How to own this school year

Kindergarten is staring us in the face again. And 2nd grade, for that matter. We've scavenged for the supplies, paid our fees, met the teachers, joined the PTSO, and have written out some family routines so that we can DO this thang. I mean, we are going to rock school so hard this year, you'd think we were on our third round of it or something...

My, how far we've come from dragging Sass's brand new backpack down the highway. 

I totally got a little verklempt when Pearl Girl went to kindergarten camp earlier this summer, but we're absolutely okay with her starting school. School plays a very big part of the dreams we have for her. 

Image courtesy of http://unsplash.com/ under Creative Commons 0 license. 

Image courtesy of http://unsplash.com/ under Creative Commons 0 license. 

And...thanks to the lessons we learned with Sassafras, we feel better prepared to face this new school year. There's always the standard guidelines in making sure your kid knows how to write his name and teaching them your phone number, but if you're interested, here are a few of our strategies for owning this school year like a boss:

1. Buy some sticker labels and print out a sheet or two (depending on the absurdity level of your supply lists) of labels with your child's name. Our kids' school is quite reasonable, but many others ask for everything but the kitchen sink. It will make labeling supplies a breeze, and then you can save extras for your envelopes. Which leads me to...

2. Buy envelopes or sandwich bags...tons of 'em. Print out more of those sticker labels with your little bird's name, lunch number, grade, and teacher and apply them to your stash of envelopes. That will save you precious time throughout the year when you have to get that lunch money or book fair money or party money or whatever shoved in that backpack before little angel darlin' is late, already! Obviously it's best to get these things done before the morning, but life is what it is and sometimes it will beat you and your routine like a rented mule. 

3. This isn't a must but sure is a lovely...get some family stationery. Mine is from Thirty-One, and has all my kids' names and a little colored cartoon stick figure (way cuter than it sounds) at the bottom. Transracial families like ours can use all the help we can get making sure everyone in contact with our children knows that we all go together. Let's just say if we had a Michelle Wilson Family Safety Plan binder, this would be a tab. Maybe right before the section on dressing my kids in coordinated clothing and right after Mama's Bridge Plan. Safety first, my friends! 

3. Keep an extra set of clothes in the car for each kid and be sure to switch them out seasonally. I also keep some extra hair supplies for my girls in there. You just never know. 

4. Mind your manners. Parents, social media is a double-edged sword. Before you take to Facebook to rant over the latest thing about your school/principal/teacher that annoys you, please remember that it might feel better for a minute...but those are real people on the other end of your lashes. Real people who are stressed and catching it from all sides and honestly, aren't well compensated for the level of pressure they face on a daily basis. Be fair, and give them the opportunity to respond privately. Give them the same opportunity you would want to be given. 

5. Prep your kindergartener for the lunchroom. Elementary teachers, correct me if I'm wrong...but one of the biggest culture shocks for kindergarteners is the noise level and controlled chaos of the lunchroom. Very few of those fivers have ever been in a room filled with a few hundred other kids. Add to that the complexity of the lunchroom procedures that they have to learn AND the fact that their fine motor skills are still in the works. This is one of those things they just have to walk through and figure out, but it does help to talk to them about how loud it might be...and to listen carefully for their teacher's instructions. 

6. Learn that lunch number. Lunch numbers are, for the most part, your child's student ID number. They'll use it in the lunchroom, library, online assessment software, etc. They need to have that thing memorized as soon as possible. It will make their life and their teacher's life a lot easier. One method we use is changing codes to our tech devices to be their lunch numbers. As with our address and other important numbers, nothing motivates them to commit that number to memory like needing it to get into Mama's iPad! 

Most lunch numbers are more than 4 digits, so you can go into your general settings and switch simple passcode mode OFF. Now you can use any combination of numbers, letters, or characters as your passcode. 

Most lunch numbers are more than 4 digits, so you can go into your general settings and switch simple passcode mode OFF. Now you can use any combination of numbers, letters, or characters as your passcode. 

7. Work on the essential skill of staying in their doggone seat. I believe (you know, because all research everywhere confirms this is best) that kids of all ages should be given opportunities for movement. But there is a time and place for staying in your seat, and even brand new kindergarteners need to work on the life skill of self control. Depending on your kid, this can be as simple as a "hey, sugarbritches, stay in your seat so you don't drive sweet teacher lady berzerko" and it might take some intense modeling at the kitchen table. Give them opportunities to do some quiet work independently at home and give them a treat or something for making it to certain time lengths. 

8. Teach your kids to look for opportunities to be kind to others. Somebody lonely at PE free play? The kid who is mean to everybody needs a partner at circle time? Someone in your class you just don't understand? A friend needs a pencil? A new kid is sad? A teacher drops something or needs some help? There are opportunities everywhere...we just have to teach them to specifically look for ways to be kind. We want our kids to make a difference in their world, and we don't believe that has to wait until they're older. They and their actions matter right now. 

9. Figure out a system. School life is big life, y'all. The Captain and I used to manage our schedule perfectly with Outlook and Google Calendar and shared notifications. But then, School. And then, Three Kids. And it all rocked my little organizational world. So we now have a multi-layered approach to keeping up with all of the things. My biggest line of defense (thanks to wisdom from another mama of 3) is an old-school dry erase board calendar with 5 different colored markers. Everybody has their own color and every month I write in everybody's things, down to Sweet Love's picture day at preschool and up to The Captain's international travel. It works for us. You might need a different system, depending on your family size/activity level/type of schooling/etc. Just figure out something that works for you and stick to it. 

10. Nail down a routine. No, I mean hammer and drill that puppy into the concrete. When will you check backpacks and sign folders? Where will they hang their backpacks? When and where will they finish their homework, if you are even doing homework? Bedtimes, waketimes, alarm clocks, boundaries for electronics, organizing clothes for the week, lunches, family time, devotions, prayers, chores... Team Wilson had a good talk about this recently and we have hashed over our new morning and evening routines to the point where we could just about write a thesis on them. They are written on my second dry erase board, and so far we have done a pretty decent job of working out the kinks in a few test runs prior to First Day of School.

The thing of it is, routine requires discipline. Our kids will only be as successful with this routine as we are with ours. But you know what? We aren't just going to survive the 14-15 school year...we're going to rock this thing's face off. 

11. And although I hate an odd-numbered list but because the thought of writing a post about school without mentioning this makes me twitchy...read to your kids. Read to themRead the Bible, read nonfiction, read easy books, read e-books, read comic books, read your social media streams, read in a funny voice (it's OK if you are going for Irish but instead it comes out like a redneck pirate...they'll love it anyway!), read in a regular voice, read poems, read jokes, read in English, read in other languages, read recipes, read instructions for games, read a lot, read a little. Read with them, if they're older. Read what they are reading. Just read to and with them. This tiny little act alone can have a huge impact on your child's attitude toward learning, toward school, and even your relationship as a family.  

So there it is...the mighty plan of ours. Bring it, school year!  

What would you add to our storehouse of school secrets???