Want the Best School Year Ever? Severely Lower Your Standards

From pool to school

back to school tips

Both the calendar and the weather outside still say summer, but by today’s accelerated culture standards, summer was over by July 15th. While you may think in August you still have plenty of time to gear up for back-to-school, really, you’re already a month behind in your Christmas shopping and why don’t you have your Halloween costumes already? But fret not, for here at YMC we can help you get your kids back into a school routine quickly.

Here are a few pool-to-school tips:

Adjust Bedtime

If you are like most parents, over the summer you’ve let your regular bedtime routine become lax. And by lax I mean you can’t remember the last time your kids went to sleep when the time read “PM.” But implementing rules which lead to good sleeping habits is important and it’s one of the best and most lasting gifts you can give your children. Chances are the whole family needs to catch up on a summer’s worth of lost sleep and the sooner the better. But this is easier said than done, especially since school let out bedtimes have been marshmallow-fuelled free-for-alls. Drastic measures are called for, and here’s how to do it:

  • Starting in mid-to-late August, declare “no media” after 7pm.
  • After you’ve unplugged all televisions, iPods, iPads, computers and gaming systems, do a sweep of your house for devices capable of displaying time. Knock them back a half hour. You may be tempted to go further, but don’t be a hero. You’re still a novice until you’ve successfully done this on Christmas Eve AND Halloween.
  • Start yawning an hour before your bedtime goal. Remark how the sun is setting earlier and earlier and then quickly draw the curtains before kids can confirm.
  • Sprinkle lavender essential oils liberally on all bedding materials and start piping “Enya” on a hidden sound system. Offer a nice warm mug of turkey gravy as a bedtime treat, and you should hear snoring by 8:30.
  • Repeat each evening, taking additional 15 minutes off the clock each evening until desired bedtime is achieved.

Lower Expectations

Ask any parent what they hate most about the school year, and right after “filling out mountains of paperwork and liability forms” so your child can walk with their class to the mailbox comes “packing lunches.” You’ve either been home this summer with your kids to prepare hot lunches or picnics, or they’ve been away at camps where they were served delicious and balanced meals. Party time is over kids, and that crap ends right here, right now. Unless you want to be chained to a lunchbox all school year, you need to lower the bar when it comes to your child’s food expectations. Re-introduce simple items like sliced cheese and broken crackers, bruised apples, and questionable yogurt. You may even want to make one day a week “fend for yourself” day and have your child prepare their own lunch. This way, when school starts, anything you’ve wrapped in wax paper will seem gourmet. 

Set Goals

It’s a good idea for children over the age of seven to have goals going in to each new school year. It’s an even better idea if you — the parent — have goals. A few goals you may want to consider for the upcoming year include not being suckered into becoming room mother, or not becoming the parent who picks her kids up at the bus stop if it’s raining. Remember to set goals which are SMART: Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant, and Trace-able. Let’s use my successful experience of avoiding School Council last year by reviewing my goal sheet:


Specific: Goal is to NOT join School Council.

Measurable: Did you join yet? No? Good.

Attainable: Can you reasonably avoid eye contact with other council members and claim “email issues” regarding all school correspondence until at least March?

Relevant: Would it be so bad if you did join? Yes. Yes it absolutely would. You want no part in this.

Traceable: Did you make it to June 15th without having to partake in popcorn sales meetings for School Family Community Movie Nights? Yes? SUCCESS!

Believe me; if you value your self-esteem and/or your ability to fake-smile for hours is weak, then you want no part in such organizations.


Get Packing

Having proper school supplies is crucial for student success and almost as important as having the coolest shoes on the playground. Don’t fool yourself into thinking you have a lot of time left, because despite the full aisles in department and stationary stores now, it will be slim pickings come the first week of September. No one wants to be the kid in grade six with the putty coloured binder and Dora pencil box full of knock-off dollar store pencils. To avoid sending your child to school with a calculator with only three buttons, shop early. I am not kidding around here. I once saw two mothers go toe-to-toe over the last math set in Wal-Mart and take it from me; watching a women bleed out from a protractor in the jugular is no way to spend the last day of your summer vacation. What are you waiting for? GO NOW.

Ready, Set, Shower

The time has come to peel off the inch-thick protective layer of sunscreen, bug spray, and popsicle juice your child has been wearing like a coat since June. Run some water in the bathtub (it’s in that room where the toilet is) and add a squirt or two of soap. Your child will likely react unfavorably to the foreign substance, but assure them it won’t sting, and that they are safe with you. Chances are the feeling of being smooth and clean will frighten your child, but remind them that it’s actually a very natural state and if they don’t submit to the cleansing  you will be sent to jail for neglect. (This also works when attempting to get kids to wear winter clothing.) It’s best if you offer a reward for compliance; perhaps an ice cream cone, eaten over the sink while wearing a raincoat.


Every family has something they’d prefer people not know about, and most of these things happen over the summer vacation. Before you finally send your rested, well-supplied child to school, mediocre lunch in hand, take a few minutes to talk to them about what you did over the summer. Pay special attention to discussing what you’d like them to not share with their teachers and classmates. This may seem unnecessary, but after a phone call regarding the content of my daughter’s “What I Did on My Summer Vacation” essay, it’s a piece of advice I pass on often. For example, if this summer you had a wine-fuelled breakdown over a missing tent pole 500 miles from home and suggested feeding your children to bears if they asked where the damn Doritos were ONE MORE TIME, I’d suggest making it clear to your child that it was a “private” family moment. 





Jeni Marinucci is YMC's Creative Director. She has a guilty conscience, a love for humour, and a questionable home-haircut. After her children were old enough to make their own sandwiches, she returned to University to complete her B.A. in English Literature—a designation which has provided her with an extensive library and crushing student loans. When no teaching college wanted her, she had to choose between taking orders through a drive-thru window or from an editor. She chose the latter.