In a perfect world, I would have written and shared this post two months ago because - let's be honest - it takes all summer to prepare to go back to school in the fall. Next year I promise to plan ahead, create a more comprehensive and organized list, and pull together a post earlier in the summer, but in the meantime, here are a few of the simple tasks I will tackle before Sunday night in an attempt to help our family transition back to our school year schedule with ease...or as easily as possible.
Because I assume everyone has already taken care of school supplies, backpacks, lunch boxes, medical forms, and prescriptions, I'll skip over those.
Double every dinner and freeze the extra servings. During the two weeks before school starts I work my way through my favorite freezable recipes - spaghetti, chili, sloppy joes, tacos, chicken fajitas, beef enchiladas, and pancakes - so I can have multiple dinners ready and waiting in the freezer for busy nights. On the weekend before school starts I also cook a couple of batches of both sausage and bacon to go with breakfasts. (Last year I made egg muffins, bacon and egg burritos, and sausage and egg sandwiches, but none went over well with Will and Hallie so I plan to skip those this year.)
Clear out what doesn’t fit or won't be worn. I spend an hour with each kiddo in his/her closet trying on clothes and shoes and pulling out what doesn't fit. I also talk through outfit combinations so they each know what does and doesn't match and can more quickly get dressed in the morning.
Put into place and talk through any organizational systems the kids will use. We always review how the kids will deal with paperwork from school, unpack and repack their backpacks, unpack their lunch boxes, pack their soccer and dance bags, etc. This year I made Will a soccer practice and game checklist (laminated and attached to his soccer bag) that will *hopefully* keep him from regularly forgetting at least one of his required items - I'll let you know in a month or two how well this works!
Take everyone for a back-to-school haircut. For trims I take both kids to Great Clips - they don't require appointments so we can pop in at our convenience and we're usually finished in less than 30 minutes.
Update your master calendar for the entire YEAR. I spend an hour or so going through the school calendars, sports calendars, and extracurricular calendars to make sure every scheduled day off, late start, early release, practice, game, class, recital, and meeting is on my master calendar. Yes, more events will be added and dates/times will change throughout the year, but at least I know I'm starting out the year relatively organized.
Practice getting to and from school. We walk and/or bike the routes the kids take to school to make sure they remember where to safely cross streets, what to look out for, where they'll meet friends, and where I'll pick them up on rainy days.
Plan a fun and EASY breakfast for the first day of school. I get up early enough to get myself ready before the kids rise and shine, and then I work on breakfast while they're getting dressed and making their beds. I warm up (pre-made and frozen) pancakes, scramble eggs, cook sausages, toast bagels, or pull out cereal, but I don't go overboard...first day included. Our tradition - which the kids love and is both inexpensive and easy - is miniature powdered sugar donuts with scrambled eggs. (We also have these donuts on birthdays, so the kids consider them a special treat.)
Make whatever sign your child will hold in their first day of school picture (if you have such a tradition). I print my signs and glue them to construction paper - for stability and a pop of color in the photos - a few days beforehand so I don't find myself running around frantically the night before or the morning of the first day of school.
Last but not least, enjoy the last few days of summer and get ready to enjoy a few hours of quiet on the first day of school!
In case you're wondering about a few omissions above, here are three things I don't do:
Freak Out, especially about all the summer school work we were going to accomplish but didn't. Will and Hallie both read every day, some days for hours, and Hallie completed a small book of math review problems in June and reviewed her multiplication fast facts a few times this month...but that's it. And we're all going to survive.
Wake Up Early starting a week or two in advance. No one in my family likes waking up early, and doing so the week before school starts doesn't make doing so on the first day of school any easier, at least in our house. For us, the transition to our new schedule is kind of like ripping off a bandaid - it hurts a little more up front, but we'd rather suffer for a brief period of time than be uncomfortable for a longer period of time.
Pick Out Clothes for following day or even the week. I planned outfits a week in advance when the kids were little, but I don't anymore - Will and Hallie are old enough to pick out their clothes and get dressed on their own now, so the evening time we used to spend on clothing is now dedicated to extracurriculars, homework, and dinner. I absolutely understand that this is a necessity for some, but I'm grateful to have outgrown the need for outfit planning! (Exceptions include the first day of school for Hallie, picture day for both kids, and concert days for Will.)