Two weeks ago, school started back up for my daughters; third grade for the Big Naturalist and kindergarten for The Little Naturalist. I’ve never been one to become sentimental about the summer being over and I certainly was not one to be afflicted by the back-to-school blues. In fact, by the time August rolls around both the girls and I are usually ready to see other people and spend some time apart.
Well, this time was a little different. For the first time both my girls will be gone from eight to three every day, with no exception. No more keeping the Little Naturalist home from the babysitter’s on slow work days, so that we can go for a bike ride in the morning, have a picnic in the backyard or just stay home and snuggle.
We’re all on the same schedule now, and it’s a schedule that I’m not entirely in control of.
There is homework, school fundraisers, and never-ending mental notes about bringing in snacks to the kindergarten class, making sure my daughter wears something blue on Wednesday, and keeping track of my oldest daughter’s Advanced Reader program. Soon, Girl Scouts, guitar lessons and swim class will start up. Plus, the girls are more worn out and likely to get into extended bickering sessions toward the end of the day.
Honestly, the transition has been a bit rough, and I know I’m not the only one who has had that experience.
So how do I beat the back-to-school blues? These are my best tips, and they work great for children and adults alike:
1. Get some outdoor time in every day
I don’t have a lot of hard and fast principles, but this is one of them. Unless it’s storming, I insist that we get outside for a while after the girls get home from school, usually before the Big Naturalist even does her homework. After being cooped up in a classroom all day they (and I, since I spend most of my day in front of a computer) need some fresh air. That doesn’t mean they’re always on board. I’ve found that what usually works is to give them some choices, like “Would you like to go for a bike ride or go down to the creek?” or “Would you like to get out the soccer ball or see if we can find some raspberries in the garden?”
2. Ignore the fact that summer is over
Summer break may be over, but the hammock in our backyard is still up, and the patio furniture is still out. If you too live in a climate where the warm weather doesn’t necessarily end just because school is back in session, you can still have fun with typical summer activities after school. My girls are still running around barefoot in the yard, blowing bubbles, playing in the water sprinkler and having water balloon fights. Weather permitting we read books, play board games and eat outside as well – even during school days.
3. Go on micro-adventures
During the school week, there’s obviously less time for long trips, but micro-adventures can be just as nourishing for the soul. Late summer and fall is a great time to visit local farms, farmers’ markets and orchards which, depending on where you live, may offer corn mazes, U-pick produce and petting zoos. I just found out about a goat farm that is within an hour’s drive from our house – perfect for an after-school outing! If you work long hours, an evening picnic at a local park can be just as fun.
4. Don’t give in to busyness
The start of the school year usually means that a slew of extra-curricular activities are starting up as well, but resist the pressure (perceived or real) to book up every hour of your afternoons and evenings. Sports and other organized activities can be great for many reasons, but remember that kids need time for unstructured play and a frenzied after-school calendar is not good for anybody. So how much is too much? That depends on the individual child and the family. If you often find yourself thinking that your family is too busy, it probably is.