Getting Ready for the New School Year

Summer is quickly approaching its end, and children everywhere are either looking forward to school or dreading their first day back in the classroom. Like paying taxes, it's guaranteed that moms everywhere will be busy assembling back-to-school supplies and replacing outgrown clothes this month. Getting back into the swing of your school-year activities doesn't have to be a dreaded event. We've assembled some tried and true tips to get you and your child off to a successful school year.

Set your own expectations for the school year
Whether your child is going to school for the first time or returning for another year at the same school, it will serve you both well to define in your mind what you'd like achieve this year. Consider your schedule and flexibility as well as the strengths and weaknesses of your child. Do you expect to sit down each night at 7 p.m. to review homework, or are you going to rely on the tutors in aftercare? Will you have to make lunches every morning, which calls for you to move your morning run to 5:30 a.m. instead of 6 a.m.? Do you want to work on the amount of television your child watches? Now is a good time to decide your goals. If you define your expectations reasonably, you are less likely to get frustrated with your work and family balance solutions or disappointed with yourself for coming home late from work once again. Create a school routine
A routine is a great way to keep everyone on schedule and on track. Communicate it clearly with your child. You might even want to resort to posting it on the refridgerator or, for younger children, drawing pictures of clocks to describe the tasks you expect them to undertake during the school year. If your child understands your expectations, they are less likely to question your enforcement of the rules.

Get organized early
Easier said than done, but even if it means taking a day off from work prior to the start of school, it's worth it. Make sure you have the supplies you'll need for homework and assignments, not only for school but at home as well. Set up a homework station and prepare an area close to the front door for backpacks and gym bags. If there are desk drawers to be cleaned out, do it before the work load starts flowing home.

Communicate with your child about school
It's not always easy to get your child to talk, so begin prior to school while the lazy days of summer have your preteen hanging around the house. Ask them about what expectations they have for the upcoming school year. Listen. It's harder done than said. Listen to what they say without replying with a list of new rules and household policies. There's plenty of time for that later. If you have them talking, listen and digest it. Take the time with smaller children to let them voice their fears.

Keep a family calendar
Every working woman keeps a day timer or personal calendar, so why is it that they don't have one at home? For all the same reasons that you rely on your Palm Pilot, a family bulletin board or calendar can keep everyone on track.

Get to know the school administrator and other parents
Research has shown that the more involved the parent is in the child's school, the better the child performs. When the parent is a working mother, the challenge to be at evening PTA meeting or noon committee luncheons is more difficult. Talk to teachers and parents to find ways to volunteer or serve the school within the limitations of your busy schedule. Offer your professional skills, whether it's writing press releases for an upcoming fundraiser or accounting for the spring carnival.

Learn from your parents
Listen to the things you are saying and watch your reactions to your child as it relates to school issues. If it didn't work for your parents, do you really think it will work for you? "No dessert until you've finished your homework!" has been tried for decades, but it's yet to be proven whether it ever produced positive motivation for any future CEO.

Also see:
Tips for a fun and food safe lunch box
Things to have on hand for last-minute school events
Tips for managing homework
Managing morning madness
Public school dress codes growing more popular
Top ten on students' most wanted lists