We’re flying head first into the new school year and, if you’re like us, we’re cracking into the start of another crazy year as best prepared as we can be. Being prepared is especially important if this is your child’s first year at secondary school.After doing school for more than 10 years, and as a single parent family, we’ve learnt quite a bit about what works and what helps to get through the school year (with more smiles than tears!)
I asked Miss 15 to give me her tips of what she thinks works for us too. It amazed me there were so many things on her list that matched mine.
Here are our top tips for starting the high school year off the right way
1. Plan the night before
Yes, we hear it all the time, but it makes a world of difference in avoiding the ‘worst’ of the morning chaos.
No matter how busy things get, Miss 15 always gets the swim gear out in the bag the night before, the sports training gear sorted, the folders needed, the weird random things required for school collected, formal uniform/tie on certain days and her painstakingly finished assignment will be waiting in a clearfile in her school bag by the door.
Planning well means that when desperate, a training top can be plucked out of the washing machine late that night and hung by the door for the morning, rather than realising its still wet in the machine before you walk out the door in the morning.
2. Set bags for each weekly activity
So when the training gear comes out of the wash, it goes straight back into ‘the training bag’ and in that training bag is always the knee supports, ice spray and spare snacks floating in the bottom. Her work bag is for a different activity, so her work gear always goes back in the same bag. The swim goggles are always in the same place in her swim bag.
This makes for more bags around the house, but each is stored in the same place and saves a huge amount of time trying to find those things.
Even if it means you need to get duplicates of things, eg. goggles, so there are ‘training googles’ that stay in the training bag and another pair of goggles for fun that can be used at other times that live elsewhere.
3. Front door collection point
Even though it can get fairly full at times, we have a collection point by the front door for things that are heading out the door with us in the morning.
We started this at primary school and it still works well now. Both Miss15 and my own bags/items go here and sometimes its chocka with 4-5 bags or items of things she is dragging to school with her and two bags of my own and work folders, but we know if it’s in that space, it’s going with us out the door.
4. Own whiteboard
This is Miss 15’s own whiteboard that she writes her own lists up on. She plans things she wants to do at home, notes for things she has to work through for assignments, specific jobs, things she just needs to think about school-wise. It’s in a central place in our home, but is her own place to just get those things to remember out of her head.
5. School planning board
This is also her own school term planning whiteboard (Warehouse Stationery had great value wipeable ones), she writes up all her important dates, assignments due, exams, sports etc… this is also in a central area in our home near where she works on her homework and studies.
It also tells her what days all of her before and after school practices and activities are, so she knows what gear to prep the night before.
6. Clean your gear
To start the year off, Miss 15 suggests, clean your school bag out, like with a vacuum and wet wipes, so it feels nice and fresh. Same with things like your calculator, wipe all the vivid off your ruler and empty out your pencil case of all dead pens and sharpen blunt pencils.
7. Diary for homework (and actually write in it)
This is something that Miss 15 still has to remember to use more often, but even she listed it as one of the most important things to do, even though she doesn’t do it enough. To write exactly what the homework is when the teacher says it, at the time, no matter how much you think you will remember it. After 6 subjects that day and maybe six different sets of homework tasks – you won’t!
If you get to choose your own diary, choose one you really love, with the page layout you like, so you will actually use it.
8. Calendar with all important dates like: swim, sports & dress up days
She writes all important school dates up on her school term whiteboard, our family calendar and in our linked digital calendar, viewable on our phones and devices, so she can plan well in advance costume pieces, performances they need to plan so they can schedule practices and plan costumes etc…or even just figuring out if there are going to be time clashes or trying to be in 3 places at once.
A lot happens in high school, so it helps so much to plan ahead.
9. Name your stationery
But in a cool way, ‘so you are not that kid’ as Miss 15 says!
10. Find out what to bring on your first day
At some schools, you must take everything on the first day; others, you don’t need to bring in all your stationery for a few days. So check, so you don’t need to look like a packhorse if no one else is taking theirs.
11. Subject Timetable/Schedule Photo
When you get given your timetable on your first day of term, take a photo and sent it to yourself, also send to your email, to your mum and your aunt, as you WILL loose it…or rip it…or write super special important notes on the back of it to your friend giving it away.
12. Start, don’t procrastinate
Do assignments as soon as possible: save crying at 1am in the morning before a major assignment is due to be handed in that you are so tired and you should have started it weeks ago. Take it from Miss 15’s experience that she is trying to change as each one comes up.
Remember also, thinking you only have about 1 hour left to finish up your assignment, really means you have about 3 hours in front of you ’til you will make it to the end.
13. Plan fun in your week
Look forward to something each week, like hanging out with friends, a sleepover on the weekend, events on in the city, something, anything that breaks up the hard work.
14. Plan fun and chill time in the holidays
Mark fun things up on the calendar for the holidays also as things to look forward to throughout the term, helps a lot especially when the term seems really long. Plan some relaxing time too, to just blob, sleep ’til late, hang in your PJs and really enjoy just doing nothing for a bit.
15. Sync your calendars
We have a decent sized family calender on the wall in the kitchen, that EVERYTHING goes onto.
We then also sync our digital calendars with pretty much the same stuff, so we each know what each other has on so we can work around it.
My tip: find one that runs Monday to Sunday, none of this Sunday to Saturday nonsense that 95% of calendar makers seem to insist upon…
16. One U turn home in the year
If we didn’t plan, we would both forget things all-the-time. So we have to be organised. We commute rather a wee way to school and work.
But Miss 15 does forget some things she considers vitally important sometimes, as I know so many kids do. But I cant spend all my mornings running around everywhere and being late for work. So she has to decide, how important is it? As she gets one U TURN IN A YEAR, where I will drop her to school and will drive all the way back home to collect said vitally important thing and drive back to school to give it to her, then to work.
It’s a one time offer and it feels like pretty tough love when she’s upset about something else she has forgotten, but it works!
So that’s what makes just some of our school year run a little smoother. Saves a bunch of hair pulling, racing round the house in chaos and a bunch of tears.
For even more tips on starting out at high school see our article Advice for parents of Year 9 students.