Transitioning Schedules for Back-to-School

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Mother sending her child off to school

I know that in many (most?) parts of the U.S., parents are just starting to think about school starting up again at or near the end of August. (Here in my corner of the south, we've already been back for a couple of weeks.) For some families, this may not represent all that big of a schedule change -- maybe your work schedule and/or Junior's camp schedule mimic what the school year brings, or maybe as a homeschooling family you set your own hours -- but for lots of families, back to school means it's time to panic over scheduling.

When my kids were little, schedule was king. They did better with consistency and plenty of sleep, and I never saw much of a reason to let them stay up late even though maybe they didn't have to get up as early as they would during the school year. But as my kids have gotten older, they 1) require less sleep, 2) have things they'd like to stay up for and 3) can enjoy a "summer schedule" without flipping out or melting down. Over the years I've loosened up over the summer, and this summer -- for the first time -- I occasionally found myself telling my daughter "Go to bed!" and when the inevitable "But why?" would come back, the answer would be, "Because we're about to go to bed! It's late!"

(In case you're wondering what keeps them up so late: This summer they were allowed to read as long as they wanted to at night. Those late nights were almost all spent reading. We are raising nerds, and I'm okay with that.)

Anyway. For my kids, transitioning back to a school schedule meant they needed to get back to reasonable bedtimes, and back to getting up to the alarm clock rather than rolling out of bed whenever. For me, I needed to get back to the alarm clock as well, but as someone whose commute involves walking down the hallway to my computer, I also needed to bid my slow, quiet mornings adieu. Over the summer I'd been able to get up around seven and work for a couple of hours before either of my kids would appear. With school in session, I need to get up a full two hours earlier to get just half that uninterrupted time before I need to wrangle breakfasts and lunch bags and bathroom squabbles. (Of course, on the up side, once the morning is navigated, I have nearly an entire day to work distraction-free.)

As a family, it means getting back to putting things on the calendar. Coordinating carpools. Slotting chores on specific days rather than letting everything go and then catching up all at once. Doing rigorous meal-planning rather than occasional meal-planning. It's just a completely different way of life than the lazy days of summer, that's for sure.

Two weeks before school started, lights out was enforced each night at about 45 minutes later than the usual school bedtime, though I still let the kids sleep as late as they wanted in the morning. One week before school started, we went to school-night bedtime, and I made the kids be up and ready (showered/dressed/fed) by an hour later than they'd have to do it for school. Those two week-long adjustments made the start of school and the very early mornings slightly less of a shock to all of our systems, but it was still a very long first week. That first weekend I made sure we had no commitments so that everyone could sleep in and lay around. Everyone was tired and cranky, but we survived. I think.

Other Parents Getting Ready to Transition Back to the School Schedule

  • Dr. Michele Borba's Reality Check is ready with tips to ease those back-to-school jitters.
  • Alicia Rockmore at ModernMom.com suggests five easy ways to get your child back on track for school.
  • Phytonica's Helen Joffe puts the emphasis on whole-body wellness, starting with a wholesome diet.
  • Lizzy at Room on the Counter shares her favorite after-school snacks, an important tool in winding down from a full day.
  • 5 Minutes for Mom's Kelly Curtis shares tips on transitioning back into the school year.
  • And finally, Jamie at Simple Homeschool details ten great back-to-school traditions you can start now and use year after year.

Are you ready for back-to-school? Have any tried and true tips and tricks for making the transition a bit smoother?


BlogHer Contributing Editor Mir drinks a lot of coffee during the week, and sleeps in on Saturdays. She blogs near-daily about issues parental and otherwise at Woulda Coulda Shoulda, and posts all day long about the joys of mindful retail therapy at Want Not.

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