How to Get Your Kids Ready For School Before Summer's Over

In less than a month, school is back in session. I have mixed emotions about the end of Summer; it's been a fun one, though the lack of structure doesn't exactly bring out the best in my soon-to-be first grader (her 3-year-old brother is the same level of annoying in every season). Without a 6:30 wake-up time hanging over our heads every day, our whole house has relaxed a little. Bedtimes are looser, unscheduled days have led to fun adventures, and we've spent a good portion of the Summer on the road, hitting the beach, traveling to Grandma's house, and visiting friends out of state.

But reality is coming, including that early morning wake-up time, and it's time to start getting ready for it. If your Summer has been as unstructured as ours has, here are 12 ways to get your family back in the school zone. They may not all sound fun, but believe us, when that first school bus arrives, you'll be happy you're prepared (and yes, probably just a little happy to get rid of your kids for seven hours a day, too!).

  1. Reinstate bedtime. Enforcing a strict bedtime during the Summer can feel antithetical to the spirit of the season, but it's a good practice to get back on a schedule at least a week or two before school starts, so you're not begging your kid to go to sleep at 10 p.m. the night before their first day, then dragging them out of bed to make the first bell.
  2. Get them reading. If you haven't been great about making sure your child practices their reading over Summer, now's the time to reinstate a daily reading time, with or without your help and supervision.
  3. If your kids are sleepers, reintroduce morning wake-ups. My daughter's bus comes at 7:27 a.m., meaning she has to be up by 6:45 at the very latest. This Summer, she's been sleeping at least an hour later than that, so I'm slowly trying to get her — and myself — up earlier so that first week isn't too painful.
  4. Make bath time mandatory. Summer is all about dirty feet and calling a swim in the pool an acceptable bath substitute, but now's the time to get back in the habit of making sure your kids bathe before bed or first thing in the morning.
  5. Pull out those Summer homework packets. If your child came home from the last week of school with a packet of suggested Summer work, which you then stashed somewhere that it's been sitting ever since, hunt it down and have her do a page a day, and hopefully that first day of homework won't be quite as brutal.
  6. After a Summer of flip-flops, make sure your kids have real shoes that fit. Flip-flops are a Summer staple, but school requires some sturdier footwear, and last year's sneakers might not fit anymore.
  7. Impose screen-time limits. There's nothing like a movie marathon on a rainy Summer day, but zoning out in front of a television or iPad all day isn't the best way to beef up your child's school skills.
  8. Do a closet clean-out before back-to-school shopping. My daughter has grown more than an inch this Summer, meaning most of last year's clothes and shoes are too small. Make room for all those new jeans, sweaters, and tees by cleaning out everything that no longer fits.
  9. Reconnect with classmates you haven't seen over Summer. If your child hasn't spent a lot of time with classmates over the Summer, organizing a play date at a park or pool might be a good idea to help ease any social anxiety about returning to school.
  10. If necessary, buy a new backpack and lunchbox. Are last year's backpack and lunchbox still in usable condition? If not, check out the coolest new options out there.
  11. Buy, order, or pick up school supplies. If you preordered your supplies through the school, be sure to pick them up on the scheduled day (ours is two weeks before school starts). If not, wait until your child's teacher sends a required list and get shopping.
  12. Transfer important school dates to your family's calendar. Your school has most likely already released a calendar of important dates and holidays for the upcoming school year, so get yourself organized by adding them all to your personal and your family's calendars.