Preparing for School There are several different ways you need to prepare your child for school, including mentally, emotionally, and physically. Whatever the age, there are certain physical things that you need to get ready for them to begin school. If your kids are like mine are, they have spent the summer with long nights and late mornings. Now that school is almost here, it's time to move back to an earlier schedule. If you have older children, this might be more difficult as you have less control over their schedule. But for younger ones, get started about three weeks before school starts by moving their sleep time up by 1/2 hour, and their wake up time up by 1/2 hour. Then the following week, move it up again. Continue this until your child is sleeping and waking during the same hours they will be when school starts. Since summer is winding down, it might be time to wind your kids down and start their minds working again in preparation for school. A few weeks before school starts, crack out the reading books and paper and pencil. Spend 30 minutes during the day working on reading or writing. Physically preparing your children for school involves getting them the things that they need for school. If you like to shop for school clothes in the summer, start this about one month before school starts to get in on the sales. Retail outlets usually start their summer sales around this time. Watch the ads and sales for the best time to go. If your school likes you to bring school supplies, watch for these sales too. Again, shop early to ensure the best prices and best selection. Getting your kids ready for school can be a challenge but it will make the transition back to school easier. Shopping for a Pre-school When you make the decision to send a child to preschool, there are many different things to look for and some will depend on your circumstances. We all want the best for our children and we want the preschool experience to be a success for our children. The attitude they have when attending preschool can have an effect on how they view school later. Decide what your needs are. You might be looking for a preschool to give your child some social skills and teach them basics such as colors, shapes, and letters. You might be looking for a place to take your child while you go back to school during the morning hours. Or you might be working and need full-time daycare. When shopping for a preschool, keep in mind the things that are most important to you. First impressions might not be the best when you are walking into a center full of children -- chaos might be reining. Meet with the director and find out what their preschool program involves. Take a tour of the school and meet the teachers. Look at the classrooms -- notice the bulletin boards and the mood of the children. You can also arrange a time to meet specifically with the teacher. After your visit, write down your impressions and what you liked and did not like. Write down any follow up questions you might have. When you have visited all the preschools on your list, decide which one you prefer. Take your child back for another visit and ask to go into the classroom with him. See how your child reacts. Watch how the teacher addresses your child when they meet them and how the other children respond. If the atmosphere seems friendly and fun, this is probably a good choice. Preschool Goodbyes Preschool can be very difficult for young children. They don't have a concept of time, so it is hard for them to understand that they will be at the preschool for a portion of the day and then you will pick them up again. Kids can have a difficult time letting their mom or dad leave. Everyone has seen scenes where a child is clinging to their parent, tears coursing down their face, and the parent is reluctant to leave, glancing around for some help. This is not only hard for the child, but also for the parent. I think we have all seen or faced this experience. Situations like these can be less stressful if you follow a few simple ideas. If you are starting out at a new preschool, visit before the first day and take a tour of the school. Tell your child how they get to be big now and go to school. Show them where their things will belong. Find out what they will be doing on their first day. Most schools have a schedule with themes and activities mapped out. You can talk about how they get to paint today, or they are learning about clowns. Get your child excited about what they will be doing. When the day arrives to take them to school, don't make a big deal about saying goodbye. Help them hang up their things and take them to their teacher. Give them a quick kiss or hug and say goodbye. Then turn around and leave. This is the hardest part -- walking away. Dragging out the goodbyes only makes it more emotional for your child. If you don't act like you will be missing them throughout the day, they won't act that way either. New Teacher, New Rules Oh, the first day of school. The excitement and anticipation, the butterflies twirling in the stomach -- and then you get to your class. The teacher comes in and writes classroom rules down on the board. She sends home information on her class discipline policy. When our kids begin school, it can be an adjustment getting used to a new teacher. We can help them make this time period easier by staying positive and making sure our comments are appropriate. It might be an adjustment for us as well. It's important that you do not say anything negative in front of your children. They will need to believe that it will be okay, and you don't want it repeated back to the teacher. Help your child by reviewing the rules with them and talking about them. Make sure they understand what the teacher is saying. My daughter's teacher had a rule that the children could not go to the office to call their parent if they were not feeling well. My daughter was afraid that if she got sick she would have to stay at school. What the teacher was trying to say is that if a child gets sick, they need to go to the nurse's station. They can decide from there if a parent should be called. If there is a rule that no gum is allowed in school, make sure your child is not chewing gum on the way to school. They might forget to spit it out. If they can't wear a certain type of shoe, remind them to leave them at home. We should help our children remember and obey the rules. These rules will help them learn that there are boundaries and guidelines in school, and in life. Making new friends It's the first day of school, and your child doesn't know anyone. They are scared and nervous and don't know what to expect. Give them some help finding friends. If you are taking them into their classroom on the first day, introduce them to the children sitting next to them. Teachers often put nametags on the desks so you can let your child know the names of the kids sitting by them. After you tell them the kid's name, ask them to repeat it back. If your child cooperates, have them say hi to the other child and tell them their name. Making new friends are basic social skills that get better with practice. Help your child develop these skills in other areas such as play lands and parks. Then when it comes time to make new friends in a classroom, your child has overcome the shyness that is associated with talking to new children. If you have a child that is really shy, help them to meet new friends by telling other children what your child's name is and asking for theirs. You can then introduce the two children and try to get your child to say hello. As your kids find new friends in their classroom, give them opportunities to play outside of school. If possible, plan playdates for after school and take turns at each house. Weekends might be a good time to have friends come and play. Have a few activities available that they can do so they do not get bored. A new trend is to make business cards for your children with their name and phone number on them. They can give them out to friends that they would like to play with. This is really great for small children that might not know their phone number too. Makeover Overload Something about being a parent makes us want to give our children more. If we stopped to think about it, we'd probably wonder what we were thinking. We can get really out of hand sometimes. On the first day of first grade for my daughter, I walked her to her classroom. She was a little nervous. Once she got there and saw her teacher, she was fine, and I told her goodbye. As I was walking down the stairs outside, I saw a mother and her daughter coming up the stairs. The first bell had already rung, as well as the late bell. This little girl was very late to her first day of school. I recognized her from my daughter's kindergarten class, but she had blond hair the last time I had seen her. Now her hair was dark brown. I watched her climb the stairs. She could have been on the cover of a kid magazine, all decked out in her new school clothes. Her black heeled boots clicked on the concrete. Her hair had been blow dried and was curly and poofy. Wow. This was clearly a case of a parent going overboard with her child. She was in first grade. I was baffled. He mom had dyed her daughter's hair? I see this a lot with friends of my children. They get weaves, their nails done, and more pampering than I get as an adult. When do they get to be kids? And what happens when they hit high school? What does this teach a child? I really believe that children should be allowed to be children. There is a time and place for everything, and their time will come. Let's just let our kids be little as long as possible and not make them grow up any faster than they already do. Where to find time for Homework As your children get older, or if you are returning to school, you might find that there is not enough time in the day to complete homework. I've just started back to school after an eight year gap, and I have experienced the stress in realizing that there are not enough hours in the day. I have five children and a full-time job. Here are some secrets I have found. If you have younger children, find a place they can go play while you get some reading done. Our local mall has a play area with cushioned seats for the parents to watch. My boys like to go play there and it is entertaining for them. I can sit and watch them while I get some reading done for my science class. There are other places that you can take your children too, including the park. Just check around your neighborhood for ideas. Take your homework with you wherever you go. You never know when you might have fifteen minutes at the doctor's office to write down the answers to homework questions or read that last chapter. Swap play times with a friend. Since I have to get homework done during the week for my class, I don't have a lot of time during the week, but a lot more on the weekend. I have found that I can get a friend to take my kids for a few hours during the week and then take hers for her on the weekend. This gets her out of the house for a few hours, and gives me time I need during the week to complete my homework. Older children are a great help also. I've found that bribery works well too. When your Kids Don't Touch their Lunch What do you do when your kids don't eat their lunch at school? You aren't there to make sure they eat enough, and they come home from school starving and want to eat a meal. If this only happens occasionally, it might just be that your child didn't feel well during lunch or didn't have much of an appetite. But if this happens more often than not, it's time to take a look at the reasons why. Check out your school lunch schedule and talk to your child about the foods that are on the menu. See if there are specific meals that they don't like. Highlight these days and allow your child to take their own lunch. Or you might choose to eliminate school lunch completely and pack a lunch each day. If your child leaves their uneaten food in their lunchbox, you can see what they ate and what they didn't. Talk with your child and find out why they didn't eat lunch at school that day. Maybe they want more time with their friends at recess and didn't take the time to eat. There could be other factors that play into their lunchtime. Try to find out the reasons and you can start working on a solution. Paying attention to the menu at school can help your child know ahead of time what is available for lunch. Talk to them about eating a certain amount of their food. You might make a rule that they can't have the dessert until they have had three bites of their vegetable and eaten half of the main food item. You can't be there to enforce the rules, but if your child still comes home hungry you can make them accountable for their decision by not giving them a snack. When your child hates school School can be impossible to deal with when your child hates to be there. It can be a struggle every day to get your child off to school. How do you deal with a problem like that? You first need to find out the reason why your child is dreading school so much. The problem might be something that is easily solved. If there is another child at school who is causing problems for your son or daughter, you can talk to the teacher or principle to try to resolve it. Moving your child's desk away from the other child might alleviate the problem, or even switching teachers. You, as a parent, have to decide if a change in your child's attitude could help or if something else is needed. If your child doesn't have any friends at school it can be really difficult to go to school every day. When your children are in elementary school you can be an influence on your children and arrange a play time for your children - inviting other kids over. Becoming involved in their school day allows you to help volunteer and also see what is happening in the classroom. This perspective could help you find the problem that your child is having and suggest some solutions to try. If possible, volunteer your time to help the teacher. If your child is struggling with a particular subject you can give them the help they need. Whatever the cause is for their problem in school, find a way to help them to resolve it. Turn school time into a positive experience so that they will enjoy going to school. Children learn so much better when they enjoy what they are doing. We are all graded In elementary school, your child's grades will probably not show themselves as A's and B's but most likely S's and N's. Elementary schools tend to avoid the labeling of grades. It can be more difficult to find areas that your child needs help in. When junior high and high school come along the grades will be more important. You can teach your child early on about the importance of grades in a positive way. Grades are not the tell-all answers to how smart a person is, but merely a guide or tool to determine how well your child understands a particular subject. It's important not to over-emphasize the importance of the grade, but more the effort that is put into school in general. Since each child is different, try not to compare one child to another. While your oldest might make an effort and get A's, another might make just as much an effort and get C's. Help your children to have the self-confidence to be happy with their best effort despite the grade. When your child isn't doing well and isn't trying, you have a bigger problem. Starting your child early on about the importance of school and learning can help them make the right choices as they get older. How well they try in school can effect how well they try in the real world. Teach them the proper skills and tools to be confident in all they do and things will be easier for them. If your child is really struggling in a subject, help them to understand that everyone can't be good at everything. Find areas that they are good in and help to feel good about what they can do well. And help them work on the areas that they aren't as good at. Timely Dress We have all had the morning rush trying to find backpacks and matching socks. Who has time to deal with that, and even more, who wants that kind of stress to start their day? If you haven't experienced the shouting: "I can't find my other shoe. Where is my jacket?" -- you are probably one of the few. Most families have had to deal with this kind of a morning, sometimes every morning. Try some tips to help minimize the morning stress. Organize school clothes ahead of time. Try one week or even one day ahead. Hang pants and shirts together. Clip socks onto the hangers. Always put shoes and jackets away in the same place. We made special hanger organizers one year with our kids. We took pieces of fleece (you could use any kind of fabric) and cut them to fit over the hangers. The kids used fabric paint to write one day of the week on each organizer. Then they picked out their clothes for the week and put the outfit on a hanger, and added the fabric organizer over the top. If you are good at sewing, you could add a pocket to the front of each organizer for socks and hair accessories. You can also have your children lay out their clothes the night before. Have them decide what to wear and then have a special place that the clothes are placed, such as the top of the dresser or end of the bed. Make sure they have shoes and socks to go with the outfit. Another way to avoid the last minute scramble is to get up earlier in the morning. Having more time to get ready can help when something is lost. Keep the television off until everything is done, and the morning will be much calmer. Test Stress and Fears Some people have a fear of tests. For those of us that don't, it seems hard to understand. Yet it's important to be able to help your child if they have a fear or stress from taking tests. Without some way to control this, they will have a very difficult time in school and their grades will suffer. Talk to your child about why tests are given and explain that they help the teacher to understand the things the child has learned. Ease their fears that it judges everything about their learning. Show them how other things they do in school also count towards their grade. Make sure they know that you love them no matter what their test scores are. Let them know that there are more important things and that it isn't such a big deal. Don't downplay their fears but help them to know that it isn't the worst thing. Give them some practice tests to give them an idea of what tests they will be taking and teach them some techniques to calm down and decrease stress. Also, talk with their teacher for some ideas to help. It might be easier for them to test if they can work alone. It might be possible to allow them to talk their tests in the library while the other students are taking theirs in the classroom. Their teacher might have other suggestions as well. It's important to help your child alleviate their stress and fear of tests before it gets too bad. Unfortunately, taking tests is a big part of attending school, and it's difficult to avoid. Give your child every chance to be successful in school. Teaching Responsibility When your children start school, you have many great opportunities to teach them how to be responsible. As your children get older, you want to make sure they have this value or life skill. Being a responsible person gives you the edge with so many opportunities in life. Start your children down the right path. Help your child to find a place where homework is kept. When it is completed, remind them to put it in their backpack. If they don't, and you get a phone call from school the next day, don't go rushing to bring their homework to them. They will probably lose points in class by not handing it in the first day, but this is a small consequence when you want them to learn to take care of their own homework. Likewise, do the same thing with other situations involving school. If they have a certain shirt that they wear on school spirit day, remind them to get it in the dirty clothes basket to be washed in advance. Don't let their panic on the morning push you to do a quick load of laundry. Teach them the consequence of forgetting is wearing a different shirt. You can look for other chances to teach these lessons. If your children learn this skill while they are young, it will follow them as they get older. When they begin junior high and high school, they will already know the consequences of forgetting things for school, and they will be better prepared. As they get jobs, that sense of accountability will show in their performance at work. Their success in school and at work will be a direct result of the skills they learn when they are young. Teacher Recognition My kids love to make a card for their new teacher at the beginning of the school year. This might be viewed as a form of brown-nosing, but since they came up with the idea on their own, I figured it was probably innocent. They do the same thing for their piano and guitar teachers. Lots of parents get gifts for their children's teachers at Christmas and the end of the year. If you chose to do this, keep in mind a few suggestions that have come from teachers. They don't want any more apple decorations. They have so many, they could start their own store. Apples have always been the symbol of a school teacher and they have received quite a few over the years. Personal gifts are great. Teachers spend a lot of their own time grading homework and preparing lessons. Giving a gift that reminds them that they are a regular person is very thoughtful. Ideas can include spa gift certificates, lotions, and personal items. Teachers also spend their own money providing supplies for their classroom. You can check with the teacher and find out what items they are in need of. Many schools have book fairs and the teachers will include their own wish list for their classroom. Other items that could be useful would be treats and reward that the teachers give out to students. You can find out what kinds of things they give out by talking with your child. The teacher might also collect a specific item, and a gift relating to their hobbies would be great as well. Of course, teachers would appreciate any gift they are given, but value the ones that are given with a little extra thought in mind. Teacher's Pets People tend to form judgements based on appearance before they get to know you. If you've ever applied for a job, or have been on the receiving end, you know about first impressions. Unfortunately, this can happen at school too. Although teachers work hard to not have a favorite, it happens. How can you help your child when they are not the teacher's pet? I have three daughters with very different personalities. My oldest is very quiet and shy, and is a hard working student. My second oldest is the social butterfly and often gets in trouble for talking too much. My youngest likes to talk your ear off. She wants to point out all the obvious things that are happening around you. When your child isn't the teacher's favorite, but complains about the kids that are on this list, don't let it upset you. First, talk to your child and find out where their information is coming from. It might be something they have noticed in class. They might have overheard some other kids talking about it. Explain to your child that everyone has different personalities, and some people get along easier with others. Just because you see a child laughing with the teacher doesn't mean that this child is the teacher's favorite. And if the teacher calls on the same students to help all the time, it might just be because he or she knows that the student is willing to help. If your child wants to interact more with the teacher, encourage them. If they are shy and not usually outgoing, give them ideas of things they can talk to their teacher about. Explain that it isn't important to be popular but getting along better with their teacher is a good goal. Supplies for Success School shopping. The stores love this time of the year. They load their shelves with products -- full of color and covered in cute patterns and popular pictures. They tease us with the newest and best products available, guaranteed to save us time and make things simpler. My children run up and down the aisles in the school section, hoping I will buy them the decorator erasers. I have a tote in my closet full of school supplies from last year that we didn't need. I seem to be collecting them. We didn't need them again next year, but rest assured -- I will keep them yet another year. We might want to use the forty red pens that I purchased two years ago. You can be more sensible when purchasing school supplies. Go with what items you used last year. Your daughter might want the big, shiny trapper keeper, but did she use one last year? Did she find it easier to keep subjects in individual folders, or did she like a binder system with folders? When purchasing supplies, also consider how much of the items will need to go back and forth from home and school. When you add in books, do you or your children want to be carting around that much weight? Decorator pencils are very cute. However, the average yellow pencils work just as well. The same idea applies to other supplies. Determine what items you need and use, and decide if you will allow a few of the cuter (and not necessary) items to slip into the cart as well. Packing school supplies to take on the first day of school is part of the excitement. And that striped eraser just might make someone smile wider. Stressed out Kids Baseball practice, piano practice, dance class, after school activities, homework, family night, church activities -- are our kids doing too much? It's an epidemic that is sweeping through our homes. It's about giving our kids what we never had growing up, but too much can be a bad thing. While children are in school, it should be their primary focus. When we add too many activities during the evening, we are limiting the time they can spend doing homework or reading. Plus, you are talking away what little family time is available when kids are in school. If you want your child to participate in other activities, try limiting the number of extracurricular classes they take. You can try different classes in different years, allowing your child to find the activities that they enjoy best and are good at. Let them take dance or soccer one year, and piano or softball the following year. Limiting our evening activities will also help our children. If they come home and you are stressed out, trying to get too many things done in the evening, that is going to roll down to your children and cause them more stress. Make your evenings a quiet and peaceful time, where you can help your children with their homework and spend some time together. Every parent wants the best for their child, but realizing now that giving them everything may not be best will help your child do better in school and have a stress free childhood. Giving them limitations will help them learn self-control and they will be more balanced as adults. In our fast paced society, it's a good idea to teach your child about what is most important - family and learning. Snack Time The kids are home from school. They haven't had anything to eat since lunch time three hours ago. They are starving. Will they reach for the bag of potato chips, or find some fruit wedges and dip? Helping our kids eat nutrition snacks is easy if they are the only choice. Don't buy the junk foods at the store and your children won't have to resist eating them. Here are some fun ideas for snack time at home. Kids love to dip. Make foods that they can dip with. Vegetables are a given, but fruits are also good with a fruit dip. You can make one using some whipping cream and jello mix. This sounds really sweet and sugary, but you are getting them to eat fruit as well. Limit their dip to a spoonful so they don't put too much on each piece. Adding creativity to the display or cut of the food makes it fun to eat. You can slice apples and cut them into bites and serve them with toothpicks or skewers. Add bites of bananas or other fruits between the apple bites. Fast snacks are another choice. Bagels with peanut butter, rice cakes, fruit, nutrition bars, granola bars, and fruit rollups are some quick ideas. Add a glass of fruit juice and your kids will be set. There are lots of recipes that you can find for your kid's after school snack. If you don't have time to bake during the day, make a batch of cookies or other snack on the weekend and freeze the dough or the cooked food. Then before the kids get home from school, pull it out of the freezer and let it thaw, or cook it. Providing nutritious snacks gives your kids the energy they need to make it to dinner time. Shoes and the people who wear them It was my fist day back to school. I stood outside my classroom, waiting for the instructor to unlock the door. I looked around at my fellow classmates. I suppressed a laugh when I noticed one girl and her outfit. She was very stylish in a bright sundress, and looked like she could have stepped out of a fashion magazine. She was dressed to the "T", including her silver pointy shoes. I have to give her credit for not having heels, at least they were somewhat sensible. I stood in my Skechers sport shoes and smiled inside. If you are going to be walking a lot, it is a good idea to have comfortable shoes. Make sure you have worn them a few times so that you aren't creating blisters on your first day of school. The same ideas apply to your children. Don't send them to school in their brand new shoes until they have worn them around the house for a while and had a chance to break them in a little bit. When you are picking out shoes for your child, or for yourself, consider what their purpose will be. Obviously, if they are to go with a specific outfit, the comfort might not be as important as it would be if you were planning on jogging in them. Find shoes that feel good and fit your feet. Children can typically wear a 1/2 size larger than their current foot size to allow for some growth. Later in the day at school, I saw the same girl. I wanted to go up and ask her how her feet were doing, but she was too far away, and I was too tired from walking to try to catch up with her. Besides, I think I already knew the answer. Setting School Goals Your kids can set goals for their school year. This is a great way to get them thinking about what they want to do for the year and find their focus. Going to school becomes such an everyday occurrence. Help your kids remember that the purpose of school is to learn. Goals can be set for any age group. From the kindergartener to the high school or college student, take a few minutes at the beginning of the school year to set some goals. Now that I'm a mom, I can see how much this would have helped me throughout school. Especially when I began college -- I was on my own. If my parents would have sat down and helped me set some goals, I probably would have finished college 15 years ago instead of going back now. Make the goals as simple or details as needed, depending on the age of your child. For young children, the goals can involve making new friends, behaving in school, and getting homework done on time. As they reach junior high and high school, they might want to set a goal to try a variety of classes and not just pick their favorite subjects. When your children reach college age, help them find their focus and decide on a course of study. Don't assume that the professors and advisors will do this for them. Talk with your kids about what they like and where their strengths are. Help them consider career choices based on the courses they prefer. Whatever age your children are at, setting goals is a great way to begin the school year and get your kids focused. Follow through with them and watch them succeed. Setting limits with clothes shopping I had a friend that I went to school with. Her father gave her a credit card to her favorite clothing store, and told her that her limit was $500 -- and not to go over it. Each month her dad would pay off her credit card, giving her another $500 to spend. She loaded up the credit card each month with new clothes. She had so many clothes that there were some she had never worn, and she rarely wore the same outfit more than once. I like simplicity. I could not understand the point of buying clothes that did not get used. I wondered what her life would be like when she got married and her dad no longer paid the credit card. I believe it is important to set reasonable limits on our children and their spending habits. The limit can be whatever you see fit, but should be appropriate for the child and should be able to teach them some value. Finding value in things helps us to appreciate them more and they will have a greater desire to take care of them. When I was young, we did not have a lot of money, and my mom set a spending limit for my school clothes. I was given $100 to get clothes with. It did not matter to her whether I went to a local department store or hit the big brand name stores, the amount was the same. I would buy my $42 Guess jeans and a few shirts, and that would take up all my money. I learned early on the lesson of value. The Guess jeans were really important to me and because they cost so much money, I took care of them. I could have spent the money better elsewhere, but I still learned from it. School Supplies Remember the line from "You've Got Mail" about a bouquet of sharpened pencils? It's time for school, and that bouquet could come in handy about now. In years past, our school has always handed out the school supply list two days before school started. This drove me crazy. For one thing, it only gave me one day to go get what my kids needed for the first day, and for another thing, the school sales were over. So I've started stockpiling school supplies. Once you have had your kids in school, you get a feel for the supplies that the school generally needs. Our elementary school is very big on glue sticks. Gone are the days when you took a bottle of Elmer's glue and had it refilled when you got low. Glue sticks are the way to go, less mess, easier to use, and no big globs of glue that take two days to dry. I have a big pile of extra glue sticks that I bought when they went on sale. Watch whatever items your children use. These are good items to find on sale and pick up before school starts. The summer before school starts is the only time I've seen school supplies on sale so make sure you take advantage of it. Some schools and teachers accept donations for other items used in the classroom. You can check with the teachers and find out what items they are in need of. This is a great way to help out the teacher. When the kids come home with their supply lists now, we sit down and go through my stash and check off the things we have, and what we still need. If you keep your supply filled, there shouldn't be a need for the quick dash to the store on the day before school starts. School Routine When school begins again, it takes my family a few weeks to adjust from the carefree days of summer to the strict schedule that always accompanies school. I've done what I could before school started to ease my kids back, but I've found that having a regular routine once school has started helps make the adjustment quicker. Each weekday is pretty much the same at my house. We get up at the same time and each child is responsible for making their bed, picking up their clothes, getting dressed, and eating breakfast. I wake up at the same time each day to help them where needed. They have picked out their clothes the night before and know where everything is that they need for the day. Homework has been completed the night before and is ready in their backpack. Part of our morning routine actually begins at night. The kids are bathed and everything is put away for the following day. The morning happens the same way each school day. They know what to expect, what time to leave the house, and what to get ready. They are established into a routine, whether they are aware or not. The t.v. stays off, which helps eliminate distractions. Following a routine can set good habits. Children handle daily stress better when they know what to expect. When a routine is established and followed, it allows kids to have some control over their day because they already know what will be happening. It makes getting ready for school each day much simpler. Starting good habits for the day will help your child as they get older. Having a nutritious meal and completing proper grooming is a part of our daily lives and it is always good to start our children out on these good habits. School Bully When I was in fifth grade, I had a girl who sat behind me and pulled my hair. I would turn around and ask her to stop. She would laugh and then do it again a minute later. There are all kinds of school bullies, from the innocent but cutting remarks to the violent hitting and punching. When your kid has a bully at school, something must be done. What to do will depend on the situation. Here are some suggestions. If your child has a problem during class, ask the teacher to move them to a different desk. Sometimes the student isn't bullying your child, but any child that is sitting by them. I had a daughter who was partnered up with the most difficult student in the class because the teacher thought that my daughter would help him behave. Instead, she started complaining about school and didn't want to go anymore. When I talked to her about the reasons why, I asked the teacher to move her. It took care of the problem for my daughter. If your child is being hurt at school, the teacher and principle need to know. More than likely, there is a procedure that the school follows with a student who is physically hurting other children. If they don't seem to be acting as you feel they should, talk to them again and find a resolution that you can all be happy with. If your child is the bully, you need to put a stop to it now. Hopefully the reasons would be obvious to you. This is not the type of behavior you want your child to continue. They need to learn to respect other children and behave properly. School books for college Okay, before you head to the bookstore, have you been to the bank and been approved for a loan? Buying books can be like purchasing a major home appliance. I was shocked to find that one French book was $175.00. Wow. That is a week's worth of groceries at my house, or a new pair of shoes for every member in my family. Once the sticker shock has worn off, here are some ideas to help you find the best deals. Find out if you have a book exchange at your school. Many colleges have student organizations that sponsor a book exchange where you can buy used books for less than the bookstore rate. If there isn't one available, this might be something that you can start at your campus. This is also a great place to sell back your used books because you can set the price and get more than the bookstore will give you. Also, check out some other places online that sell books. Just make sure that you have all the information about what book you need, including the edition. You can be stuck without a book while you wait for shipping, so make sure you order early. Campus bookstores will sell used books, but they usually go first. So make sure you start shopping for your books early to assure finding a used book. Campus bookstores are going to be the most expensive place to get your books, so check out your other choices first. If you don't have any other options, you will end up purchasing full price for your books. This gets really expensive really fast. Try to keep your books in good condition so that you can sell them back for the most money possible. Schedules I just started back to college. My oldest boy just started morning kindergarten. My youngest boy started pre-school. I had another child start junior high, and two others that are in elementary school. My schedule is insane. More than insane. I'm not really sure how I am even managing to keep it all straight. We are just finishing the first week, and I haven't forgotten to pick up anyone, and I even went to the right classes myself. Having a schedule is a great way to help you stay on task. We can give our children schedules, and I've even heard of husbands that had a schedule, although I believe that is just an urban legend. If you are having difficulty completing what you need to do each day, try writing it out. Break your day down into the times that you are awake. Next, include time to get ready in the morning and complete any household chores you normally do. Make spaces for your meals and other necessities that you do each day. Then look at how much time I left. Don't be scared when you see how little time there is. The purpose of a schedule is to make the most of the time you have. Prioritize the events and tasks that need to be completed first. Find a way to work your schedule to make the best use of time. You can try running all your errands at the same time or on the same day. Group similar tasks together. Then take your schedule with you and try to follow it. Adapt where needed. It takes some time to adjust to having a schedule, but assessing your time, prioritizing it, and filling your available time with the tasks you need to complete will help you get done everything you need to do in a day.
Safety Helps Make sure your kids are safe. We all want to protect our children. When they are away at school, we have little control over their day. Prepare now for some basic school safety. If your children walk to school, walk with them and check out safety concerns. Roads with busy traffic should have a crossing guard. Teach your children how to cross the street safely. They should stay on the sidewalk until the crossing guard gives them the signal to cross. My family has a password that we use if someone else needs to pick them up from school. We have taught our children to ask for the password before going with anyone else. This way they know that it is okay to go with that person, because we gave them the password. Safety also involves teaching your children about talking to strangers. Let them know which houses along their school route are safe to go to if they need help. Teach them about common practices that kidnappers use, such as asking for help finding a dog. Help them to understand the importance of staying in groups when walking. Talk to them so they are not frightened but understand how important these safety rules are. The best bet is to have them not talk to people they don't know. If your child needs medication during school, check out the policy at the school your child is attending. Each school differs on how they handle this. If possible, give your child any medication before and/or after school to avoid having someone else administer it to them. Many schools have started an emergency kit in their classrooms and may ask for donations. If your child's class doesn't do this, you might suggest one. School safety starts with us. Reading Time It's time to go back to school. If your kids haven't been reading over the summer, now is a great time to get them started again. Not all kids like to read but it is so important during school years. Here are some ideas to make reading more fun. Start an incentive for your kids based on reading time or number of pages read. After they reach their goal, take them to get ice cream or some other treat. Find a variety of reading materials for your children. Introduce them to different genres to teach them about different kinds of reading available. They can try reading a mystery, and then non-fiction book. Science fiction and adventure books are really popular with boys. Girls like books that they can relate to. Find books that are appropriate to their age level. And don't forget the little kids. Reading to them will help them appreciate reading as they get older. Children that don't like to read can still find things they enjoy reading about. There are magazines available for every topic. You can find something on their favorite subject that they can read. If your child wants to be a pilot when they grow up, find books on flying and building airplanes. Finding something that is interesting will help inspire them to continue reading. Reading builds a foundation for learning that will follow your children throughout their lives. It is such an important skill to have and is necessary for school. Teaching your children good reading skills also allows them discipline for other studies. It helps with concentration and comprehension. Successful reading skills will help your children become better at school. And we all want that, right? No more Homework Hassles Homework time can be as bad as getting your child to clean their room. They've been at school all day, and they don't want to sit down and do any more work. How can you help your child avoid the hassle? First, establish a specific time each day that is set aside for homework. Having a routine helps kids know what to expect, and they adjust better. Check your family schedule to find a time that can work consistently. Next, have all items needed for homework in the same area for easy access. If your child uses a computer to type reports, make it available in any easy location. Keep a supply of pencils, crayons, paper, and markers -- as well as a pencil sharpener, nearby so that your child isn't spending homework time looking for supplies. If you kids don't have any homework, have them use the time getting some extra reading done. Also, help your kids keep track of deadlines for homework projects by writing them out on a calendar or another method of tracking. Younger children will need help with their homework. It can be very frustrating if they don't understand something and there is no one to help them. Make sure that you or someone else is available when they are doing their homework so they can get the answers they need when they need them. Make sure your children don't wait until the last minute to complete their assignments. It's a lot of stress for them and you. I'm sure many parents have spent Sunday night helping their child finish up an assignment they forgot about. And speaking of forgetting, make sure they get in the habit of putting their homework away for school tomorrow. No parent likes the phone call asking them to bring something to school that their child forgot. Lunch Time Back to school means back to school lunch as well. What are your kids going to eat? It's the school lunch vs. home lunch debate. Here are the some things to consider when decided which option you would like. School lunch is easier for the hectic mom or dad, or anyone who doesn't have the time in the morning to pack a lunch. School lunches usually have two choices each day so that your kids can pick what they would prefer. They are well-balanced and include juice and milk. Typically, the lunch ladies make sure that each kid gets the main food item. This means your child won't fill up on cookies for the day. Some schools monitor what the kids eat as well. You can check with your school to see what the rules are. School lunches can be more expensive than bringing something from home, but the time saved in the morning can be worth it. Packing a lunch allows you to have more control over what your kids eat. You can pack the foods you know they like. You can still send money to buy milk or juice, or provide the drinks as well. You know that your children will be getting the nutrition that they need for the day. A third alternative would be to buy school lunch for your kids but pack a lunch on the days that your kids don't want to eat school lunch. It makes home lunch a fun alternative and it gives them a choice when they don't like what the school lunch is that day. Whatever you decide will be a good decision. There is no right or wrong on this choice, it's just a matter of personal preference. Kindergarten Secrets Oh, it's time for kindergarten. If this is your first kindergartner, you may not know what to expect. Kindergarten varies from school to school, but here are some general principles that apply across the board. Kindergarten assessment is done before your child begins school. The teacher will do some testing to see where your child is at as far as learning. As you watch this take place, you might feel like you are being put under the microscope. "You didn't teach your child the shapes for oval and rectangle? He doesn't know what the J sound makes? Try not to take personally the responses that your child gives. Everyone learns at a different rate. Assessment will review colors, shapes, letters, writing, more & less, and other skills as applicable to the teacher. Remind yourself that this is just a help for the teacher, and a way to gauge what your child has learned since they began. During parent teacher conferences, the teacher will refer to the assessment to see where your child has progressed. Prepare for homework. Your child will have homework assignments, probably on a daily basis. You will have to help with these. Think of it as after school learning, and you are the teacher. This is also a good time to start collecting magazines or newspapers, because you can be sure that you will have to start clipping out pictures that begin with the letters of the alphabet. Kindergarten is a great time for your child. They will learn and grow so fast during this year. They will make new friends and begin to discover more of the world around them. With your help, this can be a successful year for them. Junior High nerves I experienced something new this year. My oldest daughter got a ride to her new junior high for orientation and I met her there. As I was nearing the school in my car, I got a case of nerves. It was really strange. I thought to myself "Why am I feeling nervous?" I was not the one starting at a new school. Then I thought of my daughter and wondered if she was already there. When we met up and stood in line waiting to get her a locker, I asked her if she felt nervous. She told me that just as they got to the school, she had a case of the butterflies. Just about the same time I did. I would guess that her nerves were probably the reason I had them -- somehow we were connected. It gave me some insight into how she was feeling because I felt it too. Being nervous for a new school or other new experience is normal. It's our body's way of telling us that we are alive and ready to try something new. Or, at least that is how I view it. If your child has this happen, explain that it is normal and allow them to talk about how they are feeling and why. You can help to reassure them that everything will be fine. Transition to junior high makes children nervous because they don't know what to expect. They have heard all the horror stories about school from older kids. Give them a chance to become familiar with the school and help them find their first classroom. Help them with their locker and show them where the bathroom and lunchroom are. Make sure they have someone to eat lunch with. All these things will help ease their anxiety. Is too much homework a bad thing? When one of my daughters was in third grade, my husband and I were sitting at parent teacher conference. I was a little surprised when my husband asked the teacher to give our daughter more homework. He didn't feel like she was being challenged enough. I was also impressed, because I worked nights, and it left my husband in charge of overseeing homework. I knew he had been paying attention to what the kids were doing. Is there such a thing as too much homework? I guess to answer this question you have to look at the reasons why you are asking. Is there not enough time in the day or week to complete it? Is the due date too soon after assigning the work? Is your child struggling to understand the subject? Put everything into perspective. If you child doesn't have enough time because they have other things going on every night, then you need to decide what is most important. This is your child's education, and if their plate is too full, something else should go. If the teacher is not giving a reasonable amount of time to complete the assignment, make sure you know when it was really assigned. Your child might be telling you a later date because they forgot or have put off doing the work. If it is really an unreasonable amount of time, talk to the teacher and explain the problem. They might think the assignment was easier than it really is, or that it didn't require as much research. Your child might also have misunderstood the assignment and is making it more difficult. If your child is struggling with the topic, find them some help and see if you can get more time to finish it. If you can't provide the help, find a tutor or someone else that can help them. Immunization There is a lot of information out about immunizing your child, and a lot of opinion and controversy. There is a lot of misinformation available as well. No matter what choice you make, these are things you need to do before your child can start school. Before your child starts kindergarten, he or she will need to have a physical performed by a doctor. Your school should provide the forms, including the immunization paperwork. If you have completed immunizations, the nurse can complete the dates for all the shots and give any that are still needed. If you have chosen not to immunize, you will probably need to make an appointment with the healthy department. This will vary from state to state. In Utah, you have to meet with a nurse who will tell you all the harmful effects to your child by not immunizing. You have to stick to your decision, and then they sign the waiver. There can be a lot of pressure on you if you have chosen not to immunize your child. Make sure you are well informed and can explain your choice. As your child progresses through school, they may need boosters to their previous shots. When they begin junior high, they will need all the paperwork completed again, or copied from the elementary school. Whatever choice you make with your children and their health, make sure you are aware of the pros and cons and make your choice wisely. It's often easier to immunize and avoid the pressure that is associated with choosing not to. However, if you feel strongly about not subjecting your children to the shots, be informed about your choice. Make the right choice for you and your children. I'm not popular My first grade student came home from school on her first day. I asked her which of her friends were in her class. She named two. I asked if she played with the other friends at recess. She said no. I asked specifically about one friend she had played with in kindergarten. "No, she's with the popular kids." I did a double-take and asked her to repeat herself. I didn't hear her wrong. She was talking about popular kids. In first grade. I gave a typical mom response that was something like "There is no such thing as popular and not popular. You are only in first grade." She assured me that such things did exist. This honestly blew me away. What are we teaching or not teaching our children? Why do ten year old girls get manicures? Why do eight year old girls get their hair streaked? I hardly believe that as parents, we look at the carefree life of our children and feel sorry for them. I doubt we think "Oh, I can't wait until they get a job and then come home to clean their house everyday." I think it is quite the opposite. We longing wish for the days when our biggest stress was whether little Bobby thinks we are cute or not. I wish that parents would pay more attention to the influence we have on our children. Teach them to be kids and have fun and deal with their own little world. Don't bring them into ours. They grow up too quickly as it is. Please don't push them down that road too soon. And please don't let your seven year old daughter act snobby so she can be popular. Just teach her to be nice and say hello to kids she doesn't know. How to let go I have a kindergartener starting school tomorrow. He is my little boy, my handsome little boy. I'm having anxiety. He's not my first child to start kindergarten but he is most definitely my most stubborn. I worry about him. So how do we learn to let go and allow our children the opportunity to grow and develop? I'm going to try to take my own advice. Children need to reach a point where their self-confidence begins to blossom, and they can't do that while we hold on in the shadows and watch their every move, waiting to see if they need us. We have to reach a point where we are willing to trust in our child and allow them to stretch their own wings and see how far they can go alone. It doesn't mean that we aren't there when they need us, but we must decide that we have done our best with our children and give them the opportunity to excel. Walk away. I remember seeing other parents when I took my older children on their first day of school. These parents didn't leave. They took their child into the classroom and then stood back to watch. It was as if they were waiting for their child to need them so they could reassure themselves that the need still exists. So, walk away. Trust in the teacher. I'm playing the "what if" game with myself today. What if he gets lost? What if he doesn't remember where to go? What if? Trust in the teacher -- they went to school to learn how to be a kindergarten teacher. They have done this before. They are as smart as you. They are probably a parent. So tomorrow, I will walk away and trust. This will be my mantra. Homework School is out for the day. The kids are home. They have had their after school snack. Now they want to play. When should they get their homework done? This answer depends on your kids and your schedule at home. Find the time that works best for your family. Sometimes it works best to get the homework done and out of the way. Right after school, you can sit down with your kids and talk about their day. It's a great time to pull out the homework and get to it. After dinner you can clean up the kitchen table and plop down the textbooks. The kids have had time to play and relax after school. This might be the perfect time to engage their minds. If your kids are early risers, getting homework done in the morning before school might work well for your family. They can eat breakfast and get ready for school. Instead of morning cartoons, this might be a great alternative. If you have extra time, sit down with your kids and help them finish up their homework. This will be a great prep to get them ready for a day of learning at school. You don't want to do the last minute homework dash. This can happen when your children don't have a regular homework time. It can be easy to forget about homework after school. Next morning, as your children gather their things for school, they suddenly remember. This adds stress to your morning and gives unnecessary stress to your kids. Make sure that you find a time to do homework that works for your family. Consistently doing homework or after school reading helps develop successful study habits that will carry with them. Helping our children learn Children learn by example. They learn all our bad habits, bad words, and bad attitudes. But just as much, they learn from the good things we do as well. My oldest son did not want to sit with me and listen to me read him books. I've always loved to read and it's been very important to me as our children grow. I have always read to our children. But my husband seldom reads. I realized that my son was not watching me, but his father. My husband and I tried something. He started reading every day. Pretty soon, my son was ready to sit down and listen to the story. He wanted to be like his dad. He was bringing me books and asking me to read to him. We can encourage learning in our children. Every situation we face can be a learning experience. Teaching our children involves more than just moral and ethical learning, but basic school type learning. As you are driving down the street, have your younger children pick out specific letters on the billboards you pass. Have small children find a specific color. You can turn dinner time into counting time. Let your kids figure out times tables while you set the table. When children can see how the things they learn in school apply to their daily life, it makes it more fun to learn these things. It can help them become more excited about school and make learning easier. Find ways to encourage learning in your children, both by teaching and example. Get them excited about learning and you can open doorways for them. There are so many opportunities available and so many things that we can learn from. Make sure your children take advantage of all they can. Be the example to them in their lives. Handwriting -- It says what? My oldest daughter has the worst handwriting. She is old enough to know better, but seldom takes the time to slow down and write legibly. How often do you write in a day? Probably more than you think. And when your child has poor handwriting in school, their grades can suffer -- merely by the fact that their teacher can't read what they've written. How can you help? Cursive writing used to be a bigger deal than it is now. I remember being told in junior high that I would have to write in cursive once I reached high school. In high school, they told me I would have to write cursive in college. None of these held true. It doesn't matter whether your child writes in print or cursive, as long as you can read what it says. If your child isn't writing well, find out why. Are they just too lazy to take the time, or are they having difficultly with the letters? Once you know the why, you can begin to fix the problem. Have your child practice writing for 15 minutes a day. This can be done during regular homework time. Start with letters that are more difficult and work your way through the alphabet. Make sure they know how to hold their pen or pencil correctly. This will help their hand relax and not tire as quickly. Pens or pencils should be held with the thumb and forefinger pinching the pen, and the middle finger can go underneath as a rest. Make sure your child is writing each word correctly. You can find notebooks with the alphabet written inside the cover, and these can be a guide. Most will show the correct way to write each letter. Give your child the tools they need to be successful in school. Good health at school As a parent, we have all had the days when our child was too sick to go to school. And as we re-arranged our schedule to accommodate staying home with them, we probably thought about where they could have caught the bug. Most likely, we will place the blame on the school. But at the same time, how often do we send our children to school with a little cough or runny nose? It's a double-edges sword. Here are some basic guidelines to follow when deciding whether to keep your child home or not. Assess how they are feeling. If they are tired and lethargic, or running a fever -- they need to stay home. Fevers are a good sign that your child is contagious and can make other children sick. Be courteous to the other children and their families and keep your child home. Your kid will thank you and so will the other moms. If your child is feeling okay but has some common symptoms such as a runny nose, give them a cold medicine to help with the symptoms and teach them some basic hygiene tips. When they blow their nose, have them throw away the tissue and wash their hands. Or place a small bottle of hand sanitizer in their backpack and have them rub some on. If they are sneezing, teach them to use their upper arm to block the sneeze. This will help keep the germs from spreading and keep them off their hands. Proper hygiene can help prevent your child from getting a cold or sick bug from someone else at school. Have them always wash their hands after using the bathroom and before eating. We can't prevent all the germs from getting to our children but we can do our part. Food Guide for Kids A national study shows that more and more children are dealing with obesity. The numbers of children with poor nutrition is astounding. Macaroni and cheese, hotdogs, and French fries were among the top food choices for children. So how do we get them to eat better? The first step is to make sure they eat what is cooked. If you are serving a food dish they don't like, they can have the choice of eating it or not having dinner. This can be really difficult at first and can start a big fight. When introducing new foods that you think your kids won't like, also serve something good that you know they will eat. This can help eliminate the problem of them "starving to death". Once your children know that they must try new foods, it allows you to begin experimenting. For our family, I found a recipe book that had 36 weeks of recipes. The first time we used the book, each family member rated the dinner item. I placed a star by the recipe for each family member that liked the food. Now when we go through the book, if an item has fewer than 3 or 4 stars, I skip that meal. Find recipes that provide good nutrition -- legumes, vegetables, fruits. We all remember the food pyramid from our days of school. If your kids are eating school lunch, they are getting one good nutritious meal. You can follow their food guidelines when planning your own meals. Keep the monthly calendar with the meals the school has planned, and follow them for dinner (in a different month). Introduce foods that you know your children didn't like before, and have them try one bite. Kid's taste buds change over time, and something they hated before they might really like now. Eating Healthy Proper eating at home can make the difference in your child's behavior during the school day. If they have good nutrition at home it will give them the energy they need to get through the day, and give their brain what it needs to think. Children that don't eat breakfast or don't eat well can be too tired during the school day. It is difficult to learn when you can't stay awake. Morning time can be a big rush out the door, but it is important to take the time for breakfast. Stocking up on fast breakfast choices is easier than you think. I usually cook a hot breakfast on the weekends and Monday mornings. I make extra pancake batter for waffles or pancakes and freeze the cooked item. I lay out each pancake or waffle flat on a cookie sheet until they are frozen and then toss them in a freezer baggie. They keep their shape because they are frozen and my kids can pop them in the toaster for breakfast. There are other ideas you can come up with to make breakfast easier. It's easy to provide a nutritious breakfast in the midst of the morning scuttle. My kids usually fix cereal before I get up in the morning. If this happens in your home as well, supplement the cereal with some orange juice or other fruit drink. Add toast with jam or try some slices of fresh fruit with their cereal. There are many products on the market that make breakfast fast and simple. Breakfast bars can provide many nutrients that are needed for healthy bodies. Adding milk or juice can give an extra boost. Make sure whatever you fix for breakfast will fill your child up until lunch and will give them the energy they need. Computer Games There are some great software games out on the market that can help your child learn and boost their brain. They are fun to play and keep your children learning all year long. They can be so entertaining that kids don't realize that they are learning while they play. Math games are great to engage the mind and get those math essentials down. They can be fun and educational at the same time. Math is a critical skill that children need to develop. Computer games can be a great tool to enhance the learning experience. Early childhood learning games can give your child a head start before beginning school. They teach shapes, colors, letters, and numbers. They help with recognition and learning skills. They are easy to navigate and require very few computer skills to use. If your child can learn to use a mouse, he or she will be able to run most early childhood games. Software programs also give your children beginning computer skills. It's amazing to see how fast a child can learn to use the computer or other electronic equipment. It seems like they are born with the knowledge now. When your children use software programs on the computer, they learn how to use the mouse. It also helps with beginning keyboard skills. It's easy to find software programs for different subjects with all different ages. A basic search on the internet will give you lots of choices. Always check the ratings and make sure that the software is compatible with your computer. Many websites will have a place for feedback from parents that have already tried the software. This can help you find something that works best for your child. Clothes on a budget The kids have grown several inches, their pants are all worn out, their jacket sleeves reach just below their elbows, and their shoes have holes in them. You have to go school shopping, but you want to stick to a budget -- you've got other kids to buy for also. As a family with five kids, we have this system worked out. First, we have a fashion show before we begin shopping. We pull out all the Fall clothes and try them on. I keep a list of what each child has, and specific things they need, such as a shirt to go with their red plaid skirt. Once we have taken inventory, we have a good idea of what we will need to buy. Before the shopping excursion, we go get lunch. This is a tradition with my girls, and as my boys grow, I'll start one with them as well. We chill at our favorite restaurant and fill up on the energy we'll need to tackle the clothes shopping. This year, their grandmother and aunt came too. Once we hit the stores, I look to see what sales are being offered and focus on the clothes we need that fall in line with the sales. If one store has a great sale on jeans, we'll look there first. Once we get the essentials, the girls can begin looking for other fashions that they want but don't need. We end it by finding some great shoes that will last throughout the year and be comfortable on their feet. This is an area that I like to splurge a little more and get a good quality shoe. They provide better cushion and support that my growing children need. Clothes Inventory Before we go shopping for school clothes, we always take an inventory of what clothes my children still have and what they will need for the next year. This will vary from family to family, but with five kids, we only buy what we need. Taking an inventory of your clothes is really helpful when you don't want to spend more than you need to or you are working on a tight budget. It's also helpful when you are trying to cut down on the amount of clothes that your child has. I'm sure every family has one child that empties their dresser drawers on the floor looking for a particular shirt. Minimizing their clothing helps them to be more organized and you have less waste. Our inventory begins with a fashion show, where the kids can try on all their clothes and make sure they have shirts that match everything that still fits. I keep track of what they have and what they will need. You can have a fashion show be as simple or as fancy as you want. As you have your children try on their clothes, make sure they still fit and are not worn out. When you are going through their clothes, don't forget to pay attention to belts and accessories that they need for their outfits. I also look for shirts and pants that can be mixed to make different outfits. We decide how many pants and shirts each person needs. My youngest daughter always has more clothes than everyone else. When my kids don't need anything, I let them pick out one new outfit and a few new shirts. Taking inventory is a great help in finding a beginning spot when you go shopping. It lets you know what your children have and the essentials that you need to make sure to pick up. Class parties If you volunteered to be a room mother for your child, you will probably be a part of planning parties. Classroom parties might be different at different schools and probably applies mostly to elementary age classes. This can be a lot of fun and helps you get to know the other kids in your child's class. Our school has two classroom parties a year. The first one is Halloween, and then Valentine's Day. As part of these parties, you will have specific things that need to be done. You can collect donations in the form of money or candy for the kids in the class. Send home a note with the kids asking for a few dollars or a bag of candy. Or if you are trying to reduce the sugar intake, collect small toys that can be given out in place of candy, such as pencils, erasers, and other small items. Plan activities and games to do during the party. Find out what your time frame is for the party and make sure you have enough for the kids to do during that time. Ideas for the Halloween party include having a Halloween costume contest, making craft items, bob for apples, make popcorn hands (use clear gloves, add candy corn in each finger and fill with popcorn), and do an art project. You can play games that involve relays or guessing. Valentine party ideas would be similar but adapted for Valentine's Day. Check with the teacher and find out if they will be trading Valentine cards before the party or during the party. Take collections for the party and plan games and activities that center around Valentine's Day. Enjoy the time with your child and the other kids in their class. Avoiding Stress As I write this article, I am juggling so many balls that I want to duck my head, expecting them to crash at any moment. I am the queen of stress. As such, I've had a lot of practice dealing with stress and helping to keep it from driving me to the funny farm. I try to let the little things go. This is really big for me, because I want to control everything and every situation -- because I can do it better. I've had to let go of the things that really don't matter so that I can devote my energy and focus on things that do. I do a lot of deep breathing. When you feel things getting out of hand and you don't have a second to spare, that's the time when you need to take a minute and stop. Just stop. Take a deep breath and stretch your arms up high in the arm. Circle them around and stretch them to the sides. Breathe in and out. Then continue what you were doing, and you should find that it's a little easier to deal with. Get some help. When you just cannot do it all, find others that can help you. This is another area that is hard for me. It goes back to the fact that I can do it best and I want it done my way. Realize that other ways will work just as well and let someone help you. It is so important that we watch our stress and make sure that it doesn't take over. Stress affects so many things in our bodies and controls how we interact with other people. Watch your stress levels and take care of yourself. Your body will thank you later. College for Oldies The kids are older. You are older. You have more time on your hands. You decide that it's time to go back to school and finish your degree. Now what? There are several choices to consider. First, you'll need to research the schools in your area to find what works for you and your time. There are courses you can take in the evenings, weekends, or even online. You can take the traditional route and attend day classes. Evening and weekend classes are more informal and often smaller in class size. You'll find older students, parents, and grandparents. Online courses can be worked on your own schedule but usually have a heavier homework load and harder tests. You have to have a lot of self-discipline and motivation. Day classes have more action. Most students take classes during the day and the classes are larger. Next, you have to enroll. This involves admissions and orientation. You might want to meet with a counselor to discuss your class options. You'll need to find out class requirements and schedules. If you know what your major will be, you can meet with a counselor in that department. They will tell you what you should take and answer most of your questions. Registration can be confusing. You have to work out the classes you want with what is available and fits in your schedule. Once you get registered and know what your classes are, find your books and get ready to start school. If it's been a long time since you've been to school, expect that things will have changed a lot. Enjoy the chance to learn new things and expand your mind. And try not to roll your eyes at the giggly girls in your classes. Parking on campus Large campuses come with lots of problems. When it takes 10 minutes to drive to school and 20 minutes to find a parking space, it might be time to make some adjustments. Scoping out a parking spot can be very frustrating. Who has the time to sit and wait for someone to get out of class, and then follow behind them in your car until you find their parking spot? We can look at a parking lot and wish for more space, but even if the plans are underway at the school, we will probably be long gone before it is ever built. Here are some ways to get around the parking problem. Find alternate transportation. Many schools offer free or reduced bus fare for students. Your commute will be longer, but you don't have to stress about finding a parking spot, and you can use the extra time to work on homework. Ride a bike. If you don't live that far away, you might want to consider riding your bike to campus. Find out if the buildings on campus have bike racks where you can lock up your bike. You can ride to each class, saving on walking time, and avoid the parking hassle. If you live in an area with good weather, you might be able to do this year round. Find someone to share the commute with. Although you'll have to take your turn driving and parking, it will be great on the days when it is someone else's turn. You can also see what alternatives are available at the college where you attend. They might have other suggestions available, such as shuttle buses that take you to campus from a parking lot farther away. Watch for other ways that you can save on your commute and avoid the parking lot hassles. Packing the Backpack I love being prepared. Like Melanie Parker in "One Fine Day", I want to be able to create a super hero costume from the contents of my purse. Or in this case, backpack. I want to be prepared for any situation. I want to have a snack available for those days when I forgot to eat as I rushed out the door. I want to have all my books, notes, and everything else I need for class. However, I need to be able to carry my backpack without pushing a wheelbarrow. I've found a system that works well for me. I have a spot on the side of my work area that houses my books and supplies for school. Each night, I grab all the books and supplies I need for the following day and put them into my backpack. Since mornings are a mess, I need this packed the night before. I make sure I have everything I need. I like to pack homework that doesn't need to be done yet -- in case I find some extra time. Technology has made things more compact, so instead of a CD player and my folder of French CDs, I have loaded them onto my iPod, saving room and weight. As you pack your backpack, look for things that you don't need and things that you wish you had. Decide what is necessary and what can wait until you get back home. Pack everything so you know where to find it and it is all secure. Make sure you can tote it around on your back without the need for a chiropractor at the end of the week. And if you can still fit in that extra snack, you'll probably appreciate it later.
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