If you’ve found yourself in the throes of parenting school aged children and wondered how it happened so quickly, welcome! I am feeling those feelings, momma. I woke up the other day and just struggled to accept that we have made it completely out of baby, toddler, preschool life and moved very securely into school aged. Wow! That was an amazing trip.
I thought about a few key things I’ve learned during the last three years of my kids being in elementary school that I wish I had been told going in. So I decided to share them in case they might be helpful to you!
Whether you are in public or private school, I think these things apply. They are super simple and probably seem silly but it saved my a TON of last minute stress when I finally figured out a plan that seems to get me through these weird moments.
Like I said, this is a quick list of really small preparations you can do as your school year begins, that will save you from last minute store runs after bedtime. Being prepared is key to keeping your cool when you see those colored fliers and fundraiser envelopes in your kids backpack.
The first, and arguably the most helpful, thing I started doing to make life simpler is keeping a couple hundred dollars in $1 bills in my house at all times. And to go a bit further, I also keep rolls of quarters, dimes, nickels, and pennies.
If you have kids in public or private school the phrase “death by 1000 cuts” probably feels pretty relatable. No matter if you are paying tuition or not, the schools are constantly soliciting for a dollar here and a quarter there for some fundraiser or another. It’s a necessary part of school funding, it seems, and the asking never stops. There is always a money need, and I am not complaining about that, but the way it is asked is problematic.
Tell me if you know how this story goes. Little Johnnie comes home from school, throws his backpack down, and heads out to play. You go about your busy afternoon of homework director, meal preparer, laundry doer, and sibling referee, as the hours fly by at warp speed. As soon as the little Johnnie’s head hits the pillow for bed, you have a moment to go through his bag to see what the school day produced, and there it is. A bright yellow piece of copy paper with the announcement of “free dress” for $1 plastered across it, shoved into the corner of his backpack, under his lunch box. “Exact change only, no checks or credit cards” in comic sans bold, font size 20, is centered on the paper and your heart sinks. Who, in the heck (%^$&), has cash at home anymore???
It’s now that you realize you have two options. 1. You can take a chance that he will forget about it and not mention anything about free dress, sending him to school in uniform while his peers show up sporting their favorite duds. This is a high risk behavior. Chances are he will totally remember and your morning could blow up before you’ve even had your first cup of coffee. But it is an option so I am acknowledging it. 2. You can throw on your shoes, and likely put back on your bra, to head off to whatever open store you can find and buy a pack of gum to get cash back in $1 bills. And this is oh so commonly the choice we ultimately make, and oftentimes the store was lucky if I actually did remember to put back on the bra. Sad but true.
Here’s the deal folks…we all know we are going to do whatever we can to let little Johnnie participate in free dress. We will do whatever we have to, to pull together that $1 but the problem is, that it isn’t just $1. This is only one of the $1’s that is needed for 72 different activities this month! So this is where my first tip of having a bag of small bills and coins in your cabinet is a total baller move.
Each school year, I make a trip to an actual bank and pull out a cash bag of small bills and coins to avoid all the late night scrounging and stress caused by the endless fundraising involved in educating our kids these days. Do yourself a favor and do this. It makes life so much easier.
Checks are like dinosaurs. They are mostly extinct with only a couple relics still around. It’s odd when asked to make payment by check but when that request is made, it is usually by our school! This tip is similar to my first tip in that its an uncommon form of payment, that when needed, can be troublesome to come by. So rather than be put in a bind and unable to pay for whatever the school has asked, I always make a point to start the school year with a check, check to make sure I have at least one full book of blanks checks available.
Discovering that you are out of checks the night you need one is never fun. They take time to order and ship in snail mail. Your only other option is to go to your bank or store and get a cashiers check or money order. Neither is convenient and rarely available around bedtime when you commonly discover that you need a check for school TOMORROW.
So add yourself a quick reminder to your calendar to check your check book before the school year starts. Say after me, “Alexa, remind me on August 1st to check my checks”. Now your all set!
Paperclips, staples, tape, rubberbands
Ok, my third tip is uncovering a theme I hadn’t noticed before but I’m realizing how often I must have been burned by these fundraisers, LOL! I can’t tell you how many times I was, by some miracle, able to dig up $2 here or $4 there, in exact change for two kids, and proudly send them off to school with their money, only to be told later that day the money was not attached to the form. Insert head explosion. Cheese and sprinkles you’ve got to be kidding me!!!
Wow, what a total kick to the vagina! I am serious when I tell you that this exact scene happened probably four times a year for each kid in my house. And that is why I finally invested in a supply of various attachment devices to prevent it from ever happening again.
This tip is dedicated to insuring that your efforts in my first 2 points are not wasted. You will need paperclips, staples, tape, rubber bands, envelopes, and plastic baggies, at some point in the year. Trust me. Just go ahead and add them to whatever school supply list you are already shopping from and your year will be off to a good start.
School app, FB page and email
Are you the mom who never seems to know what is going on at school? I am not, but I know many of you. This tip is not to shame you. I totally love you and your carefree ways! I don’t have any problem with dispensing info to people when asked, but I thought it might be helpful to point out some ways I stay “in the know” on school announcements.
Below I’ll tell you about all the forms off communication the school offers but the theme of this section is simple. Sign up for all possible channels of information! Website, email newsletter, apps, FaceBook page, text messages, they, while certainly eclectic and annoying, will keep you up to speed on the life of your little one.
First, the app. If your school has one, download it and turn on notifications. This app and my classroom app are actually the ONLY apps I allow notifications from. We can go into how much I dislike notifications from apps later but this one is actually sending me information I need to keep our school lives organized and prepared so I highly encourage the app and notifications allowed if your school has one.
Our principal and other admin often send important dates, school safety, club announcements, and volunteer request posts in our app. There is a full calendar and options to email or call the school staff from within the app. This is so helpful as a one stop shop for whats happening at school
Another app we have is specific to the classes my kids are in and what assignments they have. Over the years the teachers have changed what they use but Bloom and Remind are the two most recent. Both allow use to see what the kids have due, when tests are scheduled, communicate with the teacher and the other parents in the class, and even organize class parties with the room parents.
Both of these are the biggest resource of information to keep us looped into my kids school lives and prepared for what they need to be successful in their time there. These are a no brainer in my opinion and seem to stay on topic for what they are meant to offer you. That is not the case for my next source though. This one can stray a bit which is why I don’t like it as much.
Most schools have a Facebook page, ours is no exception. Facebook pages are great for being easy to find and bringing everyone linked to the school together for ease of communication. Our school posts lots of announcements and event info, as well as fun photos. The photos are the main reason I visit the Facebook page because that is one thing the apps do not do as well as social media does.
The thing I don’t like about the Facebook page is the commenting. People really like to forget themselves when behind a keyboard and post complaints and rants that aren’t helpful and most of the time just plain hurtful. I think it’s great for parents to have an outlet to communicate and build community but sometimes that privilege is abused and it clouds the good stuff you actually need, like dates, announcements and safety information, from being seen.
Other communication of important events is often sent in email newsletters, text messages and the school website. Make it a point to check those at least once a week. While it would be helpful of your school had a dedicated communication plan, that is usually not the case. Give them a break and do your best to keep up with whats going on.
Making my school nights smooth really helped keep everyone working on what was important and enjoying some fun by avoiding the stress that being unprepared can cause. I hope you will find these tips easy to do and helpful in making your week run a little more efficiently.