Back to school time is a mixed bag of emotions for moms; part of us hates to see the carefree, unstructured days of summer go, and yet somewhere inside we’re also cartwheeling away from the bus stop, giddy with the prospect of running errands without the kids for once.
Well, whether you’re ready or not, it’s time to trade your beach towels for backpacks and get ready for school — hopefully these twelve great tips and hacks will make the transition a little bit easier…
1. Stock up on supplies, tax free. When you’re breaking the bank on fruit-shaped erasers and new pants that actually reach all the way down to your kids’ ankles, every little bit of savings helps. Did you know some states have Back To School Tax-Free Weekends when certain dollar amounts of clothing, school supplies and/or computer purchases are exempt from state sales tax? Yup. Check here to see if your state is one of them!
2. Avoid the stores. Ordering school supplies before the teacher sends home a class-specific list might sound like asking for trouble, but it can really save time and money. Find age-appropriate bundles online and shop from the comfort of home in those PJs that are too ratty even to wear to Walmart! This leaves you with only those inevitable, oddly specific requests (two canary yellow folders, a box of 37 organic crayons and one 1.5-inch binder that plays “Amazing Grace” when opened) to deal with after school is underway.
3. Relive your college years. No, I don’t mean you should play beer pong until 4 AM and then try to take a European History exam on zero hours sleep. I mean you should take advantage of all the housewares on sale for big kids going back to the college dorms, and snag things you needed anyway on the cheap (compact furniture for the playroom, bedspreads for the guest room, a mini fridge for your craft room — you know, the essentials).
4. Make a memory accessory. Have something really important you need your child to remember? Write a note on a strip of paper, wrap it loosely around their wrist (message on the inside if it contains private info) and tape it on like a bracelet. Tip for mom: This goes for you, too! When I worked outside the house and randomly remembered a bill that was due or an errand I needed to run on the way home, I’d write a note to myself and tape it around the strap of my purse so I won’t forget by the time I left the office. Worked like a charm!
5. Streamline your after-school time. Thought your diaper bag days were behind you? Not quite! Be prepared for anything (except maybe a diaper blowout) by having a go-bag ready for late afternoon activities. Keep it stocked and waiting by the door just like that old diaper bag; stuff it with water, snacks, sports gear, papers that need to be returned to the coach, coloring books/activities for younger siblings and whatever else you need to survive those practices and games you’re always rushing off to.
6. Get something that makes it easier to give back. Craft and office supply stores sell all sorts of handy magnetic storage tins. Pop one on the fridge to collect Box Tops For Education in a spot where they’re much more convenient to collect than the kitchen junk drawer.
7. If your kids brown bag it, reserve a spot in your fridge or pantry just for lunch food — you’ll have everything together when it’s time to pack lunches, easily see when you’re running low, and if the kids know that area is off limits (WE SAID “OFF LIMITS,” CHILDREN) you’re less likely to discover on Sunday night that they’ve eaten all the sack lunch packs of crackers as weekend snacks.
8. Set a timer and offer incentives. Studies show the most effective study sessions include up to 25 minutes of work with 5-minute breaks (every third break should be 20 minutes long). Set a timer so your child doesn’t interrupt their concentration 800 times to ask you if it’s been 25 minutes yet. Even better, make them NEVER WANT TO STOP READING by putting a jellybean or M&M reward at the end of each paragraph to keep them going!
9. Pinterest tells you all about homework stations but that’s not practical for everyone — I, for one, don’t have an empty space in my house that isn’t already full of toys. Instead, make a homework caddy using a utensil caddy, shower caddy or even plastic cups nested in a muffin tin and load it up with everything they need. It’s portable, so they can take it with them wherever they find a clean spot to work, and there’ll be no more checking in on them 10 minutes into homework time only to discover they couldn’t find a pencil and got distracted by their Lego.
10. Give papers the pizza treatment. The school year always brings piles of paperwork that you want to keep; organize kids’ homework, art, report cards and awards from each year in separate, clean pizza boxes, which you can often get for free from the local pizzeria if you ask nicely the next time you’re picking up dinner. Assemble them inside out so the plain side shows, let the kids decorate them and label them with the year. They’ll stay nice and neatly stacked until your kids move out, you pass these precious keepsakes along to them and they (probably) throw them straight in the garbage.
So, what are your sanity-saving back-to-school hacks? Save your fellow Scary Mommies!