Make us your home page

Today’s top headlines delivered to you daily.

(View our Privacy Policy)

Tips and new rituals to start the school year off right

Parents often greet the back-to-school blizzard of papers, schedules, passwords and carpools with a mixture of hope and dread. But it can also be a time of joy and new family traditions.

Successfully navigating elementary, middle and high school can require some new routines, and we have tips to help. But we have also gathered some fun ideas from parents over the years on ways to make the first day of school something to look forward to and look back on fondly in years to come.

Starting traditions

Throw a bus stop bash: Talk to some of the other parents in the neighborhood or just do this yourself at the foot of the driveway, bus stop or with your school carpool. In the book My Great Idea, published by FamilyFun Magazine, one Michigan mom sets up a picnic table at the end of her driveway, and in the morning, it's decorated with balloons and set with juice, muffins and doughnuts. She writes messages in chalk and the kids can add their own. But there's one more surprise: "We always make up a little plate for the bus driver, too."

Pep talk in chalk: Surprise your kids with messages on the sidewalk leading to the school or down the driveway. Encouraging words like "Good luck!" and "Have fun!" and "You are going to shine" can set the mood. You also could write notes to slip into a lunch box.

Homework rituals: Let kids have some time to unwind after school, then make homework time a little special by making a batch of popcorn. To encourage getting weekend homework done, announce that you will have a special make-your-own-sundae bar Sunday afternoon, but only those who have finished all their weekend homework will get to dig in.

Start a keepsake video or photo collection: For photos, have the kids hold a sign saying "First day of (fill in the grade)" to avoid the problem of trying to remember what year it was. In the week leading up to school, take a video of your kids answering questions like what they think the new year is going to be like. What do they want to be when they grow up? Will they ever have kids? What was last year like? Also take video of them on the first day as they brush their teeth, have breakfast and get ready for school. But the kicker is that you save the video and show it next year. Over time, you will have a collection you can play each year before school starts, showing them how much they've grown and reminding them they didn't really have anything to worry about.

Getting ready for school

Get some sleep: Now is the time — a couple of weeks before school starts — to start getting your kids into sleep shape for school. Do it gradually by moving bedtimes and wake-up times earlier (about 15 minutes every other day) until you reach a point at which kids will be able to wake up in time once school starts.

Designate a "launch pad": Pick a chair or a place near the door to set backpacks, lunch boxes and sports gear.

Think about your daily routine now: There are a lot of papers, permission slips and homework reviews ahead, so now is the time to plan and vow to make it a strict daily routine to go through backpacks and sign what needs signing, send in money for field trips or note meetings in your calendar. Don't put it off; do it that day. This could also be the time of day (or day of the week) that you set aside to log onto the school's website to check for announcements and grades.

Get a notebook for yourself: Start the school year with your own neat binder for school papers, fliers, website passwords and carpool information. You could have one massive one or create a notebook for each child.

fast facts

Help on the Web

Here are some links to help parents and students prepare for the coming school year.

• The Pasco County school system has an online collection of books and CDs with advice on how parents can help with homework. Visit and click on the "Parent Involvement Library" link at the bottom of the home page.

• The Pinellas system has a video featuring dos and don'ts for getting children ready for kindergarten. See it at

• The Hillsborough system offers some good advice for parents who want to be involved, but it's a bit hard to find. Follow along: Visit, find the heading "Families" at the top of the page, drop down to "Community Information" and click on "Parent/Family Community Involvement." Click on "Resources" in the left column. The "Parenting Skills Checklist" is helpful. So are the pamphlets you see when you click on "Documents & Forms" in the left column.

Tips and new rituals to start the school year off right 07/31/14 [Last modified: Thursday, July 31, 2014 7:07pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times


Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

  1. For good of the Rays, Tim Beckham should embrace move to second

    The Heater

    PITTSBURGH — The acquisition of slick-fielding shortstop Adeiny Hechavarria said a lot of things, most notably that the Rays are serious about making in-season moves to bolster their chances to make the playoffs, with a reliever, or two, next on the shopping list.

    Adeiny Hechavarria is quick to make his presence felt.
  2. St. Petersburg showdown: Kriseman faces Baker for first time tonight at the Rev. Louis Murphy Sr.'s church

    Local Government

    A standing-room-only crowd packed a Midtown church banquet hall Tuesday to witness the first face-off between Mayor Rick Kriseman and former mayor Rick Baker in what is a watershed mayoral contest in the city's history.

    Former Mayor Rick Baker, left, is challenging incumbent Mayor Rick Kriseman, right, to become St. Petersburg mayor.
  3. At College World Series, the save goes to an LSU dad/doctor


    OMAHA, Neb. — The father of LSU pitcher Jared Poche' helped revive an 87-year-old man who was slumped on the TD Ameritrade Park concourse with no pulse during Game 1 of the College World Series finals.

    UF’s Tyler Dyson delivers against LSU in Tuesday’s late CWS Game 2. Go to
  4. Plant City police searching for drive-by shooter


    PLANT CITY — Crime Stoppers of Tampa Bay is offering a reward for information leading to an arrest in an early morning drive-by shooting outside a home.

    John J. Keeper, 49, was shot in the thigh in a drive-by shooting early Tuesday outside this home at 516 E Laura St. in Plant City. [Hillsborough County Property Appraiser]
  5. FSU-Tulane coming to Amalie Arena in December


    Florida State basketball is coming to Tampa.