8 Ways to Help Your Kid Ease Back-to-School

Back-to-school can be a tough transition time for everyone involved, but being positive and having an open mind with your child and school can make all the difference. Read more: 8 Ways to Help Your Kid Ease Back to School

Our girly is headed off to kindergarten this month. Because it's all-day everyday, and because I've been home with her all-day everyday for the last 4-ish years, this is a big transition for all of us. In preparation, I asked my go-to education guru (my sister-in-law, Michaela) to write up suggestions for helping us get ready for this life change.

Michaela was a first and second grade teacher for seven years before she transitioned to staying home full-time with her own girly. Now, she puts her gifts of creativity and childhood education into creating educational resources for teachers and parents and now a great kindergarten curriculum, too.

Below is Michaela's experienced and balanced teacher/parent perspective on getting ready for back-to-school and first-time-at-school. Even if your little one's school year has already started, these are great to keep in mind throughout the school year.

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1. Set a routine.

Night-time (getting to bed at a decent time is so important), clothes laid out, baths, breakfast, out the door time, etc. I love the visual schedules for kids that have pictures of what they need to do to get ready in the morning.

2. Make time for a quality breakfast.

Breakfast is the most important meal of the day. Try to make it a priority to give your child a nutritious and filling breakfast. It’s a long time before lunch and a grumbling stomach makes it very difficult to concentrate in the classroom.

3. Create a quiet space with adequate supplies for “homework”.

Continue to be involved in their learning by reading with them, asking what they learned in school that day, and communicating with their teacher. A parent is a child’s first teacher after all!

4. Stick to the list.

It actually is important that you purchase the brand that the teacher requests on the supply list. I feel slightly bad telling you this, since I am a frugal to the core person myself, but trust me on this one.  If you skimp on glue sticks and crayons...you just may be receiving a letter from your teacher soon letting you know they have broken (or never worked in the first place), and it’s time to replace them. Don’t say I didn’t tell you so. ;)

5. Allow your child the freedom to have school be their space.

Wait for them to invite you into their world. This may include letting them say good-bye to you at the door, allowing them to carry their own backpack and supplies, and respecting their newfound independence. They still love you and want you to be proud of them!

6. Give your child (and yourself) some grace!

With test scores, readiness outlines, and grade expectations, it’s easy to get caught up in the go-go-go of trying to measure up. If your child’s teacher has suggestions for improvement, take them of course and do your best...but infuse it with grace, love, and patience towards your child and their personal developmental pace. (You’ll be glad you did.)

7. Speaking of grace...your child’s teacher could use some too!

Remember that we’re all human and make mistakes; your child’s teacher is no different. At the same time, they’ve committed their life to pouring themselves into children and specifically into your child, so give them grace and thank them when you can. Don’t forget you’re both on the same team for your child!

8. Make it special.

Think of a special way to let your child know you love and support them this year. It can be committing to place notes in their snack or lunch boxes, setting aside special time when they get home to have time to talk about their day, or a special handshake or signal when you drop them off that is just for them. It doesn’t have to be much, but knowing that mom or dad is rooting for them during the day can give them the confidence they need to tackle those difficult tasks at school.

Back-to-school can be a tough transition time for everyone involved, but being positive and having an open mind with your child and school can make all the difference. This year will be what you make it. If you think this will be the best year yet (or the worst ever)... you’re right. Make it a great one!

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I may have choked up reading through some of those. Maybe that's partly because of my unstable emotions, but it's also because this encouragement and insight is just what I need for this season.

Thank you so much for these words of support, Michaela!

Whether you're looking for things you can do with your little ones at home, a gift for your child's teacher, or maybe you are a teacher--be sure and check out Michaela's great designs, resources and printables at We Heart Edu, as well as her awesome kindergarten resources at KinderQuest!

For more from Michaela...
instagram | @WeHeartEdu
store | We Heart Edu // KinderQuest

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also see:
new? start here...
a note for the hard days of motherhood

Originally published Aug. 12, 2013; updated Aug. 8, 2017.

We Still Aren't Big Enough, and God Still Is

Ten years after our small little college lives got flipped upside-down with an unexpected pregnancy, I can't help but wonder if it was meant to be this way for Jesus to bring us back to Him. Proving His goodness--not by His acceptance when we're "good," but by His persistence when we wander and veer. While we weren't, and still aren't, big enough, we actually were never meant to be. We were always meant to see that God is.

Ten years ago I told my then-boyfriend I was pregnant while we sat on a round picnic table on our college's campus at 6 a.m. We'd been a couple for 6 months + 1 day, and had loose plans to get married the following summer. Afterall, we both had about a year of college remaining, and while neither of our parents were paying our full tuition, both had jobs that discounted our tuition. A discount we'd lose if we got married, and we couldn't afford that.

None of that mattered now, because we chose our fate a different way.

We sat on that table, feet propped up on the seat below, blue-capped stick in my hand with the word pregnant displayed in tiny digital letters as evidence. My then-boyfriend now-husband managed four simple words in his just-out-of-bed morning stupor: "Are we big enough?"

Looking back, I can say we clearly were not. Two more pregnancies later, I wonder what parent is ever fully prepared or "big enough" for what we're walking into, even when we think we know.

The words I wrote to God in my journal back in my dorm room after that groggy, pre-dawn exchange ring true even now 10 years later. "'Are we big enough?' Truth is: I don't know. But I do know You're big enough and that's all that matters to me."

As we navigated through doctors appointments and Medicaid application, premarital counseling and wedding planning, and so many first trimester symptoms, we'd dream a little. What would it be like to be married and have a baby? Everything was crazy, rushed, financially bleak (tooth paste got a line item on our first joint budget because literally every cent mattered), and it was all covered in a fog of morning all-day sickness.

What about 10 years from then or even 5 years? What would life be like after time slowed and finances improved and we caught our breath?

Where would we live and work? How many years before we'd buy our first house and have our next baby? When would I start working on getting my Masters (because a bachelor's in English doesn't do much for a career)? Where (and when) would we go on an anniversary vacation since we couldn't afford a proper honeymoon? Surely 5-10 years would be plenty of time to start checking all of that off our list.

We didn't know--how could we?--that two years into teaching, Daniel would lose his job and change careers. That the job suited for him with great benefits would actually start with less pay than his salary as a teacher. That we'd wreck our car with only liability insurance and waste months and dollars recovering from that. That we'd have news of our 2nd pregnancy in the middle of his job uncertainty, and news of our 3rd pregnancy the same month we'd decide it was financially irresponsible for us to have anymore kids. That maintaining family expenses would derail us from paying off our student loans. That my being home while our kids are young would matter so much to us--enough to put everything on hold financially.

We hadn't yet experienced for ourselves that just as time moves on, so do life circumstances and how we choose to respond to them. I'm learning I can get caught up in the privileged self-pity of it all that we didn't get our "rightful" honeymoon, we still aren't any closer to owning a house, and we're still a poor family living on one income with too much student loan debt.

Or I can see how Jesus' grace covers us and provides for us even after (and as) we screw up His plans for us. While choosing a different fate for ourselves changes our trajectory and places us paces behind our peers in the accouterments of this life, we are actually forever rich in God's mercies.

A few days after the news of that first pregnancy settled, when 3 days felt like 3 long, drawn-out weeks, I wrote out some of the lyrics to a hymn: "Come thou fount of every blessing, tune my heart to sing Thy grace. Streams of mercy never ceasing, call for songs of loudest praise. Teach me ever to adore thee, may I still Thy goodness prove, while the hope of endless glory fills my heart with joy and love."

Ten years after our small little college lives got flipped upside-down, I can't help but wonder if it was meant to be this way. Sure, it clearly wasn't God's perfect plan for us, and imagine where we'd be if we followed His plan! Still, this side of Heaven--this sin-stained Earth side--I wonder if the veering from the plan in some ways is the plan for Jesus to bring us back to Him.

If it wasn't this particular life choice, it'd be another, and often it has been more than just one choice that gets us off God's perfect course. These areas we mess up and are in need are just opportunities for our hearts to sing in His grace, for His blessings to flow in streams of mercy in spite of our scarred and messy humanity. Proving His goodness--not by His acceptance when we're "good," but by His persistence when we wander and veer.

The hope of endless glory fills my heart with joy and love... When I think of my 8 1/2 pregnant self getting a call of a job offer out of the blue, the God-given miracle to provide our needs while my husband finished his degree. When I think of our short homeless and jobless season that could have ruined us but by God's grace and my sister's kindness didn't. When I think of all the hiccups and detours and every step see that we weren't alone. While we weren't, and still aren't, big enough, we actually were never meant to be. We were always meant to see that God is.

I see that, even as ten years later we still face our same ol' mountains (that mostly revolve around finances). The miracle is that God saw us and assured us that we'd be okay anyway. That while our choices changed our circumstances, they didn't change His love. He wouldn't leave us.

There are times in our last 10 years when I praise God for the miracles in our impossible situations; when He delivers us because He can. And there are many others when I simply thank Him for being present in the midst of our struggles, because God is with us even when He doesn't heal us.

When we were on our college's campus this week, I snapped a picture of our three kids, including the one-that-made-me-a-mom, sitting on that same table my now-husband and I sat on ten years ago. I imagine going back to that young couple, scared out of their minds of the unknown that lay before them. I would probably just affirm what they already hoped: "You'll never be 'big enough' for the lives you'll live, but you will continue to celebrate all the times that God is."

Whether or not we've made the best choices that have led us here, God's not leaving us and never has. And for that, I am truly and deeply thankful.

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also see:
new? start here...
our wedding story, shame-free
my motherhood ebenezer
monthly emails

Blessed are the Peacemakers

One: Unity in a Divided World by Deidra Riggs is a book for peacemakers by a peacemaker.  It's a timely invitation to join in Jesus' mission of making us one. Read it if you're a natural peacemaker or if you're feeling God calling you into the role of peacemaker in your own life and among your own circle.

I used to read the Beatitudes in Matthew 5:3-11 as a sort of to-do / to-be list in order to be blessed. Gotta thirst for righteousness, be merciful, have a pure heart, and be a peacemaker. Tough, but maybe not entirely impossible?

It's been sinking in how that really doesn't make sense. This a backwards list, as are most things with Jesus, where He's heaping blessing on those who mourn and are poor in spirit and perpetually seek and are persecuted. Okay. Well. Those things are a little more uncomfortable, and do I even want to put them on my Christian to-do list?

At the root, these blessings are less about our effort to be something good, and more about Jesus meeting people down where they are in their struggles in life.

So blessing the peacemakers, as Jesus says in verse 9, isn't as much calling us to it (at least not in this particular verse), as He is speaking encouragement to the overlooked and burdened peacemakers. A category in line with mourning and being pour in spirit and meekness and persecution. It's a tough place to find yourself, this trying to find peace and unity in a divided world. (affiliate links used*)

Peacemaking can be a hard burden to carry.

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I was reading a book on parenting when I read and re-read a paragraph that took me back to my counselor's office in college, particularly this line: "In an effort to bring peace and comfort to those they love, Type 2 children sometimes take on too much emotional responsibility for others." (The Child Whisperer)

It goes on to talk about appreciating and honoring this natural gift of bringing peace into the home, without relying on it to resolve family conflict. Then it concludes with advice to remind this type of child "that they are not responsible for anyone's feelings but their own."

I remember finally breaking down in college and going to the campus counselor. I remember working through my independence and breaking it down so I could see and accept my need for Jesus. I remember sharing about others' stresses that I shouldn't have been carrying (and they likely didn't know I was carrying), and feeling caught in the middle.

That little paragraph in that book about parenting took me back to that tension of trying to create peace for others. It's natural for me to do. To feel someone else's pain and discomfort and want to fix it for them. It's natural for me to take that on and try to create peace in the tension so we call all feel loved and stay connected.

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For some people this is no big deal. For peacemakers, it's an ongoing burden of carrying other people's struggles and emotions. It's a constant discomfort of sitting in the tension between sides, of trying to be the bridge instead of build the bridge. The good news I had to relearn in that counselor's office and that I remind myself of today: The bridge in our Savior already exists. We aren't meant to carry that burden for ourselves or anyone else.

We are meant to follow our own peacemaker road--sometimes because it's just naturally who we are, and sometimes because we've been called into it by God. And that blessed burden comes with a promise: We shall be called sons of God.

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One: Unity in a Divided World by Deidra Riggs releases today and is a book for peacemakers by a peacemaker. I can say that because I know Deidra, and I've seen her regularly place herself in the tension between sides and invite people to join her. She creates a grace-filled place where we can truly sit and listen to each other instead of shouting across self-drawn lines.

This book is a timely invitation to join in Jesus' mission of making us one. As she writes in the intro: "Oneness is God's desire for us. Unity is what Jesus prayed for us. The odds are definitely in our favor."

Read it if you're a natural peacemaker or if you're feeling God calling you into the role of peacemaker in your own life and among your own circle.

Learn more or get the book >> here.

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also see:
new? start here...
every little breath
caught in between
monthly updates

*Note: Affiliate links used in this post. Purchases through these links could earn me a small commission with no extra cost to you. Thank you!