Along with the new school year, comes a batch of new school mums. I think that the first year of school for your first child, is just as big of a learning experience for mum as it is for the child!
You find yourself in an environment where most of the parents seem to already know the ropes. You on the other hand, are struggling to remember people’s names, what day assembly is and making sure your child is settling in well.
Schools deliberately ease kids into school life, most having Wednesdays off, for mums there are information sessions, but in reality it is straight into the deep end, no easing into it!
Here are my tips for new school mums to help them get organised around school life:
Create a system for school paper work
I still have a combination of electronic correspondence and paper correspondence coming home from the schools. I have the following process set up to manage the electronic correspondence:
- I have created a folder in my email system for each school.
- I have set up filters for the three schools so when emails arrive in my inbox, they are already tagged for the appropriate folder. You can see how I create this filter’s in this post – Managing information flow.
- For the secondary schools both parents receive communications. To prevent double handling, it is assumed that I action the communications.
- As dates come in they are entered into my calendar and invitations sent to the kids’ dad if he need to know about them.
- The schools have archives of the newsletters so after I have actioned them, I will delete them.
- For other one off communications, I will archive them in the school folder for future reference.
- Unfortunately most forms that come in email, still need to be printed out and handed in, so I make sure to do this as soon as I read them so they are not forgotten.
- By Thursday afternoon I will have all three school newsletters, so I make sure Thursday afternoon/evening I allocate time to read them. Newsletters are the lifeline to the school, especially at secondary school when you have less contact with the school, so reading them every week is super important.
For paperwork that comes home with the kids from school:
- There is a space on the kitchen bench to read them.
- I don’t read them straight away but action them as needed after I have made the lunches in the evening.
- Any forms that need to be returned are placed in the relevant child’s lunch box. From there they make sure it is handed in at school.
- I will add dates to my diary as needed at this time.
- Most forms have a tear off section, so the remainder of the form will go on a clip on the fridge for the kids to see and for my future reference.
Have a calendar system
Making sure you have school dates in your calendar is important so as to avoid missing things like the casual clothes day, bring a teddy day etc. I referred to my calendar a couple of times in the first point and I use an electronic calendar – Google Calendar.
I share in greater detail about how I use it in this post 5 simple family organisation tools and how it helps me keep on top of the three schools, but in brief it is as follows:
- When I receive the school calendars for the year, I enter all the dates in for the whole year. Yes it is a tedious task, but it makes sure I can plan my work around any key dates, have the right stuff for the kids on the right days etc.
- I add reminders to the events I put in as they are being entered so far away. So for example, Book Week Assembly this year for our primary school is Fri 25th August. I have an email reminder set for three weeks before this date, so I can prompt the kids to start thinking about what costume they are going to create for the assembly. I have another one for a week out just to make sure we have it sorted.
- I send events to my husband for anything I think he needs to know about. Sometimes the event will be something I will attend at one of the secondary schools early in the morning, which means he will need to take the primary school kids to school. I write exactly what I need from him in the event I send. Sometimes, I just put FYI so he is aware of it, but doesn’t have to do anything about it.
Create a process for lunch boxes
Over the 13 years I have been in the school system as a mum, I have refined my lunch box process to make it as easy for me as possible. You can see it here – School Lunch Box Process .
Regardless of what it looks like, having a lunch time process of some kind is super helpful. It takes the thinking out of it and as a new mum you have lots to think about!
Our kids also need to be responsible for part of this process too – they need to pack it in their school bag and when they first get home from school, they need to return it to the kitchen bench. They have been doing this since they started and it prevents me having to go looking for lunch boxes and containers later that night when I start making the lunches for the next day.
Create morning and afternoon routines for the kids
Starting school brings big changes for everyone, if you can create morning and afternoon routines for the kids, it makes everyones responsibilities clear. If one morning they can watch TV, then one morning they can’t you can have a battle on your hands. Routines help kids learn what it takes to get ready for school and to leave the house on time.
You can see example of routines for kids by different ages in this post – Children’s routines.
Not all kids will have these, but most of mine at some point would have melt downs, at least in term one. They were generally after school on a Friday at home. It might be because you cut their piece of fruit up wrong for afternoon tea or that they have trouble undoing their school shoes, but something small will set them off and often it will go on for quite a while.
It is very normal – they have been learning so much and adjusting to a classroom with new kids, new rules and a new teacher. I found keeping Friday nights as free as possible, so they could unwind easily helped a lot. An early bath and a quiet activity also helped – audio books were always super popular and you can see a list of our favourites here – 10 Great Children’s Audio Books.
Go to social events
With your first child in school, quite often you have other young kids at home as well. The thought of going out at night or taking a toddler to a morning tea can sometimes feel too much! But even if you only go for a short time, it is really worth it, if you can make it. It is a great opportunity to meet fellow parents, who are adjusting just like you.
Get involved (but pace yourself)
How much you personally get out of school life, will very often depend on how much you put in. It doesn’t mean you have to be up at the school every day, but finding some small way you can be involved is worth it. It might be something as simple as covering books in contact for the library at home at night, or you may do a stint on the school canteen, but each time you get involved you meet more people and gain a better understanding of how the school works.
But make sure you don’t over do it and be kind to yourself about how much you can do this year. I didn’t work at the school canteen for the first five years I was at the school. I had little ones, was working from home and it wasn’t something I could easily add into my calendar. I am now in a position where I can do it once a term. Last year after being at the school for 11 years was the first time I went on the Parents and Friends Association. You are going to be at the school for many years, so yes do get involved, but it is certainly more like a marathon, than a sprint, pace accordingly!
What tips would you offer a new school mum?