Surviving the Back to School Blues

When you’re a kid, the calendar has a lot more meaning. But, once you leave school, the words “summer vacation” no longer evoke feelings of freedom and images of lazy days filled with beach visits, long afternoons playing with friends or sleeping late. Save for weekends, holidays and a few vacations each year, adults become attuned to a year-round schedule.

For more than 10 years, that’s how I operated. The seasons changed, birthdays came, and came again, and Christmas was a low-key, day off to spend with family. Kids, though, changed all that.

Never is Kid Time more different for me than September. In the summer months prior to the start of school, my family gets comfortable in the homework-free evenings where we play outside in the late light and get lackadaisical about bedtimes. When school starts in the fall, though, it’s like we’ve been hit by a wrecking ball. It takes us weeks to get into the school groove again as we mourn the loss of our free time, now spent filling in school forms, putting together disaster kits and making sure everyone is in bed on time – bathed and fed. This can seem so difficult – especially in a family, like mine, where both parents work.

The keys to a smooth transition back into the school year are organization and routine. Here are a few or my tried and true tips to surviving the Back to School Blues:

  • Reduce the disorganized feel that clutter inevitably brings by giving everything its own place. When the kids come home, they put their backpacks on one dining room chair where I can inspect their contents. I make a pile for homework or other forms that need immediate attention, another pile for things that need to be dealt with at some point and throw the rest away – like fliers with event dates that I record immediately in my calendar. I look at all the school work that comes home, giving it the appropriate ooohs and aaahs. I save a few great or personal pieces in an underbed storage box, and throw the rest away (when my child is sleeping, of course).
  • Since my first-grader does his homework at the kitchen counter, I keep nearby a basket of supplies I know he’ll need: kid scissors, pencils, sharpener, glue, crayons and markers.
  • Make a routine, and stick to it. Kids thrive on predictable schedules and, if you know your child needs to be in bed by 8 p.m. to be bright-eyed and bushy-tailed at 6 a.m., then make that a priority. Accept that, sometimes, you have to cut corners (like a quick scrub down with a wash cloth some nights instead of a full bath every night).
  • Fall doesn’t just bring school, but all the other kid activities that require their own sets of forms and events, like sports, scouts, religious school or music and art classes. Find a calendar system that works for you, whether it’s a color-coded wall calendar, an online system you can access from home, work or your cellular telephone or a bound calendar that goes with you. Our family’s calendar is online and overlaps with mine and husband’s work calendars. This keeps us from double-booking (most the time) and ready for whatever is coming next.
  • I try to do as much as I can the night before to cut down on the early-morning responsibilities. My 4-year-old’s clothes are laid out for him and my 6-year-old’s lunch is packed before I go to bed.
  • I find that doing a quick house “re-setting” every Sunday evening helps get the school and work week off to an organized start. Before bed, everyone helps return toys that migrated to the living room floor back to their rightful spots and pitches in sorting and folding laundry.

It may seem like a race trying to fit it all in. But remember, at some point, you will get it all done. Even if it has to wait for the weekend!

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