Let the record show that I am not a perfect parent.
Heck, I’m not even a Pinterest Perfect parent. I am a newbie parent, trying her best.
All of this is to say, that the things I’m about to tell you don’t come from a wise mom who has her sh*t together. You know, the kind of mom who is up at 5am for her daily jog, then comes home and whips up a nutritious breakfast for her 3 perfectly groomed kids while downing a green smoothie and loving every minute of her life. (Though, if that’s you, props girl! You are goals!). I am not that mom, I envy that mom. I strive to be that mom. But I am not her.
Tip #1 Figure out a dang timeline, girl!
How on earth are you supposed to prepare for back-to-school when you don’t know exactly when it is???
Here are some dates I like to mark in my calendar, but also in a list format:
1. Roster Reveal night- Our school has a night where the kids come and meet their teacher, and drop off supplies in preparation for the big day. This is typically the weekend before the start of school.
2. First Day- If you have a kiddo going into their first year of Kindergarten, this is an especially big deal as their first day schedule is typically a half day unlike the rest of the grades.
Our school hosts a boo-hoo breakfast for Kindergarten parents, and it’s a nice way to meet parents and ease into the school year.
For other grades, it’s just as important to know when they go back (for obvious reasons) but you may need to come in later to work than usual or leave earlier to accommodate for “first day back” traffic if your kiddo is a car rider. The first few days traffic getting to and from the school can be tricky, and buses may not run exactly on schedule as they get a feel for the route.
3. Tax Free Weekend- Any uniforms, or school supplies that need purchased in addition to what you may already have can be scooped up this weekend if you’re brave enough to face the crowds.
4. Club Registrations- For our school, club sign ups can happen 2-3 weeks before school even begins.
5. Childcare- We missed out on after-school care this year because slots filled up nearly a month before school started up. This may vary depending on your childcare situation, and district, but it never hurts to secure your options as early as possible!
6. Appointments- We always get my daughter a hair cut, even if it’s just a trim, before she goes back to school in the fall. Leaving this until the last minute can get hectic, so making it a part of our summer budget and schedule relieves a ton of stress.
The same can be said for physicals, and annual appointments. If your child plays sports, getting those appointments scheduled early reduces the chances of taking a time-slot that doesn’t really work for your situation because it’s the only appointment available.
As soon as your district releases it’s school calendar, I would download it and keep it handy.
I use a physical planner, and copy over all the half days, holidays, and school breaks.
Because I have a flexible job, I am able to log in to our company’s shared calendar and put those days in there too, as a reminder that I might be working from home.
For you, that might look like glancing ahead to budget and secure childcare, staying home like me, planning a vacation, or asking a family member for help watching the kids on all the random off days.
This will be especially important for parent-teacher conference days, which are often forgotten about.
If you have a child that’s been in school longer than a year, it may help to start tracking when sales happen in your area.
I make a note of when I purchased uniforms, and supplies, in my planner if there was an especially good sale running since our tax-free weekend happens after the start of school, and supplies are needed before then.
Pottery Barn, Children’s Place, Old Navy, and a few other stores we love to use for back-to-school shopping have run sales on uniforms + supplies around the same time for the past 3 years. As a result, I’ve been able to snag backpacks and lunchboxes, thermoses, and shoes at great prices without having to fight through crowds at the mall the weekend before school.
Tip #2 Make like, a thousand lists.
I get it. You’re probably thinking “Here we go. Yet another blogger telling me a list will solve all my problems. I’ve already got a to-do list from here to Albuquerque!”
Or, maybe you hate lists. You’re the kind of person who can keep it all in your head. Again, if that’s you, you’re absolutely crushing it and should keep doing you.
I am the task-management, detail-oriented, get-stuff-handled person at home and at work.
I have four thousand things to keep track of at any given moment. Most days, I do pretty well keeping it in my head, BUT when it comes to the plethora of things that need done to prep for back to school I need a list.
The lists can be up to you, depending on what you need to keep track of and the number of kids you have, but here are some things I make lists for.
Lists, Lists, and more Lists
To Buy- Uniforms
Shoes: Flats/Dress Shoes, Sneakers for Gym
Shorts (for under polo dresses) + tank tops (for layering)
Polos: short sleeved (I purchase long sleeved in the fall)
School Spirit Tees: these I can buy at the school, and my daughter prefers them to polos.
Pants: Khakis, dark blue dress pants
Leggings (for under polo dresses)
Raincoat + Zip up jacket: these can be tricky since our school has SSA (standard school attire) and the middle and high school require coats to be solid colors and not have a hood.
My daughter does Cheer & Dance, as well as Ballet, and Girl Scouts.
For Cheer & Dance, she needs breathable athletic tops + pants, Ballet requires a leotard, tights, ballet shoes, and Girl Scouts requires a new vest or tunic every 2 years depending on level.
Apart from any sign-up costs that sports or clubs may have, uniforms or gear can be a “hidden cost” that really adds up.
To Buy- Lunch + Snacks
I only have 1 kiddo, but it’s still worth noting that I make a list of snacks she wants to take with her lunch and to after school activities.
Writing down what kind of sandwiches, healthy snacks, and drinks that can be bought in bulk ahead of time means that when it’s time to go pick up groceries I can have her list ready and know that she has everything she needs for school.
To Sort- Clothes, Books, Toys
We do a HUGE cleanout session before school.
I pack away the summer clothes to take to the storage unit, then we go through the tedious process of sorting through our daughter’s room with her.
We pull out school clothes from the previous year and she tries everything on.
Do her polos still fit? Her pants? What size are the ones that are too small? Which polo size and what brand still fits? I make a note of things, and what doesn’t fit goes into a donate pile.
This is the time well spent, because it prevents me from spending money on clothes she doesn’t need simply because the clothes that fit have been stuffed to the back of a drawer somewhere, long forgotten.
After everything is said and done, I’ve saved money and my daughter’s room looks fresh.
Tip #3 Figure out your “pain points” BEFORE they bite you in the rear.
Pain points- we all have them.
For some of us, it’s waking up early enough to do everything we need to do to get out the door in a timely manner. For others, it may be struggling to motivate themselves to cook a hot meal after a long day of work and ferrying kids to after school activities.
Whatever your pain point is, you know, that nagging little or maybe not-so-little task that needs doing but you keep putting it off? That pain point? Whatever it is, identify it and figure out how to minimize it.
Have trouble cooking during the week?
Make time to grocery shop and prep some things ahead. Learn to love your croc-pot, or insta-pot. Youtube how to properly freeze things, because seriously it’s a life-changer.
Have trouble getting up early, so you end up rushing?
Make sure you’re getting enough sleep. If you’re not, tackle that first.
Figure out a way to make waking up happy, instead of stressful. Maybe that means savoring a cup of coffee or tea BEFORE you wake the kiddos, or doing a few minutes of light stretching if that’s your thing.
A huge pain point for me is having a chaotic morning. Mornings aren’t fun to wake up to when they’re the definition of hectic! So I take care to prep as much as I can the week before, and the night before, so my mornings run smoothly. Well, as smoothly as they can with 2 dogs and a young kid.
Those are my top 3 tips for back to school stress, and some of the things I do to manage it.
It may not be glamorous, or easy, but the main focus is to handle as much as possible on the front end to make things easier down the line.
I’ll be sharing a continuation of this post soon, about how my managing stress worked and didn’t work the week preceding back to school and how the first week back went.
(Spoiler alert: there was still stress!)
I hope these tips help you as you juggle all the things preparing for back to school.
If it did, please share on social media- tag a mom friend, and leave me a comment saying you did so I can thank you!
If you have suggestions on things you’d like to read about next, let me know down below.