Back to School - Starting the year off right

Kids in the Capital is pleased to welcome back Antonia Cetin to the blog. Antonia is an educator and the author of You’ve Got This, Mom! A Mother’s Guide to Surviving and Thriving in Today’s Modern World. This blog post originally appeared on her website: antoniacetin.com.

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Back to school has always been one of my favourite times of the year:  it’s about fresh pages and new starts. It’s about wondering what we will learn, who we will meet, and who we will become. Everything is new and exciting from our supplies, to possible friendships, to new experiences. In new situations, children can be excited and anxious at the same time. As parents, we can support them by fuelling the excitement and mitigating the anxiety.

When children display anxiety, we can have them talk or draw about their feelings. What is it they are anxious about? Why? When we know what’s bothering them, we can more easily address how to view and handle the situation. For example, if your children are worried about making friends, remind them of the friends they already have to look forward to seeing again; discuss and practice how to introduce yourself to new friends and how to ask friends if they want to play; talk with your children about what makes them good friends so they go into the situation with more confidence. Having these discussions and practices will help your children to feel less anxious and more excited.

Sometimes, children may be anxious because they are not sure what to expect or because they have not yet attained certain skills. In this case, it’s important to remind them that the key word there is YET. Remind them that they are not expected to know everything and be able to do everything before they go to school. That’s what school is for: to learn all those things you don’t know YET. You may not know them now, but with a little work you will. That little word YET opens the door to the possibility of learning. It is the core of a growth mind-set that will ensure your children have the confidence and the right attitude for learning.

One of the biggest indicators for success in school is the attitude students bring with them. If they are ready to learn and motivated to learn, then, they will learn. As a parent, how can you help foster this attitude? If you maintain that school and learning are important, your children will get that message and believe it, too. You can show them how you value education by showing them your excitement for their learning: have a look through some of the curriculum together so you all know what to expect for the grade level, talk about the various subjects your children will be studying and what they find interesting, make a date to get any necessary supplies, and have a tradition for getting ready for the first day of school.

In addition to the importance of learning, talk about the importance of respecting others. At school, your children will be immersed in relationships. Respecting others and learning how to get along with them will help them thrive in this atmosphere. Talk about the importance of teachers: what they do for you, how they help you, how they are there for you. Talk about how to work with other students, even those who have different learning styles or habits from our own. Part of school is learning to get along with others despite our differences, and respect is a great place to begin!

If you can help your children through anxieties about the first day of school and make it exciting, if you promote a growth mind-set and positive attitude, and if you foster respect for others, your children will be in great shape for the start to their year!

For more blogs on travel, parenting, health, or life-balance visit Antonia's website: antoniacetin.com and check out my Facebook Page: @youvegotthismom

School Supplies - The down and dirty on what you really need

Kids in the Capital is pleased to welcome back Antonia Cetin to the blog. Antonia is an educator and the author of You’ve Got This, Mom! A Mother’s Guide to Surviving and Thriving in Today’s Modern World. This post originally appeared here.

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When I think of back to school, I think of pretty colours of magic markers and pencil crayons and notebooks. As a child, I used to love browsing through all of the new and colourful supplies, carefully choosing the treasures I would take on my learning journey. They signalled new beginnings and adventures in paper! Now, shopping for supplies with my son, I still get excited thinking about the adventures waiting for him. School supplies are the tools your children are using on their learning journey to do their job of learning more effectively and joyfully.

Before you even think about going shopping, make sure your children understand the importance of taking care of their school supplies: keeping their materials in their desk so they don’t get mixed up in a fray, putting what belongs in the pencil case back in so they will find it easily, and making sure their pencils or crayons aren’t left on the floor where they are sure to be swept away at the end of the day. If they don’t keep track of their stuff, they won’t have the tools they need the next day. This will slow them down, distract and detract from their learning.

When getting school supplies, your first step starts with what you already have because buying a lot of new school supplies can get costly especially if you have more than one child. Before going out to get new stuff, see what you can reuse and what you already have. Do you really need a new backpack, pencil case and lunch box every year or is the one from last year still in good condition? Do you need a new ruler, geometry set or calculator every year or can you use the one you’ve already got?

When you are shopping, use the list specific to your children’s classes from their schools rather than the random store list in order to ensure that you are getting what is really needed rather than what the stores want you to purchase. If you are trying to keep costs down, stick to the list. Sometimes, teachers may make what sounds like a weird request to you, but they are usually well thought out. For example, if specific colours for folders are mentioned, it may be because the teacher is trying to keep organized and in a class of 30, doesn’t want anyone’s folders to get misplaced. If spiral notebooks are discouraged, it may be because they are bulkier and heavier to transport for marking and get caught in your clothes! Just saying. These specific requests are not generally random!

If you are in a position to do so, consider getting extras of some supplies. Every year, there are some kids whose parents can’t afford all of the supplies and every year there are supplies that run out in the middle of the year. Teachers spend a lot of their own personal money on all kinds of classroom supplies, so they always appreciate any contributions you can make. For example, an extra box of tissue never goes to waste in a classroom particularly during cold and flu season!

When getting school supplies together, reviewing the importance of taking care of their belongings with your children, being judicious of what you need and buy, and contributing to the classroom experience for all the children will show your children the value you place, not only on their supplies, but on their education, their classrooms and their teachers.

For more blogs on travel, parenting, health, or life-balance visit Antonia's website: antoniacetin.com and check out my Facebook Page: @youvegotthismom

10 Back to School Hacks for Parents

The start of the school year means the return of a regular routine as well as a busier schedule with the addition of homework, extra-curricular activities, and sports. September, especially, can be overwhelming and stressful for many families, including my own, but I have found some back to school hacks that have helped make the transition from summer to school a little bit easier.

Back to school hacks for parents

1) Prepare breakfast the night before

My daughter does not last on cold cereal alone, so when possible I try to prepare a hearty breakfast beforehand. Whether it is cooking an extra large batch of pancakes on the weekend and freezing them, baking muffins, preparing berries and fruit that can be easily thrown on top of yogurt with granola, or preparing a pot of overnight oatmeal in my slow cooker, knowing I have a plan and have prepared a hearty breakfast saves time and fills bellies with a lot less stress. Websites, such as this one, offer many nutritious and easy-to-make breakfast recipes that can be prepared the night before.

2) Keep sticky notes handy 

School days are busy days and I am constantly saying to myself (or whoever is around to hear me), “Oh, I must remember….” And as soon as I say it, I forget it. Put sticky notes and a pen in your kitchen, on your nightstand, in the family room and anywhere else you’re known to have a brilliant moment that you know will vanish as quick as it came if you don’t write it down. Your memory (or lack there of) will thank you later.

3) If you don’t have a wall calendar – get one!

I don’t know how families survive without an old-fashioned wall calendar. Everyone in my family contributes to our wall calendar with birthday party dates, weekly activity times and anything else that everyone in the family should know about. We have ours hanging on our pantry door – a place everyone goes into and will see.

4) Keep your schedule top of mind

Take a picture of your weekly calendar and set it as your locked picture on your smart phone. It’s a fast and simple way to know what time you have to pick up who where, and a quick way to know what’s going on that week should someone ask you if you’re free.

5) Empty and fill backpacks as soon as you see them

Make looking for notes from the school a priority as soon as everyone gets in the door – either have a central bin and ask the kids to make sure permission slips and school forms that must be signed and returned are put in there on a daily basis or have a daily dumping of the school bag. Then sign the forms and have your kids put them in their bags right away. As this becomes part of your after school/work routine, you may notice less and less forms go missing (unless they get eaten by the school bus on the way home, which often happens in this house). ;) 

6) Google Translate is your friend

My daughter is in French Immersion and although I speak a little French, I cannot speak it well enough to help my daughter with some of her homework. So, I use Google Translate a lot – on my laptop and on my iPhone. So, if you don’t speak or read French (or English or any other language) well enough to keep up with your kids, get the Google Translate app on your phone – you can take pictures of documents and it will translate them for you. Time saver extraordinaire!

7) Schedule date nights (way) in advance

Book a night a month solely for date nights – no matter what. It doesn’t have to be a weekend either. If Tuesdays are better for you than Saturdays, then make Tuesday your date night! The same should also be done for self-care appointments such as massages, beer nights and girls night out – it’s important to step away from the every day and have fun away from the kids, regardless of how busy life is.

8) Batch cook or get an Instant Pot (or both)

Similar to planning and preparing breakfasts in advance, batch cook suppers so you have home cooked meals in the freezer that can easily be thawed and cooked when you need them. Meal preparation places, such as Supperworks make meal planning simple and can ensure you have nutritious meals every day of the week.

Similarly, the addition of an Instant Pot can save you valuable time on weekdays. We have one and I love that it can cook a whole chicken in 45 minutes and hearty soups in 30 minutes. It's my favourite kitchen appliance.

9) Don’t be afraid to set limits and stay within them

It can be easy to say yes to everything and then feel overwhelmed by all the commitments. If you can’t fit parent council meetings into your schedule or can’t make it to a book club meeting during busier times, don’t feel guilty about it. Be honest with yourself and those around you about what you can and cannot do. No one can do it all – and no one is, despite what you may think.

10) Remember Netflix is waiting for you

My favourite day of the week is Friday. It’s an evening of wine and Netflix with my husband. So remember, quiet moments will come and go throughout the school year, and they are there waiting for you despite the chaos and stress that comes along with the return of another school year.

What are some of your back to school hacks?

5 Back to School Tips

by Penny Mayo

It is THAT time of the year again. The time when the evenings get cooler, the days get shorter and we are winding down our summer activities. It is also the time when we are preparing for the transition to back to school. Some parents love the return to routine and the end of camps, while other parents dread the return to making lunches and stressing about making it to school on time. Some kids can’t wait to meet up with their friends and pull out all those new notebooks, while other kids worry about remembering locker combinations and the amount of homework they might receive. Which one are you?

But it really doesn’t matter which one you relate to since there is one uniting factor - that almost everyone has jitters about something as we transition to the new school year.   

How do we curb those first day/week of school jitters for you and your kiddos?

It is a challenging time for most parents and kids even if it is a time everyone is looking forward to. Here are 5 quick tips to make it through the first week or two.

1.     Keep it very simple!

We’ve all heard how important it is to Keep It Simple. You may be wondering how you can keep it simple when we have no choice but to get the kids to school for the starting bell after being fed, dressed and, hopefully, hair and teeth brushed. But we do have plenty of choice for the hours that we are not at work and school. Just simply keep the expectations for these times low, don’t stress about the chores or the elaborate meals, don’t take on extra commitments and be sure to leave more time to get to places and get things done.

2.     Keep it low key!

Especially for kids and parents who may be nervous or have some anxiety, try to keep it low key. Society and Facebook might make it look like you need to have special first day of school outfits, have a special routine for the first day, have perfect first day of school pictures, have a new school bag and lunch box, etc. Well, the reality is, this is not a true expectation. Your family might work better if you go to school in the clothes you already have in your closet, with the back pack from last year. Save shopping for when the stores are less busy.

3.     Plan ahead!

Planning is hard after a summer of less structured time but the rewards are worth it. During the upcoming long weekend, take the opportunity to cook a few pounds of ground meat, cook some chicken, and bake a couple dozen muffins or protein bars to put in the freezer. In the morning, grab something out of the freezer so you know there is something easy waiting for supper when you get home and some healthy snacks for lunches the next day.

4.     Don’t write a to-do list or make a to-do pile!

If you are anything like me, my house is full of to-do lists and piles of papers that need attention. It only gets worse in the first days and weeks of school when all forms need to be completed NOW! Instead of putting it on the to-do list or the to-do pile – just sit down and fill them out and send them right back to school. Since you are having low key evenings, there is time to just sit down and fill them out.

5.     Allow yourselves to be lazy!

How can we allow ourselves to be lazy when there is so much to do with back to school time? The lazy days of summer makes for a hard transition to the crazy days of fall. If you balance the crazy school and work days in that first week or two with some lazy after dinner times, it will be an easier transition. If you can avoid going out during the evening of the first week of school and instead go for a family bike ride, go to the park or play some video games or board games with your kids, it will really help the transition to when extracurricular activities ramp up. By then you’ll be ready for it since you allowed yourself this calmer transition time.

How are you going to be gentle on yourself and your family during this year’s school start?

Penny Mayo is a parenting coach at Single Parenting for Success