Getting Children Back on Track for the School Year

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Take a few simple steps toward reorienting yourselves for school days. Life as MOM contributor JessieLeigh explains how:

school starfall

Been enjoying some long, lazy days? Has the lingering daylight meant bedtimes got pushed steadily later and later until they’re no longer anywhere close to where they were during the school year? Has eating taken on a “grab what you can, when you can” pattern?

Very often, summer brings with it a looser, more carefree schedule. While this can be tons of fun and opens up opportunity for lots of good stuff, it also means that, come August, many children are no longer on anything that even resembles their “school routine schedule.”

Now’s the time to start getting back on track! Here are some simple ways that you can reorient your family for the school routine so that everyone can make a smoother transition:


Reestablish consistent mealtimes.

While summer living encourages grabbing a peach here and a half a sandwich there, the reality is that most school routines don’t allow for that style of eating.

Start serving regular breakfasts at a regular time, if you’re not already. It doesn’t have to be as early as it will be on the first day of school; we can work our way there gradually. But setting out an actual meal at a set time will help reestablish the normalcy of having a full, planned breakfast.

Lunches, too, can start being more regular and scheduled. Children attending public school typically eat at the same time each day and are allowed between 20 and 45 minutes to finish their meals. If you have a poky little puppy among your brood (like I do), you may want to start encouraging good time management while eating so that she’ll be sure to get a nourishing meal consumed in the allotted time once back in school.

bedtime stories

Start working on bedtimes and wake-times.

Particularly for parents who are not natural early birds, summer can be a blissful time of letting children frolic into the later hours, thereby securing a later wake-up time in return. While that may work beautifully for a family’s summer schedule, it’s unlikely to be ideal once school starts.

Begin winding down earlier in the evening. Play a family game, whether inside or out, after supper. Take a bath or shower. Read some books or do some puzzles. Then turn in. There’s no reason families can’t continue to have lots of fun together; the fun just might need to end a little earlier.

I know many parents who balk at the idea of putting little children to bed while it’s still light out. They will argue unceasingly with me about it. While I would never presume to know what’s best for anyone else’s family, I do know that going to bed while it’s still light IS what’s good for my children.

If my little ones remark on the light outside– and they DO– I very simply reply, “The light is different with every season. In summer, we go to sleep when it’s light out. In winter, we get up when it’s dark out. Isn’t that fun?” End of story.

Realize that children who go to sleep earlier may well wake up earlier. Do your best to be reasonably cheerful when they arise– you don’t want them to feel that you’re angry with them for what is really a natural side-effect as you work on resetting their schedules.


Encourage routine.

Honestly, this is the bottom line. Encourage routine throughout your days. Have regular meals. Give your children the opportunity to get used to following a schedule again. Make it predictable– perhaps you have them play outside for 20 minutes after lunch each day. Maybe you work on puzzles together and have a snack at 3:30 every afternoon.

Getting back on track for a school routine doesn’t have to be full of drudgery. Enjoy the sunshine and have plenty of fun! Simply helping your children get used to more regular times and expectations will help them to prepare for what the new school year holds.

What are your best tips for helping children get back on track for the coming school year?

– A mother of three, including a 24 week preemie, JessieLeigh is a determined advocate for even the tiniest of babies. She can be found celebrating life’s (sometimes unexpected) miracles and blessings at Parenting Miracles.

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  1. How did you read my mind? This is exactly the kind of inspiration I’ve been looking for this week. Thank you!!

  2. When it comes to the sun being up at bedtime we tell our 2 and 4 year olds that “The sun is still up to keep you company until you fall asleep” They are not super big fans of the dark so this works great for them 🙂

  3. you know, I’m a planner, so I always tried to do these things when it was nearing the end of vacation. At one point, a very wise woman I know, who is always the one to turn to for the most reasonable advice, the most heartfelt and comforting prayer, the best way to get to the root of a problem, listened patiently to my stress and trials over re-establishing bedtime for one child in particular and this wonderful mother of 5 now grown, successful, loving children, she said to me, “You know what? If it’s that big of a deal, let him stay up. He’ll be a little sleepy on that first morning but the adrenaline will see him through – and I’m certain he’ll go to bed on time that night because he’ll be tired! They’ll all adjust within the first week to the new stuff – it’s not worth the battle, if battle there be”

    And she was right – and now I don’t prep the children – I let them do what they wish and enjoy the last moments of vacation.

    *I* however prep myself, I plan lunches again, I think through schedules and meals and transportation arrangements. I make sure clothing and uniforms are ready to roll.

    Not criticizing the motivation here – just sharing those words that so helped me when I was struggling with this. The perfectionist in my looked at this transition time as marching orders and I was making everyone a little nuts.

  4. As a teacher, I think I will use some of these suggestions for myself! Particularly about getting to bed and waking up earlier 🙂