Classroom full of students looking at their teacher

How to Create the Perfect Back-to-School Routine

August 29, 2022

Author: Josie Sivigny

Didn’t school just get out, like, two months ago?

I had a to-do list a mile long, appointments to make, and a summer bucket list we haven’t even begun yet. This just doesn’t seem fair. Being able to start mornings slower, stay in jammies until noon (or later!), have sleepovers on a Tuesday (Because, why not?) and eating ice cream at 10pm while swimming, became a weekly routine at our house, making for a summer full of memories.

But, alas, this can’t go on forever, and if you’re a parent of any aged child, you already know that straying from any kind of routine can cause all kinds of issues, but getting back into the back-to-school routine is flat out painful for everyone involved.

As a mom, I am always excited to see my daughter go back to school (Duh, I get some me time back!) and she’s thrilled to find out if she has that 3rd grade teacher she’s been crossing her fingers all summer for—but the reality of getting back into the school routine is not pretty. I thrive on routine. So does my daughter and as much as we love routines at heart, it’s really fun to let loose in the summer and not worry about any schedules. In our house, we have a few things we do to get things rolling again, and it all begins weeks before school starts.

My planning quietly starts weeks before school actually begins. In my experience, if you can be sly about enacting the plan, and not make any announcements that it’s happening—nobody will notice a change in routine until the alarm goes off at 6am the first day of school!

These tips are not totally my own. They’ve come from many conversations with fellow parents, and have tweaked and morphed into things that fit for my family—but so far, we’ve survived 3 back-to-school seasons and have just started our fourth, so we’re doing something right!

Little girl sitting at a desk doing school work

Reel-In Bedtime

You mean we can’t go to sleep at 11pm on school nights anymore? During summer, we often watch family movies late into the night and fall asleep on the couch, only to wake up at midnight and move to our beds. Getting out of that routine is not simple!

Starting the first week of July, I make sure we actually start our full bedtime routine again, including reading before bed, even if it’s later than during the school year. We edge back into our school-year routine very loosely—we might start our shower at 9PM, and cuddle up together on our T&N Pouch to read a book at 9:30 before lights out. During the second week of July, I move that same bedtime routine up by 15-20 minutes. During the third week, it’s 15-20 minutes earlier, and then the last week of July we start our bedtime routine pretty close to normal time. By the time school starts in early August, we’re going to bed on time, preparing our bodies for those hectic school mornings that are about to take over our lives.

Waking Up In The Morning

As much as I dislike having to get up to an alarm for no reason in July, I do the same sly process as the bedtime routine. I start gradually waking us up to an alarm earlier than normal a few days a week. In the first week of July, I make sure we are up by 7 o’clock. During the second week, I move back the wake up time 15 minutes to 6:45 am. During the third week, it’s 6:15 am, and then the last week of July we get up by 6 o’clock almost all 5 weekdays. By the time school starts in early August, we’re all used to the new schedule (Me, with my coffee in hand!) If your kids sleep in until 9am or, gasp, even later, during the summer you’ve got quite a challenge on your hands—may the odds be ever in your favor.

Little girl reading the book Where the World Ends

After-School Routines

Afternoon routines are different for every family but just as important as the bedtime or before school routine. When the family hasn’t had homework in 2 months, it’s quite a challenge to get it started again. In our house, we all function better with a routine when we come home at the end of the day. When our daughter started kindergarten, we tried the cutesy checklist of activities for her to mark off, but honestly, that was more stressful and more work for me than is was helpful—we scrapped that idea right away.

In our family, we’ve found that a simple schedule that we follow religiously on nights without gymnastics is what works the best. In our house, our after school routine includes a snack, homework, dinner, shower, and then free time.

It’s hard. I want to clock out when I get home, I want to turn off and just sit on the couch and relax. It’s during the school year that I have to push on through those last few hours of getting through our routine, and then my payoff comes after 8:30pm.

After a few weeks, the sparkle of back-to-school will have worn off. Nothing different happens in our house once school is in full gear. No cute checklists for us—just routine reminders until they stick. If school breaks and vacations get in the way and mess it all up? Time to get tough again and stick to your guns night after night and morning after morning. You’ll be happy you do because everyone functions better within their own routines.

Now, the daily battle of doing the homework that’s about to ensue? That’s a whole different post.

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