On August 22nd, my kids officially started school. I thoroughly enjoyed my time this summer hanging out at the pool while the kids had swimming lessons, spending time with my in-laws who were visiting us, playing at the park, and basically having a lot of lazy days in general. It was some major rest and relaxation which I needed in contrast to last summer which I spent moving, unpacking, and maintaining a second home while it was on the market.
The truth is that I wasn’t quite ready for school this year. I wasn’t prepared for the routines to start and dreaded the idea of less sleep, more homework monitoring, and hectic mornings. Even though the start of school may conjure up some negatives for you, it’s helpful to remember the positives associated with it as well. For me that means getting my work done early, a tidier home because of consistent chores, and overall better use of time because of naturally segmented blocks in my daily routine.
With any new beginning or transition, it’s a great time to recommit to and review what’s important to us. Transitions require planning and effort along with time management and patience. These beginnings are an excellent time to create positive rituals as well. I use the word “ritual” a little loosely. It’s not really a ritual as in a religious ceremony or social custom but more a definition of “something we always do in a particular situation and in the same way each time.” I suppose you could also call it a habit, tradition, or a pattern as well.
It dawned on me that I have 3 unique-for-me back-to-school rituals that I have done for the last few years which mentally signal to me that it’s time to gear up for this change.
1. We visit the dentist. When I was a kid, I hated the dentist. From the gritty texture of the awful tasting toothpaste to the high-pitched squeal of the super sonic cleaner to the archaic tool of the plaque scraper (yes, those are all the technical terms–ha, ha). I hated it so much that I made a conscious choice to do all in my power to change that for my kids–mostly done through a positive attitude, religious teeth brushing (to avoid cavities), and serious propaganda. In fact, my kids love to go to the dentist.
I think those care packages also have something to do with it (they get a toothbrush, toothpaste, floss, and a small toy from the dentist). I used to take them to a pediatric dentist where they could watch TV in the ceiling and play video games in the waiting room–awesome, right? I soon discovered though that my husband and I would put off our appointments, and it always seemed like it was time for someone to go to the dentist.
In an effort to streamline the process and avoid pulling my kids out of school more than necessary, we eventually found a dentist that we liked and could all see at the same time on the same day. Also, we always schedule our next cleaning appointment at the end of our visit. Since changing those two details, we haven’t missed our cleanings for a few years. I’d say that’s more important than the cool factor of the dentist office. Plus, if you slacked off over the summer on teeth brushing, a good cleaning gets your kid’s teeth back on track!
2. We clean out, sharpen, and sort all of the pens and pencils in the house. For some reason, this 1-hour organizational task does wonders to shift my focus toward the start of school and makes me feel prepared for those afternoons spent monitoring homework (starting with my homework of filling out all those back to school forms).
I make sure to put the sharpened pencils and working pens in 3 distinct places–the blue buckets I have in a kitchen cabinet for homework time, the green pot in my office so that I can always find something to write with, and the car glove box since we always seem to need a writing tool there as well. Give me organized pens and pencils people, and I feel more powerful than Wonder Woman!
3. We take inventory of the kid’s clothing. Okay, so this habit isn’t so unique but may be just as daunting as those regularly scheduled dental visits. This is the perfect time to see what you have and need. I’m not talking about just going shopping and relying on your kids to tell you what they want and need. I am talking about going through each child’s room or closet and literally taking out their shirts, shoes, pants, shorts, socks, etc., before you go shopping to see what you really need to purchase.
About a week before school, my husband and I go into each child’s room and dump everything out of their dressers and closet. We then systematically go through and put back the clothes that are in good shape and still fit. Everything else goes into other piles:
* A donation pile (if they have too many t-shirts for example).
* A hand-me down pile (items still in good shape but too small–it gets passed onto the next sibling or goes in the donation pile).
* Trash pile (anything with holes or stains automatically goes here).
My kids used to wear uniforms to school, which I loved. It was so much easier (notice the “double knee” sticker). I love the Dickies brand for pants, especially for active kids. I like to call it the “recess reinforcer.” These were my favorite uniform pants, and I still make my kids wear them, even though they don’t have to wear uniforms anymore. Alas, now that they’re in public school and their clothing options are vast, doing this inventory keeps us sane and organized and gives us an actionable purchase list of necessary items.
I have found that keeping their wardrobe minimal is essential for me. I’ve discovered over the years that if children have too many clothes, it creates clutter and makes it harder for them to take care of what they have, and it creates more overwhelm for me.
So there you have it.
We could also mention other things which alert your mind to the start of school such as buying school supplies, planning home lunches, reworking chores, new morning and evening routines, or even recommitting to regular workouts, but I have found that these 3 particular rituals help me feel prepared for the start of a new academic term.
Bring it on school year. I’m ready.
I would love to hear from you. Are there things you do every year to mentally or physically prepare for the upcoming transition of school starting or ending? What are some of the habits and rituals your family uses to prepare for school?