Before geese start migrating and autumn leaves begin to fall, there's another event that takes place to remind us that summer doesn't last forever: a catalog in the mailbox announcing "back-to-school" sales.
Classroom Countdown: 10 Things to Do Before School Starts
Don't get caught off guard. Here's how to be prepared so your child's first day back is a smooth re-entry and not a mad dash to catch the bus.
1. Trade Short Sleeves for Long Sleeves
Go through your children's drawers -- either by yourself or with their help, depending on their age and interest -- and box up clothes that are too small, stained or worn out, or too summery for school. After you take stock, check out back-to-school sales for new outfits and shoes. Take your kids along so they can choose a first-day-back outfit (or if they wear uniforms, a nice piece of jewelry or watch).
2. Dust off the Family Calendar
After a summer filled with spontaneity, it's time to start thinking about how to organize school days, including after school lessons, homework, sports and social time with classmates. Sit down as a family to coordinate your time, travel and logistics. Include your kids so that they can learn an age-appropriate level of cooperation and responsibility, as well as a view of the big picture.
3. Shift Their Sleeping Pattern
Staying up late and sleeping in is almost a summer tradition. Help ensure a good first week back by slowly shifting your children's schedule so their sleep doesn't get cut short. About a week before classes starts, wake them up a little bit earlier every day until you're back to a school wake-up time.
Also, take note of how much sleep they are getting. Between ages six to nine, most children need about 10 hours of sleep, while pre-teens need a little over nine hours. Keep pushing their bedtime back until they are getting a proper amount of rest.
4. Apply Feng Shui to Your Home
Finishing up a tree house addition or tidying up your summer garden before school starts teaches your child the importance of completing projects. It also creates mental space for the energy and attention that a new school year requires. Take a look at closets, gear rooms and summer toys. It's better to put things away now, before the first snow hits and you're digging bikes or inflatable pools out of the snow.
5. Plan a School Visit
Many schools are open a week or two before the first day of classes so teachers and staff can prepare lessons and tend to the grounds and buildings. Call your school and see if they will allow a pre-opening visit so that your children can be mentally prepared for the grade they are entering (especially if it's a new school). Make a lunch date out of it so you and your kids can meet their teachers and see their classrooms without the frenetic distractions that happen on the first day back.
6. Shop for School Supplies
Clothes aren't the only thing your child grows out of. School supplies change, too. Check out your school's website or make a call to see what you'll need, and stock up during the many back-to-school sales. Be on the lookout for sales on backpacks, courier bags and rolling luggage. Bags and packs with padded shoulders are worth the extra money and will prevent muscle strain. Also, check the weight of your kids' loaded backpacks: they shouldn't weigh more than 10-20 percent of their body weight.
7. Research Extracurricular Programs
Check with your school to see what sports or activities are offered at your child's grade level and then have a conversation before school starts to determine their interest level. If they are going to be playing in a school band, take them to a concert and see which instrument appeals to them. If they'd like to try out for basketball, take them to a game or shoot some hoops in the driveway while going over the rules.
8. Start Menu Planning
Eating lots of fresh, healthy food helps your kids maintain a steady level of energy and concentration. It's easy to stock your fridge at home with healthy food, but when your children are gone for most of the day you have less control over what they eat. If their cafeteria doesn't offer enough unprocessed food, consider sending your child with a bag of carrots, celery or fresh fruit tucked into their backpacks. Also, since about one-quarter of a child's caloric intake comes from munching between meals, these can also double as healthy snacks.
9. Schedule an Immunization Appointment
Children still need immunizations beyond the toddler years; even some colleges advise that students get vaccinated for infections such as bacterial meningitis. A quick check with your doctor will prevent any last-minute calls from the school nurse. If you've recently moved, call your old doctor and have your child's records transferred to your new doctor as well as the school. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (www.cdc.gov) has a list of immunization requirements by state.
10. Relish the Last Days of Summer
Enough with the planning! Enjoy the last days of summer with your child: the flexible schedule, impromptu barbeques and days filled with, "I don't know what to do." Maybe you can even squeeze in a Labor Day getaway. By living "in the moment" now, you can teach your child how to enjoy all the "moments" that make up those first days of school -- one of the many lessons your kids, most likely, will only learn from you.
Michele Bianchi juggles calenders and to-do lists on her iGoogle page, on Google Calender and on scraps of pa