FALL 2021: It is the post-lockdown season that students, teachers, and parents have all been looking forward to for many months.
Back-to-school rituals are part of what make each fall so much fun, but a seemingly endless list of tasks needs to be accomplished before the first day begins. After the uncertainty everyone has experienced this year, all feelings of anticipation and excitement seem to be more heightened. Easing into the new school year with a plan in place will create a calm atmosphere at home—and in the classroom.
“It feels so good to start the school year with an organized home” says Stephanie Klein, owner of Happinest Organizing. “I feel like if you can do things in August to get yourself prepared, it allows for a much smoother transition.”
She emphasizes that with any organizing project, the first step is to declutter. It doesn’t make sense to start organizing without this important first step.
Dressers and closets should be tackled first. Take out the items that no longer fit—or that the kids no longer like or are willing to wear. “This makes for a much smoother morning routine. You don’t want it to feel like a fire drill,” Klein says.
Klein is also a big fan of the checklist. “One important step in the morning routine is having a checklist in the area where they grab their backpacks to make sure that they have everything. If they are grabbing backpacks and heading out the door, it’s helpful to look at the checklist, make sure they’ve put in their homework folder and whatever it is that they need that day—maybe it’s an instrument. It totally depends on the age.”
The other important spot to declutter is the workspace. “After a year of home schooling, it’s important to declutter papers and other items laying around. Starting the school year with a fresh, organized area creates a calm, clean, and efficient work environment.”
Top of mind is also our children’s health, making certain they are caught up with necessary doctors’ appointments and vaccinations prior to the first day of school. In addition to routine visits to the pediatrician, it is also the ideal time to check in on your children’s oral health.
Dr. Anokhi Bock and her husband Dr. Derek Bock founded their Forest Orthodontics and Pediatric Dentistry practice 13 years ago. Dr. Anokhi is the pediatric dentistry specialist and Dr. Derek heads up the orthodontic side of the practice. Patients on the pediatric dentistry side are first seen at 12 months old and often continue through high school. The orthodontics side treats children, teens, and adults.
“It is important to get the children back into a routine,” Dr. Anokhi says. “Maybe they haven’t been as consistent about their oral hygiene during home schooling. Now is an ideal time to reinstate those routines—keep toothbrushes and floss in downstairs bathrooms so kids can brush before school and before bed.”
Both doctors want to remind parents of a couple of important things to keep in mind as school is about to begin: Make sure your children protect their teeth and wear mouth guards while participating in contact sports and remember while packing lunches and stocking the pantry to avoid hard and sticky foods like Starburst, Twizzlers, and crunchy chips—especially for the kids who are wearing braces.
Allison Gurza, former educator and owner of Sage Explorers in Lake Forest, also recommends thinking about the new school year in August. “This is probably more important this year than any other year. In August, as a family, you really must start thinking about school again. If your kids had a summer off and they were just doing their sports and hanging out at the pool, it’s the perfect time to start preparing for the academic component.” In fact, there are many Academic Boot Camps available to help kids brush up on skills they will need when school begins.
“Here at the store, we pick up dramatically in August because—all of a sudden—the parents think, ‘Oh my gosh, can we just do twice a week for two weeks before school starts? I need them to brush up on math facts,’ Or, ‘I get their brains working!’” In addition to a full array of educational toys, Sage Explorers also offers private tutoring.
“One of the benefits this year is that parents are heading into the school year knowing their children as learners in a much different way than ever before,” Gurza says. “For example, if your child needs a timer in front of them set for 20 minutes and then he or she needs a break, you now know that. I know fidgets are a thing with all the kids, but does your child need a fidget to focus? Having those things and being ready is important to set them up for success. Is your child a self-starter and can have the study space in the back room and be fine—or will he or she be highly distracted? Some may need to be at the kitchen table. These are things that parents know and can stay on top of for that for the coming year. That’s going to be a positive.”
Gurza also recommends that as both school and activities rev up, keeping in mind some of the positives experienced during the shut-down. She urges parents to be mindful when looking at afterschool activities and not overscheduling. “Have them focus on one or two things they really love.”