The new school year is rapidly approaching which means back-to-school shopping, lunch making, schedules to keep track of, extracurricular activities, and lots of driving. I don’t know about you, but I start to feel stressed this time of year. It is difficult to manage my three kids’ schedules plus my work and home responsibilities. Over the years, I’ve learned to do a few things that help me feel prepared for the first weeks of school. In this post, I am sharing three back-to-school tips that I hope you find helpful.
Tip #1: Minimize Extracurriculars the First Week
I like to ease into the new school year and keep the kids’ activities to a minimum the first couple weeks. This way we get used to rising early, doing homework, and eating healthily. I don’t want burnt out and tired kids in October, so I limit the number of extracurricular activities they do. During the school year, the kids take one art/music class and participate in one sport only. The first week of school, the kids don’t attend any sports practices. This allows all of us to focus on the new routine, spend the afternoon focused on homework with time left to relax and play. Unstructured play benefits kids’ brain development and physical movement needs.
Tip #2: Meal Planning and Prep
(5 breakfasts + 5 lunches + 5 snacks + 5 dinners ) x 3 kids = 60 meals/week!
We try to eat healthy as much as possible and that means having lots of veggies and fruit available. There are lots of resources for meal preparation and planning (I listed some below), but what I’ve found that helps the most is having ingredients washed and ready to go. I wash, cut up and store LOTS of cut up veggies and fruit to start off the week. The kids can easily add them to their lunch, they are ready to offer as after school snacks and I can to use the cut up veggies to make dinner. For a quick dinner, I will use leftover cut-up veggies to make fried rice or protein bowls at the end of the week.
I also like to make a big portion of rice, quinoa, or farro. With a cooked batch we can easily add a grain to salads or warm it as a side for dinner. Since I am often working with kids after school or driving to practices with my kids, I don’t have a lot of time to spend cooking dinner. It really helps to have veggies prepped and proteins ready to cook, so I don’t have to start every meal from scratch. Baby Foodie has a great post on meal prep with kids in mind. I list more resources below.
Healthy Meal Prep Ideas
- Clean and Delicious on YouTube
- The Domestic Geek on YouTube
- Culinary Thyme on Instagram
- Lunch Ideas from Pinterest
- Breakfast Ideas from Pinterest
Tip #3: Set Up a Homework Space
As my kids moved into middle and high school, I noticed how the play areas in our house were seldom used. Gone are the days of a play table, toys and little kid spaces. Now they need a quiet place to study or work on a hobby. My daughter enjoys having a desk in her room where she can complete homework but more often she like to be downstairs while doing her homework. My high schooler wants his bedroom to remain a homework-free-zone and requested a space to study elsewhere in the house. To accommodate their needs, I placed a long narrow table along a window as a homework station.
We have our large learning space in the dining room. I use it for tutoring and classes, often at the same time they need to complete homework. Having an extra table in a quiet room helps them stay focused with supplies, a computer and printer nearby. In “How to Be a High School SuperStar”, Cal Newport writes that the environment where kids study determines the length and quality of their study session. A quiet isolated spot free from distractions is best. While it is best to study off-line, many teachers post homework assignments and resources on-line. We can remind kids to set their phones to “Do Not Disturb” mode and to turn off notifications while they complete homework.
Studyquill, a channel created by a high student on Youtube, has a wonderful video on, “How to Create a Productive Workspace”. She has videos on note taking and study tips too. She also reminds kids to turn off notifications and stay off social media while they study. I find my kids are open to tips and advice from someone their age.
Feeling prepared for the new school reduces the stress this season brings. With a reduced extracurricular schedule, meals prepped and a quiet homework space ready, the kids and I feel more at ease starting the new school year. Even though our lazy summer days are coming to an end, I am excited to watch the kids grown and change over the next school year.