Back to School: Tips and Tricks for a Successful School Year

By | August 21, 2013

Going back to school is never easy.

Too quickly, the lazy days of summer are replaced with bagged lunches, carpools and homework. To help ease the transition, I’ve reached out to experts to find out the best practices for ensuring kids and their parents have a successful school year.

 – Create Mini-Routines and Checklists –

 “Helping your family adopt mini-routines is an excellent way to help maximize time and minimize stress,” suggests Ana Homayoun, author of That Crumpled Paper Was Due Last Week and founder of Green Ivy Educational Consulting.

When creating routines, give your children enough responsibility to encourage ownership of the process, while building in checkpoints to ensure things don’t go haywire.

For example, Mom blogger, Sharon Rowley, the mother of six children ages seven through 12, has set up “go-to” stations in two of her family’s bathrooms. Each morning, the six children go to their respective bathrooms where they have trays that hold everything they need to get ready for the day. Each child is responsible for getting “as ready as possible” on their own before meeting their mom for one final check.

Sometimes Rowley has to fix a ponytail or re-tie a shoe, but her goal is to have her kids do as much as possible independently, which instills in them a sense of pride and confidence that will carry them throughout the years.

Here are 3 Tips and Tricks for a Successful School Year:

– Keep Things Simple –

These days, crazy schedules have become the norm. From early morning enrichment classes to after school sports and clubs, many children and their weary parents don’t know if they’re coming or going.

To help you and your children get a handle on the day, simplify things with a visual schedule and checklist.

Use manila folders to make the schedules, which can be divided into three parts: morning routine, things for the backpack and after school activities. Have your children draw pictures of the different activities they do throughout the day such as brushing teeth, packing homework or going to soccer practice.

Place Velcro® tape on the back of each picture, which will give you the flexibility to change the schedules as needed. Place schedules in a visible location such as near the back door or on the refrigerator door.

– Encourage Play Dates –

Another huge issue for many kids is learning how to make friends. Whether your child is new to the school or in a class where she doesn’t know many peers, socializing can be daunting.

Liz Zack, Editorial Director of, finds many parents struggle with helping their kids make friends. Zack suggests taking a proactive approach when organizing play dates. First, be sure to set up the play date at your house, which is most likely the place your child feels most comfortable.

Ask your child for the names of classmates he might like to have over and if that’s not successful, ask your child’s teacher for suggestions. When planning the activities, come up with a list of ideas the kids can do together that will also provide a bonding experience such as making foam pennants that feature the school’s mascot, beading key chains with fun messages or decorating lunch money holders made of recycled tins and paper.

 – Take the Hassle Out of Homework –

From difficult math problems to crumpled-up spelling lists, there is a lot to dislike about homework. Although I have no surefire way to make homework more “fun,” you can help make it easier for your children by creating individual homework stations for your children. These stations are designed to contain everything your kids need to complete their homework.

First, give children a (clean) deep-dish pizza box, which, is large enough to contain all their supplies yet small enough to be tucked away when not in use. Next, have your children make a list of the items they typically need to complete their homework such as pencils, scissors, glue and paper. Place these items in the individual pizza boxes, which are clearly marked with each child’s name.

When it’s time for homework, simply pull out the ‘stations’ while your kids pull out their books. The goal is to have everything your kids need at their fingertips, which eliminates distractions and keeps them on task.