Share Your Best Back-to-School Tips / Ideas

Heather says:

Here’s a little transparency for you.

This is the first time my children are going to school and frankly, I think I’m more nervous and excited than they are. I have once mentioned that my oldest child is on the autistic spectrum (Asperger’s) and that he needed a couple of extra years at home to mature before he could adapt to a classroom environment. We used a virtual charter school system mostly because I needed the structure. My middle child also used this program, because I couldn’t wrap my brain around schooling one at home and not the other. This year all three will be school-age and now, with my working outside of the home, as well as here at something had to give. Thankfully, everyone seems ready for next week. My house quiet after having three marauding minions stampeding around for the last 5 years 9 years in all) is mind-blowing.

As I usually do around the time change, I’ve begun moving their bedtimes to a more respectable one 15 minutes at a time. (This seems to cut down on the whining and bickering after lights out).

So today, since I’m the n00b, I ask you:

What is your best back-to-school tip or idea?

Just for fun, I’ll randomly select and send a digital copy of Home-Ec101: Skills for Everyday Living to someone  who comments (with an actual suggestion, First and Lulz, do not count).


  1. littlebear09 on August 15, 2012 at 12:35 pm

    I don’t have any children in school, BUT my fiance is in medical school and is often as scatterbrained as a kid because he barely sleeps. He lays out in clothes the night before , fills up his waterbottle. and puts his keys, wallet, doctory stuff in the same place every night so he doesn’t have to search for it. Since I go to bed later {night owl!}, I pack him a lunch and leave him a note reminding him of anything we talked about that was important {rent check, bills, date night :)} the night before  and a little note of encouragement so he doesn’t have to try to juggle any more things in his brain/knows I’m proud of all of his hard work. Having the little…”morning station” helps to keep us organized!  

  2. rainrosen on August 14, 2012 at 7:40 am

    Obviously there are school restrictions to this one (no tree nuts, etc), but have them start packing their own lunch as soon about as they can comfortably reach the ingredients and handle a knife make a peanut butter and jelly sandwich.  My mom made me make my own lunch starting around 2nd or 3rd grade and it taught me time management in the morning, how to plan a balanced lunch, and thinking ahead/putting things on a grocery list (mom, we’re out of peach cups!).  She helped me the planning and brainstorming about what would be good in there, but it was my responsibility to make, pack, and not forget my lunch box in the car.  

  3. KeterMagick on August 14, 2012 at 12:10 am

    Re. what Mom4Nell wrote about deciding not to discipline for what happened at school – I cannot underscore too much the importance of understanding that if you were not there, you don’t know what really happened.  I was bullied horribly in school and often ended up being the one who got in trouble because others would set me up.  Being disciplined for having been bullied to the breaking point at school was bad enough, but then I went home and faced more hours of horror.  You HAVE to let your kids have a safe place…and  you owe them to at least investigate what’s really going on when the same problems happen over and over.

  4. kcdupee on August 14, 2012 at 12:05 am

    I found I needed time with each child individually, so I gave the older child the “responsibility” of playing with the youngest child for the first 15 minutes after we got home.  During that time I sat down with the middle child and we went through the backpack, sorted papers, looked over homework, and did the parts she needed help with.  Then I sent her to play with the youngest (for about 20 minutes) and called her older brother in to go through his backpack and start his homework.  As soon as he was at the point that he could go on his own, I’d call the middle child back to finish up her homework.  This year the youngest starts school, so we’ll have to add a segment in for her.  I did find that I had to set a timer or I’d get caught up in reading their papers and not keep them to the schedule.

    • QuiltinJenny on August 14, 2012 at 8:40 am

      kcdupee This is a fantastic idea!  I only wish I had heard of it ten years ago.  But I will definitely keep it in my back pocket for my friends with three little ones.  Thanks!

  5. blossomteacher on August 13, 2012 at 11:45 pm

    You mentioned moving bedtime back…be sure to move back wake-up time, too!  Also, if you’ve got the kids up at 7, go ahead and get them dressed and fed, and try to be out of the house by whenever you would need to leave for school…call it dress rehearsal.  If you can plan something fun for those early mornings, it makes getting the kids up a lot easier, and they will grumble less about being up so early for “no reason!”

    • HeatherSolos on August 14, 2012 at 8:50 am

      @blossomteacher I kind of wish wake-up time were an issue. My kids have always been up at the crack of dawn no matter what their bedtime.

  6. Mom4Nell on August 13, 2012 at 8:35 pm

    We have a special needs daughter.  When she was younger we disciplined her at home for things that happened at school as well as her being disciplined by the teacher.  It unfortunately led to too much anxiety on everyone’s part.  After many years we adpoted the philosophy that the school would handle their discipline and we would merely talk to her to make sure she understood what she had done wrong.  We had the policy that the only time discipline was carried to the home was if the parent was called by the office since that would be a very serious matter.  The only other thing that I did was to explain to our daughter when she first started school was that doing homework was a privilege and she could only do it if she was good.  The reverse pschology worked for several years. 

  7. Lindana Flynn on August 13, 2012 at 5:50 pm

    Both my children have a “ToDo” list in a clear sleeve – we sat down just last week and started going over what should be on it this year. It has a Morning, Afternoon, and Evening list, and at the bottom a Daily Chore. When they ask to play, I just ask if they’ve done everything on the list. I’m crazy ADHD, and the kids take after me here, so it has been incredibly helpful.Also, I empty my younger child’s backpack and keep my calendar nearby. Write everything down on every calendar as soon as you see it, or you will be embarrassed that your child is the only one who didn’t bring in the socks for needy children at Thanksgiving…we won’t get into how I know this.Best of luck to all of us here!

  8. KeterMagick on August 13, 2012 at 5:25 pm

    As you make the transition from home school to institutional school, you have to UP the communication with your children significantly.  Find out what their teachers are teaching.  Find out what the other kids are talking about.  Make sure there’s no bullying going on.  Voice of experience – there are many dangerous influences at school, from teachers who are either incompetent (lots of these) or have political agendas (everything from communism to sexual preferences) to peers with no or negative guidance at home who are emulating everything they see on TV and in the tabloids.  Make ’em talk about their days. Ask a LOT of questions.  Make them dump their backpacks in front of you and go through everything with them.  Do a quick check of the backpacks in the mornings, too.  Nowadays, kids can end up with a criminal record if they take aspirin to school.Read the lessons – my son’s third grade teacher was functionally illiterate and was plagiarizing (sometimes inappropriately) to get by.  She also was “small” – her students were bigger than she was, she could not keep order, and her classes were chaos.  It took two years’ worth of parent complaints to get her ousted because she had been hired to fulfill an ADA hiring quota.  His seventh grade science teacher (who had a degree in sports administration) was teaching incorrect information on a regular basis – and when confronted politely and confidentially with actual correct information from Encyclopedia Britannica and a suggestion that he needed to be more careful with his research, went on a witch hunt against my son and myself which finally was resolved by his termination…but it was ugly while it lasted.In third grade, my son was a latch-key kid because I was a working single parent and the school was only three blocks away.  The neighborhood was very nice, but there was one crazy kid who liked setting things on fire.  Guess which kid my son was hanging out with.  When I kept finding burned remains of things in and around the house,  I had to make an arrangement with another mother to care for him after school to be sure he wasn’t involved with that kid, and the following summer I moved to a small town because gangs were infiltrating even the good neighborhoods and I couldn’t afford to live in a gated community.  The small town made a world of difference in his attitude.Lastly, keep in contact with the teachers on a regular basis.  Ping ’em on Facebook, send email, whatever works.  That’s the only way you will find out whether your kids are doing something you cannot see until the grade cards come out.  My son was infamous for doing his homework and then failing to turn it in.  He knew the material.  I never figured out why he didn’t turn stuff in, but it killed his grades all through school, and would have resulted in failures if I hadn’t kept on him with the teachers’ help.  Interestingly, when he got into JROTC, he suddenly started turning his homework in regularly after I put that word into his drill instructor’s ear.  I also was active in the JROTC boosters, so I saw the instructors all the time.  By his senior year, he had his grades up to all As and was his school’s JROTC Company Commander.  It made a huge difference in my son’s life – he went into the Air Force after high school, aced the ASVAB, was Company Commander of his basic training squadron and at two successive tech schools, and has ended up pretty much writing his own ticket with his Air Force career.Meet with the school counselors before there’s a problem.  Find out their attitudes.  Good counselors have influence over other administrators and can help protect a kid who is being mistreated by a teacher or by peers.  Bad ones are rarely just ineffective – they are usually toxic people.  You need to know what you’re dealing with, particularly for your eldest son.  Also visit the school’s front office and try to get there at a time to observe them during a busy time so you can see them under stress.  Make sure you know the procedures for checking kids in late or picking them up early, absences, etc.  And try to have lunch at least once with your child to see what the atmosphere is like.  My son’s infamous third grade school had half hour long lunch periods with a line that took 20 minutes to get through.  There was no talking allowed. The kids went back to class stressed and often hungry.  Your kid is not likely to tell you if this sort of thing is happening.Good luck!

  9. abakale on August 13, 2012 at 2:40 pm

    I do the empty out the backpack when they get home thing.  But the most important to me is a checklist on the inside of the front door, so we all see it on our way out the door.  All three of us (9 yo girl, 12 yo boy, and me) have ADHD in varying degrees.  Our list includes:Mom’s cell phoneJake and Em’s medsDog and cats fedWater for animalsBecause if this list isn’t there for all of us to see, even if we prepared the night before, something will be forgotten!  

  10. BarbHoyer on August 13, 2012 at 1:00 pm

    Train your kids to empty their backpacks when they walk in the door and put the school papers into a designated bin. When everyone’s settled with their snack, I review the papers for homework and notes from school. If anything needs to go back, I put it in the bin for packing the bags the next morning.

  11. LaurelBriggs on August 13, 2012 at 1:00 pm

    Backpack, instrument packed the night before and by the door.

  12. suemaynard on August 13, 2012 at 11:15 am

    I don’t have kids, but from my own school days (and let’s be honest, work mornings with just my husband and me!) I’ll also second the laying out of clothing the night before. Also have lunch packed (or ingredients assembled and ready to go) the night before, and that way the morning can really just be rolling out of bed and making yourself presentable. And, this sounds funny, but figuring out how early to set everyone’s alarm. I can set my alarm for the time I want to get up, but my husband hits snooze every day, so it’s important to set his 20 minutes early in order for him not to run behind.

  13. Jennifer on August 13, 2012 at 10:55 am

    1) I agree about the closet organizer.   We have the same and over the weekend, we fill it with complete outfits for the week. 2) Pack up backpacks the night before.  Decide on breakfast the night before.3) I have a 3 ring binder with household information, and have tabs for all the kids and all their orientation papers & school info  they receive (we have 3 kids in 3 different schools).  4) I have a string and clothespins hanging on a railing and hang up artwork to display for awhile.  5) I have another binder for each child and save some school work for the year – special artwork, handwriting work, stories they write, research reports, report cards.  We can add in other pages with pictures, etc…turns into an easy scrapbook of the year. They’re all stored in a filing cabinet with each child having their own drawer. 

  14. EmsMom on August 13, 2012 at 9:55 am

    Oh, another thing I do. When buying things for lunches or snacks I pre-proportion them out in zip type snack bags. Cheaper than the store bought individual packages and they are a grab and go for school lunches. 

  15. EmsMom on August 13, 2012 at 9:55 am

    School mornings can be stressful! To help lessen the stress Em has a 6 compartment hanging cubby. She picks out a weeks worth of outfits, noting which days are PE day, undies, socks if needed and in some cases even the shoes. The 6th cubbie is for belts, etc. I also have her repack her book bag before bedtime and put it by the door. I keep quick, quasi-nutritious, breakfast items for her. She isn’t much of a breakfast eater. Sometimes it is a Poptart, frozen waffle with peanut butter or Nutella, cheesy bread, occasionally cereal. Other times a Carnation Instant Breakfast. You can squeeze a banana in those for extra. The more organized you are the better school mornings will be! Hard, but not impossible!

    • ev on August 13, 2012 at 12:40 pm

      EmsMom We did something similar – all clothes were hung in “outfits.”  We put clips on all the hangers for socks and underwear.  It had the added benefit that nice pants didn’t get worn as play pants by accident.  By limiting our sons’ choices – 5 school days in a week – 5 school outfits.  Which outfit do you want to wear today?  It taught our sons that choices have consequences and life has limits.  (I also had the knowledge that the 10 play outfits for the week, 5 school outfits, and 2 dress outfits were washed and cleaned. Different colored hangers for different categories.)  I also had fewer clothes around the house.  That was nice not as much clutter.

    • ev on August 13, 2012 at 12:40 pm

      EmsMom We did something similar – all clothes were hung in “outfits.”  We put clips on all the hangers for socks and underwear.  It had the added benefit that nice pants didn’t get worn as play pants by accident.  By limiting our sons’ choices – 5 school days in a week – 5 school outfits.  Which outfit do you want to wear today?  It taught our sons that choices have consequences and life has limits.  (I also had the knowledge that the 10 play outfits for the week, 5 school outfits, and 2 dress outfits were washed and cleaned. Different colored hangers for different categories.)  I also had fewer clothes around the house.  That was nice not as much clutter.

    • ev on August 13, 2012 at 12:40 pm

      EmsMom We did something similar – all clothes were hung in “outfits.”  We put clips on all the hangers for socks and underwear.  It had the added benefit that nice pants didn’t get worn as play pants by accident.  By limiting our sons’ choices – 5 school days in a week – 5 school outfits.  Which outfit do you want to wear today?  It taught our sons that choices have consequences and life has limits.  (I also had the knowledge that the 10 play outfits for the week, 5 school outfits, and 2 dress outfits were washed and cleaned. Different colored hangers for different categories.)  I also had fewer clothes around the house.  That was nice not as much clutter.

  16. QuiltinJenny on August 13, 2012 at 9:50 am

    Reach out.  The most unhappy moms I know are the ones who complain that the other parents are cliquey or don’t ever call.  Get involved and you will meet lots of people.  Those moms who you think are ignoring you are just as anxious and busy as you are, and are not really thinking “that new girl looks lame.”  More likely they’re thinking, “eggs, toilet paper, bananas…and don’t forget to call the dentist.” Don’t overextend.  Volunteering is great, but signing up for everything is a sure-fire way to get burnt out and start hating everyone at school.  Saying no gives someone else the opportunity – some shy mom who might be thinking, “I’ll do it if no one else volunteers.” Lower expectations at home for a bit.  Your kids are going to be hungry and grouchy and tired when they come home.  They will have been told where to sit and stand and write their name and to be quiet ALL DAY LONG.  The last thing they need when they hit the door is a reminder to take out the trash or walk the dog.  Just like a toddler at daycare for the first time, they will have been on their best behavior for hours and hours, and need to decompress for a bit.  It’s not forever; just until they get used to the new schedule.Listen.  You’ll never know what’s going on by asking 20 questions, but if you cut up an apple or pour a glass of milk and just be present, you might just find out what Alex said to Mrs. Harrison that made the whole class laugh or which part in the pageant your child really wants.   Take pictures on the first day.  Every year.  Even when they grumble.  One day you’ll look back in amazement.  (Sobbing softly – just took my 12th grader’s first day pic.)Good luck and enjoy the quiet!

  17. SusanRestAsplund on August 13, 2012 at 9:30 am

    With two boys with special needs, I understand your anxiety. It will work out. Something simple that we do that saves on time, energy, and drama in the morning is laying out their clothes the night before, down to the shoes. When socks were bothersome for my older son, he would pretest them the night before and know that they would ‘work’ in the morning. For my younger one, it ensured that he went to school with clean clothes. As they got older, they did the picking and it is now a habit instead of a chore. Good luck!

  18. JessicaRWebb on August 13, 2012 at 8:50 am

    Don’t stress. I’m a first timer too, my little man just started Pre-K this morning. My Dad somehow managed to get me and my brother out the door and to school. He says the most important things to remember are don’t stress and keep all of the school stuff in one area.. Make sure that homework is done in one place, so you don’t have to look for it. 

  19. Corbinfive on August 13, 2012 at 8:40 am

    Keep organized with school papers. Go through their backpacks every night and if something needs your attention, do it right away. Sign it, initial it, fill it out, write the dates on the calendar, etc….deal with it right away and you won’t have to worry about it or be looking for papers later. For papers I want to keep, I create a “home” folder for each of my kids every year. Just a folder with their name on it in which I put all school papers related to that child….report cards, class lists, newsletters, special assignments they did, copies of school physicals…..everything school-related. That way I know, for example, if I am looking for Jack’s room parent list, it is in Jack’s “home” folder.  ****I keep these folders in “Mom’s cabinet” and I do not let the kids go into them! I don’t want things disappearing. lol****    Plus, at the end of the school year, I have a tidy folder that represents my child’s year at school, which I then tuck away as a keepsake.One more tip: When e-mailing your teachers, always put your child’s name in the subject line. Many school districts have strong firewalls and most e-mail goes straight to spam, which the teacher then has to sort through. Having your child’s name in the subject line will bring it to their attention.   Good luck with everything!

    • pelicannest on August 13, 2012 at 9:40 pm

      Corbinfive Just to piggyback on putting the child’s name in the subject line of the e-mails-(I am a teacher)-many parents and children have different last names and it can be extremely stressful, not to mention embarrassing, when the teacher can’t identify which student belongs to the parent sending the e-mail.  If you can’t be “matched” to your child, we can’t give you the correct information or input.  Have to agree with all of the posts about preparing the night before, lists on the door, and going through the bookbags ASAP.

  20. kalink6 on August 13, 2012 at 8:25 am

    We make sure that clothes are pick out and backpack is packed the night before.  In the past, only my son has had to get out the door by a certain time.  This year my twins will be going to preschool so we all have to be out the door at the same time.  I am going to do an actually run through for one or two day before school to give us time to iron out the kinks. 

  21. mindywinn on August 13, 2012 at 8:00 am

    Purchase some kind of five compartment closet cubby. As you do the masses of Saturday and Sunday laundry, load each day’s outfit into a slot so that there is no “I don’t know what to wear!” in the morning. They just put on what you and they have loaded in. This is like what we bought a couple of years ago . Ours was much cheaper and is bright blue and even has little pockets on the side for things like belts and stuff. It’s a lifesaver on busy mornings.

    • HeatherSolos on August 19, 2012 at 8:15 am

      mindywinn shoot me an email with how you’d like your digital copy of Home Ec 101 delivered.

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