Well, we made it!

If you’re part of the Mecklenburg County school system, then you know we survived the first full week of school. Kids of all grades and ages started with a half week on August 24th while little kindergarteners had a staggered start date of anything between August 24th and August 31st.

Staggered Start

For those of you, like me, who don’t know what a staggered start is, it’s where the little kindergarteners go in for one day the first week of school with a few of their classmates to learn the ropes. They learn everything from where the bathroom is, to when they can eat snacks and where the cafeteria is. It’s easier for the teachers to show a few students at a time! And it was easier for my little mama heart to only send my kindergartener once that first week of school. 

But now, he’s there full time – all day every day.

Thank you to our teachers and schools

I am incredibly grateful for our school system and teachers this year — they’ve battled so many things in the past few years and have proven their resiliency and tenacity over and over again. These teachers are brave and full of so much compassion for their students. I asked my son’s kindergarten teacher what her favorite part of teaching was and she said, “I love watching them learn.”

If that’s not passion, then I don’t know what is. She’s been teaching for 20+ years and I’m so grateful for her expertise in an area that I am not proficient in. If I’ve learned one thing about public school, it’s that the teachers love what they do!

Pick up time

While the teachers are busy with their day, I’m sure many of you parents are enjoying some quiet moments while working, or tending to other littles, or maybe brunching with friends. But in the back of our head, pickup time is looming. I never realized how competitive I was until I started picking up my kindergartener with about 100 other parents outside a set of double doors. It’s the most stressful part of my day!

Suggestions to make school life manageable

Like you, I had some great ideas for the first week of school — photo ops, fun dinners, walking to school, and Pinterest-worthy lunch boxes. But we all know that’s not sustainable long term, right?! For the long term, here are some suggestions to make school life manageable for you and your children this year!

1) Have a snack ready when they come home

I don’t know about your kids, but mine comes home hangry! So much learning and playing at school burns calories and these growing kids need fuel to replenish. Even if it’s almost dinner time, I find it better for everyone’s mental health to have a small snack. For some creative ideas, try these fun kids snacks: https://www.tasteofhome.com/collection/fun-healthy-snacks-for-kids/  

I’m sure we don’t all have time to make custom snacks for our kids when they come home from school — let’s be honest here! Often I’m reaching for the prepackaged Pringles, peanut butter pretzels, or Annie’s Fruit Snacks. But something small will hold them over until it’s dinner time will help everyone’s attitudes be better. 

2) Let them play alone for a little while

Kids, especially elementary age, need time to decompress after so much learning. Deep imaginative play, such as Legos, building blocks, or matchbox cars, allows their brain to process what it has learned. I often hear my kindergartener repeat things he heard his teacher say. Or I’ll hear him play with imaginary friends of the same name as the students at his table. I let him play in his room uninterrupted (or require him to play in his room depending on the day) for at least an hour. With middle-of-the-day pickup time, this allows me a little more time in my work day to finish a few emails and get dinner started, uninterrupted.

3) Try to aim for an early bedtime on school nights

The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends 9-12 hours of sleep for elementary schoolers and 8-10 hours for middle and high schoolers. Doing the math backwards means that if a kindergartener needs to be up by 7 am to be at school by 8:15, then they need to be in bed between 7-9 pm. I know my little one needs at least 12 hours of sleep in a 24 hour period, so bedtimes on school nights are 7 pm. This can seem completely unrealistic to some, I know, but our children’s brains need sleep to be able to function optimally at school. 

4) Pack lunches the night before

Mornings are chaotic enough. Am I Right?? Try to pack or at least make a plan for their lunches the next day the night before. My son has too many allergies to eat the prepared food at school. Plus, I want to know what he’s eating on a regular basis! Packing his lunch the night before, even if I leave the cold stuff in the fridge, saves so much time and stress in the morning because the decisions are already made for what he’s eating and I can pack his lunch box on coffee deprived autopilot if I have to. 

5) Put their masks in a mesh bag at the end of each day and wash them at the end of the week

I’m not going to debate the politics behind mask wearing … but please know that we are all just trying to keep the kids in school this year. If you’re reusing fabric masks, then consider acquiring multiples. We purchased 7 breathable kids masks online and instead of losing them in the laundry, I have my kindergartener put them in a mesh bag next to our laundry basket. That way, they all get washed together when we do our laundry over the weekend. This prevents them getting lost inside a pair of shorts or tangled in the sheets.  

Small changes add up to success

I know this “list” can seem overwhelming if you were to try to tackle all of these at once, but small changes really add up to a more simple life overall. Try to pick one to do each week and see if your mental load improves. I don’t even do all of these every day, but the days that I can do most of these things, my mental health and my son’s attitude greatly improve! 

 
Photos courtesy Pixabay.com
 

Recah Harward. Born and raised in Charlotte, NC, Recah has a love for urban life, design, and community. She and her family live in Cornelius, NC and love being involved in the arts and culture surrounding small town life. As a licensed interior designer, she has designed many local projects and loves making a difference in lives through the use of design. Recah is a full-time working wife and mother, an avid reader, food-enthusiast, taco lover, and city-girl to the core. As an Enneagram 1 and recovering perfectionist, she is learning to love the imperfections of life and process emotions through writing. Check out her blog (www.recahharward.com) for more of her writing. 

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