Back To School: Ten Tips From The Trenches

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CHARLOTTE – Whether you’re sending a child off to kindergarten, middle school, high school or college, there’s no better place to get advice than from the people who have been through it!  As we near the start of the 2022-2023 school year, we asked parents and teachers of all ages for their “Tips from the Trenches” to help you facilitate a smooth transition back to school.

  1. Your kids made it through their first week of school, and you want to celebrate!  But Erica, mom of two elementary schoolers, has some advice for you: don’t do it!  “Your kids are exhausted and overstimulated after those first days of school,” she counsels.  “They need to rest and veg out and do absolutely nothing.  Don’t go to Carowinds.  Don’t take them swimming.  You think it will be a special treat, and instead, you leave with everyone crying!”
  2. Take it from Jamie, mom to three elementary school kids: snacks can be magic.  “If you’re doing pick-up, have snacks ready in the car. If they’re riding the bus, have snacks ready for when they walk in the door,” she says.  “The end-of-school day meltdown is rough, and sometimes the only thing standing between you and it is a bag of goldfish.”
  3. For older children, understand the importance of reading the syllabus.  “The teacher is laying out everything important to know about the class – expectations for behavior, late work policies/penalties, how assignments are weighted, and maybe an outline of what will be assigned,” says drama teacher and mom of teens Elizabeth. “It’s like driving directions for the class.  You won’t be as successful as you could be if you don’t know what the directions are.”
  4. Young children may not have syllabi, but the paperwork their teacher sends home is still important!  “Read the welcome papers that the teachers send home and take pictures of the papers and contact info so you will have them in your phone when you need it,” says mom of three Brianna.
  5. Tip: see if your school offers an option to buy supplies through the PTO.
    Tip: see if your school offers an option to buy supplies through the PTO.

    Don’t forget to label personal items like water bottles, backpacks, jackets, and lunch boxes – but don’t label items that are likely to be shared (or assume that the supplies your child brings in will be used by them alone).  “Assume things like pencils and folders and notebooks will be shared, so don’t get kids excited over special folders or fun glue sticks,” advises Brianna.  “It just sets them up for disappointment on the first day when everything gets sorted.”

  6. “Plan your lunches/snacks!” encourages middle school teacher and mom Chrissy. “Buy for the week and have a bin for the pantry and fridge. Prepackage your fruit and other snacks. Then it’s just grab and go to pack the lunchbox!”  
  7. Planning and pre-packing can be a time-saver when it comes to making lunches.
    Tip: planning and pre-packing can be a time-saver when it comes to making lunches.

    As kids get older, their calendars get more complicated and making sure everyone gets where they need to be can seem impossible.  “We keep a planner that everyone can see,” adds Chrissy.  “We have a whiteboard for the month that is color-coded by each person. All activities for the month are listed as are meals. It helps so that everyone can see the plan for each week and then the month as a whole.”

  8. School supply shopping – especially for multiple children – can be a big pain.  “Check to see if your school offers a pre-bought school supplies list,” says mom of three Brianna.  “Some schools offer all the supplies pre-packaged in a box that you can buy for a little above the supply cost, and it usually helps support the PTO.”
  9. Before the school year makes bed-times busy, Samantha Cleaver, PhD, local reading expert and author of Raising an Active Reader, suggests setting time to read aloud each night, even with kids who can already read on their own. “Nightly read aloud sessions, even for 15 minutes, build your child’s language skills as they listen to stories they may not be able to read on their own yet,” she explains. Cleaver suggests getting even more out of your read aloud by asking two key questions after each chapter: What happened? What do you think will happen next?  You can find Cleaver’s book on Amazon.
  10. Tip: see if your school offers an option to buy supplies through the PTO.
    Tip: see if your school offers an option to buy supplies through the PTO.

    With children entering kindergarten, it’s tempting to focus on academic readiness, like making sure they know letters and numbers, but Cleaver says it’s more important to focus on independence.  “Don’t worry about abcs and 123s,” she says. “They will learn those. Focus on zipping sweaters, cleaning their space, communicating needs, and pottying.”

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Mary Beth Foster
Mary Beth Foster works part time as an essay specialist at Charlotte Latin School and full time as a mom to her eight-year-old daughter Hannah and her six-year-old son Henry. Prior to having children, she worked as a high school English teacher for nine years. Most recently, she chaired the English department at Queen's Grant High School. She and her husband have lived in Mint Hill with their children and their cats since 2011. Email: