Maria goes live every other week, taking turns between her author Facebook page and her private Empowering Kids with Character Facebook group. Between August 18th to August 25th, Maria Dismondy and NJ Ronger collaborated to share helpful back-to-school tips in the Empowering Kids With Character Facebook Group. Maria shared them via video and NJ shared them via posts.
Day one was about CLOTHING!
- Make time to clean out clothing drawers and for younger children, pack an extra set of clothing in a gallon Ziplock in their backpacks in case of accidents (which could be just getting really wet at recess!).
- See what still fits your children and what doesn’t. If you have younger children, then the older children’s clothing can be set aside as hand-me-downs. Otherwise, set the clothes that no longer fit into a donation pile.
- Get rid of socks that don’t have any matches (you can use the non-matches for rags or art projects).
- Underwear – have the kids go through their own and decide what still fits and what doesn’t.
- After you and your children are done with the above, go through your kids wardrobes and see what needs to be filled in!
- Make a list and start buying ahead!
Day two was about ROUTINE!
- Do you have a morning routine for your family? This has been the game changer for NJ’s family! They do the same things in the same order every day. Everyone knows what to expect and what to do! From the 6-year-old to NJ! Their routine is simple – bathroom, get dressed to the shoes, breakfast, hair / teeth brushing, pack your backpack. If there is time left, you can play but not until all of your business has been handled. Her two dudes usually have about 25 minutes of playtime before they head out the door and it’s been great for them! 100% YES to playing music during the morning but there is 100% not a chance for screen time/TV. NJ found that when she made this little switch, everything went much easier! *Note, NJ is up for at least a full hour and a half before her kids wake up so she can handle her own stuff!*
- What about the after-school routine? Maria’s suggestion is to PUT YOUR PHONE DOWN! Once your children get off the bus/get in the car/walk out of school, put your phone down and connect with your child(ren). Make those first 20 minutes that they are back from school all about asking them about their day – “how was your day”, “what did you learn”, “tell me one way you helped someone today”, etc. Once Maria walks in the door, they have a routine as well!
- They walk in the door and hang up their backpack (they all have a spot for their backpacks).
- They take out their folder from school. Any homework and/or papers for parents go onto a specific spot on the counter. This helps Maria to look at the papers every night. No matter how busy your day is, having the papers on the countertop is a visual reminder to at least glance through to make sure you’re not missing any important days at school, like Pajama Day!
- They empty their own lunchbox.
- They wash their hands.
- Maria does not make her children do their homework right away. They have a snack (hence washing the hands!). They do get their homework done before dinner, as after dinner is when showers are done, as well as games/books and bedtime.
- The key is to get your kids in the habit of routine, but also make it special and fun.
- Most importantly, put your phone down when you first see them and when they leave, as well. Hug them! Tell them you love them before they leave for school (Maria picked this up from a neighbor).
Day three was about TEACHERS!
- NJ shared a confession: she is not awesome at teacher gifts, being a room mom or any other thing that Maria mentioned on her FB live (on this subject). It’s JUST NOT NJ’s lane. And she’s 100% okay with that. So instead of trying to do all of the teacher loving things, she picks one and she does that one thing like a FREAKING BOSS. Every other month she rotates through sending in the following supplies – Ziplock bags of various sizes! She doesn’t wrap them up cute and she doesn’t ask if they’re needed. She simply sends them in. Year after year, she has had teachers reach and thank her for keeping them well stocked. The Ziplock bags get used for all sorts of things from organizing projects, sending wet clothes home, snacks, etc. You don’t have to do all the things, friends! You CAN pick one thing and do it super well.
- Remember that teachers pay for their own supplies. They have a very small budget from the school for what they can buy for their classroom. Maria shared that, when she was a teacher, her budget was $100 for the ENTIRE YEAR. This is why teachers will ask for help with supplies or send out a wish list.
- Reach out to your child’s teacher to ask if there is something specific that they need for the classroom.
- Maria also tries to make something special for the teachers for back-to-school. This year they are making apple butter, which is yummy on scones and toast.
- You can also share an “all-about-me” printable and have your children fill them out. This tells the teachers a little more about the children. Maria might share a little more, on the back, as to her child’s strengths/weaknesses and this gives the teachers even more of a little head start on getting to know the child!
Day four was about LUNCHES!
- Ask your child(ren) specific questions about what happened at lunch!
- Who did you sit with at lunch today?
- Did you make a lunch trade?
- What was the best trade you saw?
- Who didn’t eat their lunch?
- What did [insert friend’s name] have for lunch today?
- What did [insert lunch room helper’s name] do today while you ate?
- When it comes to preparing lunches, prepare when it works for you! For Maria, doing it in the morning when the kids are eating their breakfast. For you, it might work better the evening before.
- According to a recent Parents’ article, 9-year-olds should be able to make their own lunches. Maria, however, has been having her children help make their own lunches. She believes that having them help make their own lunch teaches them responsibility and it keeps them invested in what they are packing so they are more likely to eat the healthy things that are in their lunches.
- Another great tip is lunch box notes – these are so much fun and don’t have to be complicated. You can use sticky notes or any piece of paper. (Maria shared a free download if you need some inspiration!) You can search in Pinterest for free printable lunch box notes as well.
- Maria also uses a reusable lunchbox container so they’re not wasting baggies.
Day five was about PARENTING HACKS!
- Set your clocks ahead 7 minutes. All of them. Every single one… the microwave, your watch, the cable TV box, the minivan. Every. SINGLE. ONE! Why you ask? Because you’ll always get out of the door and be on time! 7 minutes is the perfect buffer when someone forgets their homework, has a wardrobe crisis, can’t find their shoes or doesn’t want to brush their teeth. It’s an odd number and hard to remember that you’re actually 7 minutes early. NJ says it’s a GAME CHANGER.
- Maria has her children come down, in the morning, already dressed for the day. To keep the children from having to go back upstairs (and possibly her losing their focus) to brush their teeth/groom, they have a basket in a closet by the front door that contains hair accessories.
- Maria has a simple IKEA caddy in the children’s bathrooms which contains their toothbrush, toothpaste, soap, and washcloth. They can put their own stuff in them for the weekend as well and when they are having a sleepover, they can grab the caddy!
- Maria loves to put books in baskets. They put themed books in the baskets (right now it’s back-to-school books) and keep the baskets in different rooms. Sometimes kids need separate “quiet times” so she can send them to different rooms for reading times!
Day six was about TRADITIONS!
- Maria shared that one tradition they do is a picture on the first day of school (which she then places on this awesome printable). At the end of the year, the kids will fill out the form and sign it.
- Maria doesn’t save ALL of her kids’ schoolwork. She has one filing box (from IKEA) per child, and in that box, she has folders. The folders are labeled (she found the label template on Pinterest) per year, along with the school and teacher. Maria then saves the best work and anything nostalgic in the folder. She also prints out the last report card of the year.
- Another tradition is to take each child back-to-school shopping individually.
- Kelle Hampton is a mom blogger and shared this tradition – to make friendship bracelets for the whole family and wear them on the first day of school. Every time one of you looks at the bracelet, you’ll think of each other! Maria is going to extend this tradition into her extended family!
Day seven was about HOMEWORK & READING!
- NJ keepsher OWN BOX of homework supplies with crayons, markers, colored pencils, erasers, scissors and glue. This is separate than their stash and JUST FOR HOMEWORK TIME. This way, we’ve always got what we need for homework and it is ONE LESS barrier to getting it done.
- Maria firmly believes that reading is part of homework. It’s the foundation of everything that your children will be doing in their lifetime. It’s connected to writing, which is connected to reading. So how do you set this up in your home?
- Keep books EVERYWHERE. Maria keeps books in the car, in the family room and in your children’s rooms.
- For the kids that are in school – they don’t have as much time for the library anymore. As a parent, go to the library during YOUR lunch break and fill up a bag of books that you think your child(ren) would love. Making time to get the books, and choosing books your child(ren) will enjoy will help cultivate the joy of reading!
- If children wake up early, encourage them to read!
- While there are eBooks, studies have been published showing that children reading physical books are better than looking at books on Kindle or watching a book being read on YouTube.
- So where do you get books? You can borrow them at the library. You can find them at garage sales. Buy them at thrift stores. Develop a love of reading for your children by including them in this process – let them choose books that interest them!
Day eight was about AFTER SCHOOL SNACKS!
- NJ shared that they always have veggies and hummus, popcorn or fruit available. Anything beyond that needs an okay from a grown up!
- Maria shared that, once a week, she makes/buys an extra special snack for after school. The kids get excited and even the neighborhood kids get excited when they happen to be in the Dismondy household on this day!
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Remember that Maria alternates these videos between her author page and the private Empowering Kids with Character page, which provides more ideas on the monthly theme and also support from fellow parents and educators!
Transcribed by Mandy Bush, Executive Assistant