As a mom of an elementary school graduate, a 4th-grader, and a Kindergartner starting the elementary journey this fall, I’ve learned what I need to do to get these kids prepped and ready for that first day of school (and beyond): scale back late bedtime routines, research the perfect lunchbox/backpack, buy the school supplies early before certain colors run out, DON’T go back to school shopping since in a few short months it will turn chilly and everything you bought will be obsolete (really, don’t do it!) … yep, getting kiddos ready for school is no short order.
But what about you? Are YOU ready? Six years ago, when we walked through the doors of our school that we’ve come to love, new to town and not knowing a single person, I had no idea what I needed to do to prepare myself for elementary school to support my kids through their journey. If you’re in the same boat, here are a few of my real-mom tips to help you get an A+ in elementary-school-preparedness:
- Any chance you have to be in the classroom and around your kids, from meet-the-teacher to volunteering for various classroom activities and parties, take it. Not only does this establish an immediate relationship with the teacher (which is KEY), but you can observe your child and see who and what they gravitate towards. Find out the names of one or two friends your kids like to play with in class, and reach out to those moms to get a playdate set up.
- Find a way to volunteer at the school. The PTO is always looking for volunteers of various participation levels, and it’s a great way to keep up with what’s going on at the school. Two years ago, I started volunteering by reshelving books in the library one morning each week. I found out pretty early on I was not the classroom volunteer/party-planning mom. But putting books away, befriending the library staff, and every once in a while getting to see my kids when their library time was at the same time I was there … it’s been a favorite part of our elementary experience.
- Get on all the Facebook groups your school provides. Our school has a main page, a group for each grade, a PTO page, etc. These are a lifesaver to be able to reach out to other parents and ask various questions, see announcements you might have missed from the school, or share a heads up to other parents about information you think they might want to know. If there isn’t a Facebook group for your school, either talk to your school staff to see how to get one started or use the parent directory to start building your own FB page and invite others to it. I’m sure they’ll appreciate the place to connect!
- Have a separate “School” folder in your email and dump everything there as the emails come in. Even if you can’t read them in real-time, you can go back to the folder when you have some time and get caught up on everything school-related.
- Say yes to all/most birthday parties and try to sign your kids up for sports. This is not about popularity or making sure your kids gets an early start on becoming the next athletic star. It’s about providing experiences a) for your kid to hang out with other kids in a non-classroom environment, and b) so you’ll again see who your kids gravitate toward and provide opportunities to deepen those friendships in other ways.
- Find your own school friends. One of the best things I did when my youngest was in Kindergarten was ask if anyone wanted to go to happy hour. That happy hour turned into getting together with a group of ladies anywhere from once a month to once a quarter as our school years passed. We started a Mom-osa back-to-school event for the first day of school every year, created a last-day of school event for our kids together, and now we have our own friendships that transcend our kids’ relationships.
- Be kind. Teachers and school staff, more than ever, need parents to extend grace and kindness. Other parents need your kindness, support, and camaraderie. And ultimately, your kids need to see kindness and perseverance from you, their first and greatest teacher.