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🎒 My Back to School Survival Guide
“In many ways, September feels like the busiest time of the year: The kids go back to school, work piles up after the summer’s dog days, and Thanksgiving is suddenly upon us.” ~ Brene Brown
Adam and I are preparing for our kids to go back to school, which means we get back into routines and schedules. As part of this, it’s a great moment for me to do a household reset - mentally prepare and get organized. So as a busy mom and professional, here is what I’m doing to get ready.
👩🏫 Clear the deck
I loved Gretchen Rubin’s recommendation to get ready to return to the usual routine after Labor Day, to do a bunch of small tasks to set yourself up. It was cathartic to unsubscribe from newsletters and delete unused apps - I felt lighter after it. I also got on booking holiday travel and added a fun trip with my mom and sister that I’m now looking forward to in the fall.
✅ Update and Print Morning Check Lists
We started this last year and it has worked really well to make our mornings run smoother. We have a morning checklist that reminds our girls what is expected of them to get ready for the day. I display this list prominently in our kitchen area, keep markers nearby, and print it every 3 weeks. Throughout the year, we add/remove items as we agree as a family, but this has been a helpful tool to ensure everyone knows what their job is in the morning.
🔟 Remember the Pick 10 Rule to keep the house tidy
A while ago, I learned about the “10 Things Rule” renamed in our household to Pick 10. With a busy family of four, the clutter accumulates super fast. So now, as a family, we all pick up 10 things during a transition period - for example between dinner and the next activity, before leaving the house to go on a fun adventure, after arriving home and starting the next thing. 10 is an arbitrary number - sometimes we do 5 or 15. The main point is to not make this time-based but outcome-based.
👏🏻 Clear and Prep the School Work Boards
We have two large cork boards with each of our kids’ names hanging up by our dining table. This is the place where our girls get to display any work that they are proud of from school. Before the start of the school year and the new year, we clear the boards to make them be ready for the upcoming influx of work that will be coming home. The girls get to decide what goes up on the board and what comes off of it when there is not enough space. Things that don’t make it on the board go into the trash.
First day of school traditions
🍦 Ice cream on the first day of school eve
My family had a tradition of getting ice cream before the first day of school to celebrate the upcoming beginning. Adam and I now do this with our girls. It gives us a moment to ask the kids questions about what they are looking forward to as well as to talk through the upcoming morning of the first day of school (reminder of checklists, time to get up, etc.).
🍎 Take the first day of school morning off
When I chose to be a working parent, I promised myself that on days when I really wanted to be present with my kids or fellow moms, I’d make the time at work to do that. The first day of school is one of those days where I crave connection with other parents so I block off half a day for back to school to be able to walk to school with my kids and hang out with fellow moms for a little bit after. After drop off, I take a walk, get a tea/coffee, and get back to work. This pause gives me a moment of intention-setting for the year and grounds me in the two big jobs I have - being a mom and being a leader at work.
🥗 Our Favorite Dinner Table Questions
As we head back to school, the routine of family dinners is coming so I am re-reading this blog on our Family Dinner ritual and specifically the repertoire of questions to ask to spur conversation:
“How was your day?” gets a bad rap because it’s not specific - it doesn’t inspire creative thought or show curiosity. We’ve had luck with these questions instead:
What’s something that surprised you today?
This is a good intro question, even for younger kids, which tends to force an answer better than “My day was good.”
What made you smile today?
This question hasn’t been successful with our 6-year-old, but it’s been a gem of insights from our 9- 9-year-old that helps remind her of good things that happened. We’ve learned a lot about friends we didn’t even know she had from this question.
What’s something cool that you learned today?
This question gets better over time when kids see how you react to their answers. I’ve noticed that the more curiosity and attention you show to the response, the more interesting the next day’s answer will be.
Whether or not you have kids starting school, going back to school or you are just getting ready for the fall, I hope you feel seen. I look forward to this season as much for the return to routine as well as fall decorations, soups, and football games.
Also, here are more of our parenting posts:
👶 Advice on Hiring a Nanny: Practical tips for working parents (Helen and Adam)
💪🏻 Brave Parenting: How to show up intentionally with our kids
🐎 Seven pieces of advice for parents returning to the "office" after parental leave: How to adjust back to work life (Helen)
✈️ Work Travel and Mom Guilt (Helen)