Back to School Planning: Confessions of a Slacker Mom

By: Jennifer Griffin-Wiesner

I have a kid starting high school this year and another starting middle school. Getting the academic year off on the right foot is important as it sets the tone for what’s to come over the next grade level. There is nothing I value more than helping my kids have an amazing, positive, nurturing upbringing, and school is a huge part of that. As a family, we value it, we take it seriously, and we work hard to make it a good thing.

That said, if you are looking for back-to-school tips and guides and suggestions from people who are actually organized, there are lots of other places you should be looking (like here). That is not me. I fly by the seat of my pants. I forget stuff and get distracted (by “shiny things, like a mockingbird” my kids like to say). A lot. I am a very average household manager.

So what do I have to offer on the topic of going back to school? Perspective.

My kids are generally happy. They do well in school. We and they have good relationships with their teachers and friends, and we all basically maintain our sanity and our patience with one another, even around seasonal transitions. So if that’s all stuff you’re looking for, here's the advice I can offer to help you get there:

1. Have a back-to-school planning family meeting. Talk about your hopes and dreams for the coming year, your values and priorities, and responsibilities (Do grades matter? test scores? having fun learning?). Use a talking piece to be sure everyone gets a chance to hear and be heard. Find a balance between kids taking charge of tasks (such as making lunches, packing backpacks in the morning, laundry) and having enough support that they can concentrate on the things you’ve agreed are most important.

[Related: Back to School Checklist for Parents]

2. Set up an electronic family calendar to keep track of events (practices, lessons, etc.). We use Google calendar because everyone has her or his own account and we all have access to each others' schedules. We also have been able to link our calendars to our daughter’s soccer team calendar and a few others.

3. Do your supply shopping early, but save any clothes shopping for later. I think last year was the first year we were able to get all our supplies in one trip because we went in early August. Usually we go at the very last minute when all the supplies are picked over. We usually scramble around to different stores trying to find just the right color folder and matching notebook. On the other hand, we wait to buy new clothes. Where we live, school starts back up in September when it’s still pretty warm outside. My kids wear their same summer outfits (shorts and tee-shirts) for a few weeks and then when the weather cools down and they’ve had a chance to scope out what’s stylish for the year, we do some clothes shopping.

[Related: Tips for Making Back to School Shopping Better]

4. Invest in good backpacks and shoes. It will be better for your kids’ bodies (and their ability to function) to have good, solid, sizable backpacks to haul around.

5. Keep it real. Make school, including back-to-school, a part of your family life rather than something your kids do off on their own. Meet as many of their teachers as possible as early in the year as possible. Introduce yourself and your kids to them before the year starts if you can. Call the school if you don’t know whether there are opportunities to do this. Once the year begins attend events, email teachers with questions, get involved, even if you can’t be present in the building be present in the relationships your children are developing. Here's an example of an e-mail you can send to your child's teacher.

All the rest? It depends on your family, your school, and your personalities. So cut yourself some slack and do what works for you. Take it from a Slacker Mom, you're doing a good job.

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For the first time in 14 years as a parent of school age kids I planned ahead.. Wahoo… I MADE COPIES of the emergency medical form for each of my kids before I sent it to school. That is the one form that schools (for reasons unknown in this techno society) ask for a million times each year. Now I can just run an extra copy instead of having to fill out the dang thing again!

This is brilliant. It gives me hope for us “average homemakers” – I definately agree with saving the school shopping for clothes until later

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