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Susan Tolley: Getting Ready For Back to School

Susan Tolley Photo

Hard to believe! The start of the 2015-2016 school year is almost here. After a summer that probably alternated between stretches of go- go-go and periods of pure, delightful sluggishness, it is time to get children ready for back to school.

There is a simple answer to how to get children ready for school. Put them to bed, feed them, dress them, and put them on the bus. But as are most things in life, it isn't quite as simple as it sounds. Let's examine each step.

Put Them to Bed

Start early! School begins this year Tuesday, Sept. 8, so start thinking of putting your children to bed earlier a week ahead of time. Depending on how late your children have been up during the summer, start making bedtime 15 minutes earlier Tuesday, September 1st, then 15 minutes earlier than that Thursday, the 3rd and so on. Just plan how much earlier you need to get to before school and start in enough time to get there.

Feed Them

If your home is like most of ours, breakfast in the summer is pretty laid back...get what you can whenever. Once school starts, you need to make sure your child has something filling and nutritious in the morning. You may choose to have your children buy breakfast at school or you may choose to fix something in the morning. Plan with your children which of those two options you want. But ensure your children do have something for breakfast the first day of school and every day. It is so difficult to concentrate while at the same time trying to quiet a growling stomach.

Dress Them

This will take more time than you would think. Children of all ages will go through the thought process of what to wear the first day. After all, we've taught them first impressions matter. Some children will just choose and be fine; others will try on several back to school outfits. Plan on doing this in the days before school starts. Make sure the decision is made and the clothes laid out for the morning the night before school. Doing this ahead of time limits the stumbling around and confusion in the already hectic mornings.

Put Them on the Bus

Please plan to put your children on the bus! Schools have worked out systems to ensure students get on the bus they came in on in the morning. If you drop off your children, it is more difficult to get them on the right bus in the afternoon. If you can't stand it and must accompany your children to school that first day, follow the bus in your car; still let your children get on that bus. Remember, though, your child's teacher will be getting the class settled in and this is not a time for a conference.

Also make sure your children have the supplies they need. Schools all have supply lists that you can fill before school begins. If you cannot purchase the needed supplies, contact your children's school. Often they have resources for helping fulfill the required supplies.

Getting Yourself Ready

I've spent this whole column writing about getting your children ready, but the truth is that getting your child ready for back to school is really about getting yourself ready. Notice how often the word plan shows up. That isn't by accident. Getting ready for back to school requires planning...on your part. It also requires structure, not just for your children, but for you too.


Going back to school is such an exciting time of year. It really is a gift, a second new year. So don't forget to celebrate the first day of school. Maybe start a new family tradition. Do something different that you could do every new school year. At dinner that night, have ice cream for dessert...perhaps with sprinkles. If you want something a bit healthier, steal a tradition I grew up with...apples dipped in honey for a sweet and fruitful new year! Just remember to enjoy this time of the year and remain upbeat. Your children will pick up on your positivity and delight.

About the Author

Susan Tolley is a retired educator from Virginia Beach City Schools. She was an elementary school teacher, assistant principal, and principal and also worked in curriculum development and human resources. She now speaks nationally and internationally to school systems about the importance of building relationships and how to do it. But the very favorite thing she does is being Ganny to Zack and Will.

Read More

Are you as involved in your child’s education as you would like to be? See what new research shows about parent engagement in our schools.

Whether it is helping a child with homework, volunteering at a school event or simply working with teachers when an issue arises, parents are taking an active role in our schools. A recent survey shows that levels of parent involvement are increasing. But, there is always room for the school division to create new opportunities for parents and the community to become in engaged. We wanted to know how satisfied parents are with current opportunities and what barriers may be keeping them from being more involved. The school division recently worked with the local research firm Issues and Answers to survey parents about their involvement and communication needs. You can learn more about the survey and see the results here.


The number of students who receive food each week through the Beach Bags program.


Beach Bags are funded entirely through donations.

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Last Modified on Tuesday, August 11, 2015