15 Time- (& Tear!) Saving Back-to-School Hacks

As surely as the seasons cycle, September means back-to-school. The abrupt change from long, care-free days of summer holidays to rigid schedules, bag lunches and homework can be stressful. Here are some suggestions to help make this transition—and the school year—more positive for kids and parents.

School Supplies

1. Reuse, Reuse, Reuse—It is shocking how many barely-used or new school supplies end up in school dumpsters in June. Make sure your kids bring everything home, sort through it together and reuse what is salvageable. It will save you money in the long-term. Bonus, it helps kids learn to take care of their stuff.

2. Label, Label, Label—When I was in elementary school, one of my August rituals was to label my supplies. I still have pencil crayons from 30 (cough cough) years ago. In busy classrooms things fall on the ground or are misplaced all the time, but at end-of-day cleanup, kids with labelled supplies usually get them back.

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3. Quality Over Cool—Trendy gizmos come and go (and often break shortly after purchase). Better to stock up on quality-but-plainer supplies on sale and let your kiddos personalize them.

4. Dole it Out Sparingly—Fact: classrooms are crowded places with minimal storage. Only send your child with what they need to start and send more as necessary. Less will go missing into The Void.


5. “New” is So Passé—Thank goodness “thrifting” has become a cool thing to do. You’ll save dollars, help local charities and keep clothes out of the landfill.

6. Label, Label, Label some more!—Before holidays, school classes participate in a slow procession through the halls: the “Viewing of the Lost.” So. Many. Things. You’d think children would recognize their possessions. Nope. Most end up being sent to the thrift store. Unless, of course, they are clearly labelled.

Feeding Bodies and Minds:

7. Plan Ahead—Two words: meal planning. It saves money, time and the daily stress of “What’s for dinner?” When my step-kids were school-age we sat down as a family every Sunday for 15 minutes and planned out the week’s meals. The kids loved having input and it made shopping super easy. You can do this for lunches, too!

8. Beat the Lunch-Time Blues—Depending on their age, many kids can make their own lunches. If you’re afraid that these lunches might consist of last year’s Halloween candy or dry slices of white bread, set some guidelines (ex. one item from each food group) and make sure there are healthy choices on hand.

9. Bulk vs Snack Size—Individually portioned snacks for kids are marketed as a time-saving godsend, however, they are expensive and create piles of garbage (that, in turn, decorates school playgrounds). Small re-usable containers or snack pouches can be filled from a bulk or family-sized box, saving money and packaging.

Keeping Everyone Happy

10. Family Calendar—Invest in a BIG family calendar and keep it in a central location. This helps with planning, logistics and also shifts the family knowledge-keeping burden from one person (ahem, Mom) to everyone.

11. Less is More—When adults spread ourselves too thin we get tired, cranky, overwhelmed, etc. Kids can feel the same way. Instead of doing all the activities, choose one or two per season. Life won’t be as hectic and everyone benefits from breathing space (especially in September!)

12. Foster a Growth Mindset—Instead of focusing on grades, encourage your child to reflect on their own learning. What can they do more confidently than they did before? What makes learning easier for them? How can they extend themselves? If a child is stuck on “I can’t,” try using psychologist Carol Dweck’s technique of tacking on a “yet”: “I can’t YET.”

13. Sleep Hygiene Saves Sanity—Schedules and sleep get out of whack during summer. That first week of grumpy tumbles out of bed and grumpier after-school restraint collapse might be more manageable if you start easing back into a bedtime/wake-up routine a couple of weeks beforehand. A good night’s sleep makes everything easier. For everyone.

Communication is Key

14. Teacher = Partner—Many parents wait for official conferences or when a problem arises to meet their child’s teacher, but a friendly intro during the first week (even via email) is a great idea. Establishing a positive connection early on leads to clearer communication and helps everyone to remember that we are all on the same team, your child’s.

15. Lecturing Isn’t Listening—Parents are problem-solvers and behaviour tutors, but sometimes our kids don’t need us to offer advice or constructive criticism. Sometimes they just need to be heard and accepted, no matter what. September is a doozy of a month with so much change and new expectations. You might have to adjust your own expectations a little, at least for the first couple of weeks. Kids adapt quickly, and knowing that they have your unconditional love and support makes all the difference.

Kelly McQuillan
Kelly McQuillanhttp://kellymcquillan.com/
Kelly McQuillan is a writer, musician, teacher, and fledgling mother living in Comox, BC. kellymcquillanwriter.weebly.com