We are days into September and before we know it, the month will be half over. At times I find it hard to believe that I am the mom of a second grader! Oh, to be early school-aged again. I have always loved learning and growing up, this season was one of my favorites. The excitement of back to school, back to routine, back to “normal” - I appreciated it all. I know that it is not the same for everyone, and for many this is a season of stress and anxiety, but for me, I loved it. And as a mom, I try to continue this magic for my boys.
When most kids wanted to look at toys, I would always wander “the paper aisle” - even when it was not back to school season. The color pens, blank notebooks, folders and binders, the tools for organization - all of it made my heart sing. I loved the newness and the opportunity to create anything my imagination could come up with.
As we prepared to go back to school, I remember going shopping with my mom to pick out a few new outfits. I would daydream about wearing my favorite one and walking into school feeling good. At least a week before the first day of school, we would practice going to be “on time” as we got back into routine. While summer break was coming to an end, we would both mentally and physically prepare for the changes to come.
A new school year, like the blank notebook, like tomorrow’s sunrise, is a chance for a new beginning.
Now, we are heading into our 3rd year of school and I am feeling confident with the routine of drop off and pick up. I remember what time we need to leave the house to make it to school on time. I am ready for the magic of the back to school season. As much as I am ready, I will not lie, my mama heart is a bit tender right now. My first born is becoming even more of a big kid. This summer, and life in general, have flow by faster than I care to admit. I blinked. I blinked and life happened.
With a tender heart, I want to share with you 7 practical ways I have been able to find beauty as my child heads back to school:
It starts with your mind. Have a positive mindset.
I am not saying that you can’t be a little sad because your kids are growing up. But I am encouraging you to find things to be happy and excited about as you watch your little love grow. The first step to finding beauty as your child goes back to school is to have and encourage positive thinking. I am no professional, but I did find this article from The Center for Parenting Education, which is a simple read and gives some insight into the supporting positive self-talk.
I know first hand for my children, both what I say and how I act have a direct impact on their attitudes and actions. If I want my children to be excited about school, I have to demonstrate excitement for myself.
It is not just the beginning of the school year; I continue positive thoughts throughout the entire school year, and I use lunchtime as another opportunity to encourage kind thinking. Every day that Brady brings lunch to school, I put an affirmation in his lunch box. Little notes to remind Brady just how wonderful he is - in both the big and small things that he does.
You will find what works best for you and your family, but no matter what, I hope that you do your best to start each day with a positive thought.
2. Establish a Routine
Routines tend to be a bit more relaxed during the summer. Nights are for staying up late, and mornings are a bit slower. For our family, summer has meant the boys sleep on the floor in mommy and daddy’s room. We do not have central air, and the room the boys share gets pretty hot, even at night. But as the cooler air begins to find its way to Michigan, the boys will again sleep in their own beds and our bedtime routine will commence.
A big part of our bedtime routine is reading a book and relaxing together in Brady’s bed. For as long as I can remember, I have had to lay down with Brady as he turns off his mind and drifts off to dream-land. I cannot simply put Brady in his bed, turn off the lights, and tell him to go to sleep - it just doesn’t work like that. So I have to get myself back into routine and understand about 15 - 20 minutes of my evening will be spent helping Brady fall asleep.
What does bedtime look like for your family? Are you ready?
Another note on routines, it is not just bedtime that needs a routine. It is also the mornings. Breakfast and play time are a necessity for Brady to set himself up for a successful day. If there are days where I think he is better off sleeping in a little bit, nine times out of ten I am wrong because the change in routine throws him off.
Routines are powerful because they provide a sense of comfort. With routines we know what to expect. And if you are someone like Brady or myself, routine helps keep our anxiety at a low level
3. Write it Down
Either with paper and pen or digitally, whatever is your preference, I encourage you to write things down. Write the important dates and any reminders. About a week before school starts we receive a letter from the principal and a copy of the school calendar. This gets placed on our fridge, but also put in my phone and written down in my planner. (Hey, better safe than sorry). Throughout the school year our school office and the teachers send emails with key dates to remember (due dates, field trips, school events, etc) - you guessed it, I do my best to immediately put these in my personal calendars.
Mama, I know mom-brain and a real thing. As a mom of two, one of which is a toddler who is always on the go and particulary dependent, I can easily forget things that I really should remember. Research has shown us that writing things down helps us remember them. And this is a good habit to teach our children. I think it is in 3rd grade that our school district provides a planner to the students, and I am excited for Brady to get one.
Are you a paper and pen kind of gal, or do you prefer a digital calendar?
Another way to make life a little easier when going back to school is to pre-plan. It is the little things like this that make finding the beauty also easier. One thing to pre-plan: lunch. Whether you are going to pack a lunch or utilize the hot lunch at school - you will want to plan ahead. You can make lunch the night before or make sure that money is in the lunch account Sunday evenings. With children in school, another helpful thing to pre-plan is the outfit to wear the next day.
5. Allow for After-School Day Grace
I believe it is a good idea to have a plan for after-school. I know that life happens, and after being away from home for hours, the time spent together as a family is both limited and incredibly valuable. For the first two years of Brady’s school-life, he did not have homework, but we created time for reading and other school related activities. I won’t know for a few more days if we will be adding homework to our routine or not, but if we are, I know that it is helpful to have a plan.
With all of that being said, I also believe that we need to give grace to ourselves, our childdren, and our families. Some days will be smooth sailing and others may be more difficult. We have to understand that some things are more important than others. To allow for after school grace, create a priority list of what needs to get done each evening and allow for understanding if not everything is checked off the “to-do” list. Time blocking, even from a young age, is a helpful tool because it allows for a visualization of the time given for both WORK and FUN.
6. Keep It Sweet and Simple (K.I.S.S.)
This is one that I personally need to work on. Keep things sweet and simple. We live in a time where Pinterest has taken over a lot of aspects of our every-day life. Back to school signs, coordinated and designed treats, and I just saw a post about “creative” first day of school gifts to give your teacher. All of those things are enough to give moms a headache. Growing up, our first day of school was a picture of all of us sitting on the porch with our backpacks on. Sometimes I miss that. Sweet and Simple.
Now, I say this with caution because I do have an interest in modern calligraphy and word art, and in years past I have created back to school signs, and I am not at all knocking down the parents who do any of the fun and creative things. What I am saying is - don’t beat yourself up if you don’t, can’t, or won’t. What matters most is that your child goes to school knowing that they are loved, supported, encouraged, and celebrated each day.
7. Get to Bed and Wake Up Early
So, this is a two-for-one, and I’m not sure how you are going to like it. But to help you find some beauty in going back to school, I want to encourage you to get to bed and wake up early. I’m not going to go into details about the research science shows about getting a “good night’s rest” or “how many hours of sleep per night is best” (you can google that if you don’t already know). What I do want to talk about is that when you go to bed at a decent time you can wake up early. You can wake up before the kids so that if there are any last minute things that need to be done, you can do them before rushing out of the house. Or you can use a little bit of time in the morning to give yourself a little love, some “me” time.
Before you go rolling your eyes at me, please know that I am not a person who functions well when I am tired. But I function even worse when I am running around like a chicken with my head cut off - and that is the feeling I get when I don’t wake up early.
Waking up early can be as simple as 15 - 30 minutes. Just enough time to brew some coffee, do some light stretching, and maybe read a few pages of your favorite book - honestly, whatever works for you!
Back to school is a special time of year. We are reminded, yet again, just how big our children are getting. It is a season of newness, excitement, and also some anxiety I am sure. For parents and children alike, back to school means getting back into a routine and back to normal. Not everyone loves school and I understand that. But taking a few notes from above, you have a few ways in which you can find beauty as your children go back to school.