School started in Hillsborough County on August 10th. For us, that means finding our way back into schedules and routines. Over the past few years I’ve tried a whole lot of tips and tricks to make this season go smoother. Some were epic fails and some were only moderately successful. Here are the Top Five back to school parenting hacks that actually work for me.
Tip One: Pack those lunchboxes. I unpack the lunchbox and pack the next day’s lunch right after school. I know, I know, packing lunchboxes is such a chore. I hate packing lunches and I’ve learned that, just like any other despised chore, it gets worse if you procrastinate. So every day after school, while my daughter does her homework, I pack the next day’s lunches. This also helps us with homework time. Since she does her work at the kitchen table, I’m available and supervising without either of us feeling like I’m hovering.
Tip Two: Turn reading time into a respite. Every year there has been a homework expectation for reading at home, usually about a half hour. This has been the cause of many battles in my house and probably yours, too. Fighting over reading would drive me nuts, especially since we’re avid readers! I love reading, she loves reading, I couldn’t figure out why this was a battle. Finally, though, I figured out a trick that ended the battles and changed this to one of my favorite times of day: I read with her. We both grab our books and get all comfy on the couch. I set a timer for the amount of time she’s supposed to read and we both read. When the timer goes off, she’s free to play or have screen time. I’m free to get back to work, or start making dinner. Speaking of dinner…
Tip Three: Make a menu. Every weekend I dedicate about 20 minutes to making out our menu plan. I sit down with the sale fliers, the calendar and the weather report and decide on our dinners. I ask my family for any special requests, including breakfasts, lunches, and snacks. From there, I make out the grocery list and hit the stores. I post the week’s menu on a dry erase board in our kitchen, which cuts down on the dreaded “what’s for dinner?” question.
Tip Four: A little meal prep goes a long way. Along with meal planning is meal prep. How much meal prep I do is dependent on the schedule for the week. If the weekend is relatively clear but the week looks like a mess, I prep more. If the weekend is busy and the week less so, I barely prep at all. Some examples of things I’ll prep over the weekend are: grilled or shredded chicken, pancakes, protein bites, and cut-up fruit. When we have a busy week, prepped basics can be the difference between staying on plan and ordering takeout.
Tip Five: Plan those outfits the night before. Our public school here in Tampa has uniforms, ours back in New Hampshire did not. Either way, I’ve learned that the key to morning success is to set out the outfit the night before. The whole outfit, including accessories and undergarments. I’ve learned the hard way that running late for the bus is not the time to notice that a pair of pants needs assistance from a belt or that a top should really have been layered over a cami! So every night we set out the outfit for the next morning.
I’ve tried a lot of different tips and tricks for back to school organization. Some have been epic fails (note to self for a later post) but these five are tried and true.