As summer wanes slowly into fall and the warm sultry evenings drift into cooler temperature, I start to panic that suddenly school will start all too soon. Every year I try to prepare as early as possible but somehow I still feel as if I’m missing an item or two. There is just too much to plan for, too much to organize, and too much to buy ahead of time. I hate procrastinating but looking at the long list of school supplies and figuring out what is truly needed, back to school shopping has become more of a chore than joy. Luckily, as my son is entering third grade this year, I feel that I have some experience on what to get and plan for this new school year so that I can weed out the fluff items.
Being prepared for anything in life is a goal we should all strive for. If you have children sometimes that may seem impossible but in the long run it will save time and sanity. Some of my friends started getting ready for the school year as early as July but to me they’re more like “pro” parents, always a step ahead of anyone. And while I would love to say I can plan ahead like no other, truth is there will always be something getting in the way. But plan ahead for the fall season is a must and probably the best way to keep my head above waters.
In order to get us and our kids ready for the new school year, I’ve gathered some useful and healthy tips for the fall season:
- Start planning on natural and organic school lunches and snacks. Many schools do not provide enough whole nutrition in their meals so if you’re packing lunch for your kids, be sure to plan ahead on what is healthy and delicious enough for them to actually finish their food. Good sites to try with creative and mouth-watering recipes are: Weelicious: http://weelicious.com, Delicious Living: http://deliciousliving.com, Taste for Life: http://www.tasteforlife.com, Whole Foods: http://www.wholefoodsmarket.com, and Kiwi magazine: www.kiwimagonline.com. Packing your own lunch is also a great money saver and you have more control of what goes into your child’s stomach. And hopefully they actually eat their lunches instead of trading off with their friends. If you keep it delicious and healthy, your kids will most likely enjoy them to the very last bite.
- Save money buy reusing your children’s school bags and lunch bags if they are still in good working condition. If not, be sure to buy ones that are BPA free and reusable with safer materials. Great lunch sacks are ones that can be easily washed by hand and with resealable packaging. Try shopping at natural grocery stores for adorable and durable reusable lunch containers and school items such as pencils, pencil cases, and backpacks or tote bags. If bags are not reusable but recyclable, check with your local recycling agencies to see if they’ll recycle them. Otherwise, if they are gently used, try donating them to local charities.
- If your child’s school has a school supply list, reuse supplies that are left over from last year or if you bought extra ones. Many school lists are just a guideline and not really a requirement. If it’s not your child’s first year in school, weed out the list to include only the essentials such as pencils, erasers, binder, glue, scissors, coloring pencils or crayons (depending on age), ruled paper, and copy paper. Other non-essential items can be brought in throughout the year or ask the teacher what he/she needs the most. As soon as you get the list, start assessing what you need and what can wait and look for deals at your local stores and online.
- Organize and set aside a shelf low enough for your kids to grab an after school snack on their own. For the refrigerator, keep healthy and fun snacks including grab-and-go yogurt, cheese sticks, and cut fruit and vegetables in small, nicely shaped sizes. Use cookie cutters for your fruits if possible so that young kids will enjoy eating them. For the pantry, keep items such as dried fruit, baked chips, and dried nuts but remember to store them in smaller sizes so kids won’t feel too full to eat dinner.
- Prepare your kids for the new school year by talking to them about their new class and new schoolmates. If there are children entering school for the first time, be sure to prepare them ahead of time so they know what to expect. Take them to their new school a few times before the school year starts to familiarize them with the campus. Read books to them about starting school or find great articles online. Let them pick out some of their favorite items for school and home so they feel some control of their new school life and “growing up”. Establish bedtime routines, clear guidelines about homework, and getting to school on time every day. Reassure them that school is both fun and educational and will help them become better individuals.
- About a week before school starts, ease your kids into a new school routine. Set earlier bedtimes and wake up earlier so students can be prepared for a more structured schedule. Gather your kids new school clothes and set them in their own area. Organize their school supplies into their own bins and containers at an easily accessible place at home. The more organized you are, the less stress for later.
- Once school has officially started, kids will feel both excited and anxious. Depending on the age and location, there could be tons of homework or none at all. Set up a calendar to help you and your kids stay on track and from being overburdened with activities. Keep a dry-erase board or large desk calendar to enter dates as soon as you know them. Many schools has schedules ready for the entire school year so take advantage of inputting the information.
- Afterschool activities are bound to come up for the school year. Whether they are hosted at your child’s school or a private location, remember to find balance between afterschool activities, studying, playtime, and getting enough sleep. Afterschool activities can also get quite costly, so try to find ones that are both beneficial to their mental and physical growth without taking up too much of your child’s time.
- Organize a proper filing system for your child’s important papers. A file cabinet or binder will work well when you need to file and organize schoolwork or artwork and other important details like papers that need to be signed and filed away. At the front of the binder, I like to keep a copy of the class schedule, contacts, and class lists so I can easily find them. Every semester go through the papers and determine what should be kept (and store them in bins) or throw away. If there are too many memorabilia, take snapshots of ones you don’t really need to keep but hesitant to throw away so that you can at least have a digital file.
- For your garden or the school’s garden, fall is the perfect time to start composting for the spring planting season. If you can compost at school somehow, not only will it help reduce food waste and keep the school cleaner, but it will help maintain the gardens in and around your school. Home Depot’s garden club offers great composting tips here: http://gardenclub.homedepot.com/tag/compost/. As well as Martha Stewart’s website: http://www.marthastewart.com/331845/composting-101. If you’re planning on composting at home, not only will it help reduce waste in your home, but will help your own gardens flourish throughout the season.
- Once school has started for a few weeks, have another chat with your kids about their school. Ask them about their new teacher and classmates. If it’s a brand new school, make a habit of getting to know your child’s new teacher and principal. They are after all, some of the best resources in helping your child develop well in school and will help your children learn the importance of establishing relationships with school staff. If it’s necessary to meet with the teacher or principal, try to speak with the teacher first regarding your child’s progress. Most likely, if your child is having a problem at school, they will have already contacted you first.
Fall can be a wonderful season whether you have kids or not. It’s the beginning of cooler weather and preparing for the winter months ahead. If you’re like some people, planning ahead for the upcoming busy season will help not only yourself, but those around you. And if you do have children, remember that taking things easy once in awhile and just letting things go with the flow will help you decompress. Even if you’re not so perfect, remember the old saying, “through chaos there is clarity”.
Have a healthy and happy fall season!
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