Top Tips For Starting School
By busy parents, for busy parents *
Top Tips For Starting School - by busy parents, for busy parents
Autumn is coming.
I don’t know about you, but at this time of the summer I usually start to feel ready for the autumn to arrive. Only this year, I’m in two minds about September coming round. This year my daughter is starting school.
So on the one hand I’m looking forward to having nice, clear time to work on my business. On the other hand however, I’m also worrying about losing my daughter to the schooling system (waahhhh!) and generally exploding from the anticipated stress of balancing work, home and the new responsibilities of having a child at school.
Preparing ourselves for starting school
My husband works bonkers hours in film most of the time, so he’s rarely home when the children are awake in the week. I’m at home with the children and although I’m working, it’s from the kitchen table, so it’s all on me…. Or is it? What hacks do seasoned parent use to make sure that their week is as stress-free as possible? What do single parents do, or parents whose partner is not around much? I asked around for some top tips to help when your child starts school.
If you read nothing more, read this:
** Adults and kids get everything they need for the next day ready the night before.**
THE NIGHT BEFORE
Top Tip: The night before school is your opportunity to win at life.
It might seem long when you just want to finish some work / watch TV / go to bed, but this is your chance to get ahead. Your future self will thank you for it in the morning. Here are some ideas that may work for you:
Lay it all out
- If your child has a packed lunch, do this the night before. Better still, opt for free school dinners so you don’t have to make a packed lunch.
- Pack book bag / PE bag and leave out.
- Lay out entire outfits the night before – including underwear and socks. If you’ve got a busy day ahead of you, consider also laying out your clothes for the day ahead.
- Lay out coats, hats and shoes lined up by the front door, ready to go. Get your child to help with this as much as possible.
- Put breakfast things out in advance. This is something even a very tired partner can do once they get home after a long day.
- NB. Buy your child an obvious key ring for their school bag. Make it
REALLY easy for them to identify / keep hold of their own
- Set a schedule for your dishwasher so everything is clean at the end of the day. This means if you have a partner who gets back late, they can empty it for you before bed. That way, you’ll be all ready to go when the morning chaos kicks in.
- Create a chart for jobs and tasks that need doing and put it somewhere everyone can see. Tick off tasks as they are completed, allowing your partner to see what is outstanding.
- Have your bath or shower with your children at night so you can get dressed straight away when you get up. It’s easy to leave yourself until last when there’s a lot to do. Do yourself first before you even get started with them.
IN THE MORNING
Top Tip for mornings: Start your day right by working on you, before you start serving anyone else.
Preferably before children wake up:
- Whatever you do, don’t open Slack or your emails until you’re back from drop off – you’ll get sucked in.
- Consider some self-care, some ‘you’ time in the morning before the carnage kicks off. This could be journaling, meditating, doing some exercise, reading or walking the dog – but this window of self-care might well keep you calm when the chaos begins.
- Get washed and dressed before your children get up.
- Eat before your children – this way you avoid getting annoyed when they ask for the 4th different element to their breakfast, when you’ve not even had a sip of coffee yet.
After children wake up:
- Children get dressed as soon as they get up. If you’re worried about them getting their school clothes dirty, put a non-uniform top over their clothes and remove it just before you leave the house.
- Encourage child to do things independently like get dressed, clean teeth etc. One idea is to create a template with icons, just to help your children remember what they need to do next.
- Alternatively, use your mobile phone alarm clock to keep you on schedule. Set a ‘Brush teeth’ alarm, a ‘Go to loo’ alarm, a ‘Shoes on’ alarm and a ‘Leave now!’ alarm. Your children will get used to what they need to do by the time of the respective reminders and enjoy the routine of it.
- If you’ve got a downstairs loo, make a ‘no going back upstairs’ rule. Everyone comes downstairs dressed, eats breakfast, does teeth downstairs, goes to the loo, puts shoes on and leaves.
Top tips for after school: work with your children
- Children are often really tired after school, so plan for chilled afternoons with lots of cuddles and easy dinners.
- Do some housework/dinner while hanging out and chatting to your children, rather than during school time when you could do your own work.
- Make it a daily practice that when your child comes home, you go through their bag for any paperwork immediately. Then sign and put it back in bag.
- Make 15-minute prep a part of your PM routine.
In the evening, get your children to join you for 15 minutes of preparing for the following day. They can assist you in packing book bags, making sure you have signed any permission slips and talking through the schedule for the next day. Talking through the following day the evening before can be less stressful than doing it at haste in the morning.
SCHOOL ADMIN TIPS
Top tip for starting school admin: begin the year organised.
- Add any important dates + contacts + class info into the calendar immediately.
- Create a shared calendar and email address for all school correspondence. That way, all the information from school is in one inbox and added to one calendar and everyone knows what’s going on that day.
- Because so much information is now digital, create a folder in your email inbox for each child’s class and file important rosters and phone lists in that folder.
- Have one physical folder. Keep ALL school calendars, teacher’s classroom rules, etc. Basically all of the stuff that comes home the first week of school.
GENERAL HOME TIPS
Top tip for general home management: batch or outsource where possible.
- Buy 5 x every item of uniform to save washing during week.
- Try to batch cook a few meals at the start of the week – to make the rest of the week run more smoothly
- Use the TOMM method works for staying on top of the housework (see www.facebook.com/theorganisedmumUK/ for more info).
- See what else you can get help with at home. Can you pay a local teenager to help fold and put away the clean laundry?
- Can you pay a babysitter to look after the children in the late afternoons while you catch up with some housework?
- What chores can your children start to help you with?
- Have a Sunday night parental pow wow.
Go through the forthcoming week with your partner, thinking about who is going to be where, what you’re going to eat and what’s going to be needed to be done by when. That way, things like dentist appointments, cake sales or “wear a red shirt” day won’t catch you off guard.
HOW TO SHARE THE BURDEN
If, like me, you have a partner who sometimes isn’t around to help in the mornings or bedtimes, here are a few ways in which they might be able to support you:
- Making the packed lunch the night before
- Laying out your children’s school uniform
- Unloading the dishwasher
- Making sure dishes are washed and the kitchen is tidy at end of the night
- Ironing uniforms
- Sharing some of the school admin.
- Can your partner be in charge of PE so they get the appropriate bags ready the night before? Or for preparing for show and tell? Or can they be in charge of reading all the school admin and sharing most relevant information?
Trial and error
I’d love my husband to take on the ironing, or be responsible for the school admin, but I’m not convinced he would reliably manage either at the end of a very long day. He might however be able to get the breakfast stuff ready and empty the dishwasher. That’s probably a bit more realistic for us. I predict a period of trial and error and adjustment. For now though, I’m going to follow these wise tips and create a big tick list of tasks to do and see what happens 🤞
What about you, how are you feeling about school starting this September?
If you’re new to being a ‘school mum’, what is making you most nervous?
If you’ve nailed the school routine already, can you think of any other useful top tips to share?
Please share below 👇
* With big thanks to the lovely folk from the Doing It For The Kids community on Facebook – many of whose brilliant suggestions made it in to this list.