The “less is more” approach to back to school: musings from an experienced (aka, worn out) mom

End of summer and time to get ready for first day back to school

End of summer and time to get ready for first day back to school.

It’s difficult to think about back to school when my family is basking in the beauty of summer.

We’ve been lounging on sunny decks and hot sand, soaking in splash pads and cold lakes, and having hotdogs and s’mores as regularly occurring meals—reducing relentless chores like school mornings, homework and making lunches to distant memories.

The reality check is that in just a matter of weeks, we’ll be scrambling to settle back into a school-year routine. This year, to stretch out my downtime just a little more, I’m transitioning into September somewhat differently, with less emphasis on this turning point and more time enjoying the summer.

Maybe it’s because with a family where kids outnumber adults, we’re following a natural parenting progression towards relaxing (giving up) some of the control we use to cling to with over-planning. As well, my oldest is almost 10 years old now, and I can already see that summers where she voluntarily spends all her time with her family are in limited supply, making me more motivated to squeeze every last drop out of this time together.

End of summer and time to get ready for first day back to school

Creating summer memories as we get ready to go back to school.

Back to School Savings: In more ways than one

Having a few years of school under their tiny belts, and a big move to a new city behind us, also means my kids (and me, let’s admit it) know what to expect on the first day back, helping us feel more confident about the return to school than in previous years.

Of course, before the laissez-faire side of me fully kicked into summer-mode, my A-type mommy personality ensured that some organization took place.

Before we left for our road-tripping summer holidays, I packed and labelled a box with the kids’ salvageable school supplies, clean lunch kits and backpacks. I also included a note about what was left to organize in order to survive that first day back to school (e.g., buy lunch and snack groceries, sharpen a few pencils and find 3 pairs of clean-ish runners that still fit to become indoor shoes).

Holding onto summer before the first day back to school

The first week of school, I’ll also rely on some fun activities that have become a tradition for our family to mark the end of summer and make the new school year a bit of a celebration.

For the most part though, I’m slowly seeing that as my kids are getting older and more independent, I’m getting more relaxed in my parenting style. Sometimes, I really can get away with a little less planning and just spend more time enjoying the moment.

Parent getting child ready for going back to school

Savouring what’s left of summer before the new school year.

So, instead of transitioning to earlier bedtimes and shopping for school supplies in the last week of August, we’re going to enjoy a few more after-dinner swims, marshmallow roasts, reading books past our bedtimes and sneak in few more long sessions of Minecraft.

I’m mostly at peace with the fact that this means the first week of school might be hectic. I’ll probably have to wake them up and coax (nag) them into getting dressed, drive them to school because we’ll miss the bus, and pay slightly more for less choice in school supplies.

But these days, that all seems a small price to pay for what feels like a precious commodity: un-scheduled, uninterrupted family time.

Carmen Kinniburgh

Carmen Kinniburgh is a freelance writer and editor exploring topics and ideas about parenting and families, Canadian science and research, health and medicine, as well as travel and lifestyle. Born and raised in Alberta, Carmen has also lived in Southern Ontario and Manitoba, where she worked in professional communications for a university and a national health charity. Currently living in Thunder Bay, Ontario, she gets all her best ideas and insights for Parentwise from her own three delightfully precocious children.

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