Surviving Bac...

Surviving Back-to-School

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It’s such a jam-packed, chock
full, anxiety-producing, exciting, head-spinningly busy time of year – but I
love it!

Back-to-school for me anyway, has
always been about renewal, rejeuvenation, raring to roll up my sleeves for new
discoveries, adventures and learnings!

Perhaps it comes from being a
journalist — a profession that really amounts to a daily and ongoing  education about life — except that I
also get paid for it!

Yes, I consider myself beyond
lucky, thank you!

It has remained an exciting
period for me, even as a parent for a host of reasons.

Of course it is rife with the odd
challenge — exotic lunch ideas chief among them, but it’s also a time of the
year where I tend to learn a great deal about my children.  And the older we all get,
back-to-school also represents a time of the year where experience and the use
of tried, tested and true tips  help
simplify  most of that which was
once stress-inducing.


Here are some of the tips that
I’ve learned over the years that have helped me forge such a positive relationship
with back to school.



About two weeks before school
starts set aside a couple of hours with the entire family.

Organize the radio or CD player
and pop in your favourite tunes!

Working with one child at a time,
get them to pull out all their clothes of out their closet.

Have them decide what fits, what
doesn’t, what they want to keep and what they want to get rid of.

Make a list of clothing items

Retrieve winter clothing boxes,
and parse through items in the same way.

The sense of fulfillment that
your child will feel will fuel them for some time and help foster a rewarding sense
of responsibilty in them for some time to come! Hopefully, anyway!



Once the clothes have been
sorted, ask your child if they would prefer to donate them to charity,
Goodwill, etc., or if they would like to take them to a second-hand clothing
store to give and then receive payment.

Have your child accompany you to
either venue and feed their sense of accomplishment.

If depositing to a gently-used
clothing store for payment in return, let your child decide what they would
prefer to do with the money they get back — donate, put in their piggy bank,
reward themselves with an ice cream!



Check out online and in-store
sales, research discount and promo codes online, create a list of stores to

Keep you child involved in as
much of the research and process as possible — such a great teaching and
learning opportunity.

Take out the list of clothes
needed that you previously created.

Set a budget.

Go shopping!


A week before school starts, have your kids help create a lunch list ie. all
the items they like to eat, including snacks and after school lunches.

You can further create a
Monday-Friday school lunch and snack list from the original list.

Post all lists on the fridge or
easily visible area in the kitchen.
Your kids can have fun colouring the list or personalizing in some way.

The weekend before school starts,
get your child to create a grocery list derived from based the school
lunch/snack list and requirements of the upcoming week.

Have your child cross items off
the grocery list, as you both grocery shop.
Make sure your kitchen contains at least one drawer, a centralized and easily
accessible area — with all the dishes, Tupperware, sandwich wrap required to
pack lunches.

Ensure your fridge is organized
so that all school lunch items are easily reachable and packed togethr – eg.
All sadwich méat in one container, all cheese in one container, etc.

The day before school, help your
child make his/her lunch.
Assist their lunch-making for the first couple of days, then let them do it on
thier own – using the fridge list and their own imagination.

Parental involvement should be
kept to a bare minimum except where safety may be comprimised (cutting a

Before you know it, your child
will be educated and empowered to make their own lunch which is an invaluable
skill and which will help them appreciate the process of food préparation,
understanding foods, etc.



With a child in private, and two
in public school, my husband and I have learned a thing of two on this topic
over the years.

We have always judged the quality
of the school by what our child looks like exciting the building.

Are they happy, enthusastic,
eager to share their school expériences when you pick them up or at dinner time
or are they the opposite?

If they are happy, chances are
they are learning and engaged.

If they are not happy, everything
else is also a négative expérience.

Whatever school system you decide
on, research relentlessly but within reason — pick 3 credible sources —
word of mouth, online forums, school test scores — are three examples.  Do not overwhelm yourself, but be
educated about your décision.



Depending on your budget, let
your child select one sport and one arts-type activity (music, dance, drawing,
singing, etc)

Whether he or she is athletically
–inclined, coordinated or not, is irrelevant.  Sport is important for a host of reasons in addition to

Encourage them to get involved in
school sports and activities as soon as they are able to do so (depending on
their age).

One sport and one arts activity feeds
two critical parts of the brain and psyche, not to mention the physical

You can choose to have them
change choices each school year — the key is exposure, the more a child is
exposed to, the better chance they have of deciding what they like, what they
may be good at and simply enjoy the pure pleasures that discovery bring.



A healthy dose of butterflies
buzzing in ones’ stomach the night before school, the first week of school —
is natural and a good thing.  Don’t
let too much analysis, paranoïa, irrational thoughts spoil the wonder and
anticipation of this journey.
Negative thoughts usually emanate more from the parental brain than a

Keep involvement in school to a
healthy arms’ length relationship.
This strategy helps everyone in the long run, most importantly your
guilt-level and sanity.  Over
volunteering, too much zealousness, constant présence, uber involvement is like
too much of anything.  Moderation
is a practical, rational and sensible approach.

Try to resist the temptation to
measure your parenting skills against those of other parents.  If your child says everyone in their
class has an ipod, you don’t need to buy your kid one if you deem that he does
not need one, as an example.



In the days leading up to the
first day of school, during the period of school supply shopping, which should
be approached with the same measured, organized and sane strategy as the
clothing purge and purchase — set aside a half an hour to get your kids to
devise their own school Schedule — starting from when they get up to when
they get to bed.  Have them print
it, decorate it, and post it on their door or in their room or wherever easily
visible.   This list should
include such responsibilities as :

6 :00am   Get up

6 :15am   Brush teeth
6 :17am   Make bed

3 :30pm   Bus arrives

3 :35pm   Unpack bag and lunch bag, eat

3 :40pm   Play outside

4 :30pm   Do homework


The schedule does not have to be too
detailed so as to be intimidating, but a friendly reminder of proper organization
and time management which are always important lessons for all of us to learn.

It can easily be broken up into

Consider establishing a ritual of
20 minutes of reading time after dinner.
If your child reads even 10 pages in that time, every day – that’s 3,650
pages in a year which amounts to roughly
10-15 book of 300 pages in length.

Reading before bedtime is another
option, but is sometimes trumped by everyones’ exhaustion and ends up putting everyone
to bed before any quality reading is achieved.

The after-dinner option allows
digestion to take place, ensures people are still quite awake and is a
family-type activity that everyone is involved in –  either reading individually or parents helping children to


Hopefully these few proven tips
can help your entire family embrace the wonder and excitement of a new school