think plans are super helpful, I do want to add that they should serve you and not the other way around. Which brings me to my last and probably most important tip…
Be flexible. The older my children get (I have a freshman, 7th grader and 4th grader), the more I learn that parenting is not about enforcing my will and plans on them but about listening to their needs and desires and adjusting as necessary. I try to plan my time and schedule as much as I can so that I can be available for those last-minute crises that pop up, or to host spur-of-the moment study sessions or playdates or trips to get a frappuccino when they’ve had a bad day. I am so not perfect at this. I screw this stuff up all the time, but my intent is to be able to provide a soft place for my kids to fall when life is hard. And it’s impossible to do that if you are super rigid about sticking to a routine at all costs.
So that’s how we not only survive, but THRIVE now that school is in session. I’m sure there are a lot of other new school year tips and tricks out there that I haven’t thought of. I’d love to hear what works for your family!
Happy New School Year!