EASE BACK INTO THE ROUTINE
Summer is allllllmooooost over and I am trying to stretch it out as much as I stretched out the almost back there. ;) The busyness of the school year is always what slams into me the week before school starts, with supply drop offs, student orientation, parent back-to-school nights, soccer tryouts, and deadlines for that summer work they much procrastinated over. Once we get back into the swing of things, I have to admit that I prefer the newness of the school year, crisp weather, and routines over the humid, lazy days of summer where kids remind me how bored and hungry they are all the time. Oh, just mine? The first thing we like to do to get our kids back in the school groove is to start whipping their bodies into shape. With tryouts and practices coming next week, we strongly urge them to go for runs now so that they are not the kid puking on the sideline on the first day of practice (true story). We also bring their sleep schedules back into school zone...earlier bedtimes and wake up times for all to start getting ready for that 6:45 am departure time. Ugh. That sounds really early. Better head off to bed now ;)
Lisa Hendey gave the best advice when it comes to buying supplies. She said "Don't buy everything on the supply list without checking your supplies at home first". That is exactly what we do too. We print out each kid's supply list (and man, the Catholic schools require a LOT!) and they go through their rooms and gather everything they have and check it off, then we make one big excel sheet (because I am a nerd) with the remaining items and get to shopping. I highly recommend shopping alone/online for most things before it turns into a battle of the wills over the $20 binder vs. the $10 binder, but to each her own! We try on all the uniforms to see what fits, then stock up on uniform pants and shorts at Old Navy when they go on huge sales over the summer. I buy as many school supplies as possible from Walmart to get delivered to the car (the best!) and look for the good deals at some local stores. The earlier we start, the less stressed we are. Like, ah, everything in life. Oh, and of course being a large family, we do a lot of handing down of items like backpacks from LL Bean when the teens prefer Under Armour or laptop backpacks.
Sarah gave me a couple of great ideas to keep the paperwork clutter in order. She uses small cork boards to hang above each kid's desk to keep important papers and reminders. She also suggested wire baskets that hang on the wall, labelled for each child, where they put their homework and folders right when they get home and unpack. Our kids each have a spot in the mudroom for their shoes/jacket/backpack but they usually end up all over the place, and I could definitely use some help getting a better system in place. I think it might require a new house though ;)
THE LUNCH BUNCH
Francine summed up my feelings when she said "Teach your kids to make their own lunches!" Haha, exactly. She has a go-to list of foods they like (or will eat) to refer to for ideas. Around our house, we assign a kid with lunch duty and they make the lunches for the next day. We have a rule about snacks/sides - one fruit or veggie and one packaged item. We make a big pot of popcorn often and put it into bags as a healthy choice, but the kids are so active that I'm not worried if they have a pack of crackers or pretzels with their lunch. We don't do after school snacks. Is that shocking? I just make an early dinner, and if they are hungry before bed, they are welcome to make a sandwich or heat up leftovers and have a cup of milk.
It's so fun to look back through first day of school photos and see the kids grow over the years. Start a photo tradition that you can keep up with, so many moms use signs or chalkboards to announce the grade, which is darling. Beth shared this post with me about her back to school traditions, and I love her first day of school photos with the chalk grades written on the driveway. How cute?
Personally, I always take individual photos on their first day, but my favorite shot is the group one we get outside of their elementary school. Something about that brick background and their uniforms just screams BACK to SCHOOL! Maybe this year, I'll even iron the uniforms. Realistically, nope.
LOVE YOU, BE SAFE!
Once our kids go to high school and need their own laptop (school requirement) and cell phone, we get serious about our online rules. In summary, they are:
1) No data on the phone, only wifi.
2) No screens of any kind upstairs.
3) Homework is done in a public area of the house if being online is neccessary.
4) Everyone is signed in to Covenant Eyes.
Covenant Eyes is an accountability program that sends us a report of how our kids are spending their time online. You can read more about our experience with it here.
Sara wrote a post about how she attended public school, Catholic school, and now homeschools her children, and how each choice can make it hard on kids to figure out where to fit in or how to live their faith in the world. I think parents can definitely feel pulled in different directions for schooling decisions. Luckily for us, it was an easy choice. Both Phil and I have to work full-time, so homeschooling was never an option, and we knew from the beginning we wanted to send our kids to Catholic school if we could figure it out. (We both work in Catholic schools!) I never felt judgment from any circle that we should be homeschooling, or we should send them to public school. This is one of the only parenting decisions that we didn't agonize over! It was a simple one for us, and one that brings us peace. No matter what works for your family, just remember that it's between you and God and that's it. Our duty is to raise these kids up to heaven, and like the hundreds of different saint stories, there is no one right path to get there. Pray for God's Will in this area and then have confidence in your decision. Schooling is fluid, you can always make a different and better choice the next year if this year didn't work out they way you hoped.
Ah, I feel like I'm ready for school!
Please visit Rosie for her Back to Homschooling Advice, and look at this old photo of us!