Back to School: 10 tips to help start the school year off right

Principal Kim Gordon greets students as they arrive on the first day of school at Woodland Elementary School in Joliet. Wednesday, Aug. 17, 2022, in Joliet.

Try as you might to ignore it, summer break is nearing an end, and school buses will be rumbling down the road soon.

Whether your reaction is a “boo hoo,” “yahoo” or “oh no,” here are a few reminders of things to do before the first day of school.

1. Register

It seems so simple, right? But that paperwork can fall through the cracks.

“Sometimes parents don’t realize that registration takes place every year,” said Brigit Cain, director of student services at Conant High School in Hoffman Estates.

If you’re unsure if your student is registered, check your student portal or call your school.

2. What’s up, doc?

If you haven’t gotten school physicals done, get on the phone and make those appointments. Enough said.

3. Getting to know you

While Mary Gibson has been reading books about going to school with her daughter, she also has been making sure to point out the school to her kindergartner anytime they pass it.

“I make a big deal and point it out to her to get her excited and demystify what’s happening,” the Naperville mom said.

For middle school and high school students, consider taking advantage of orientation or open house days.

“We’ll walk his schedule a few times and definitely work on his locker combination,” said Kendall Hayes, a Naperville woman whose son Parker will be starting sixth grade at Madison Junior High.

4. Get back on track

Nothing wrong with a summer of fun and late nights, but with school around the corner, it’s not a bad idea to start getting back to a normal sleep schedule.

“Our kids stay up later in the summer than they do during the school year,” said Hayes, who also has a daughter in eighth grade and a daughter in fifth grade. “We’re working on trying to get back into a more usual bedtime routine.”

To get back on a normal schedule, the National Sleep Foundation recommends adjusting sleep and wake times by 15 minutes each night in the two weeks leading up to the first day of school.

5. Hit the stores

If you didn’t take advantage of ordering supplies through your school, you’ll want to hit the stores soon – and don’t forget to bring your supply list.

Need locker decorations? “Run, don’t walk” to your store of choice, Hayes said, warning parents not to put off those all-important locker decorations until the last minute.

If you need uniforms for school or gym class, don’t forget to put those orders in, too.

6. Read those emails

There’s no doubt you’re getting a few emails from your child’s school. Read them. They have important information about bus routes, upcoming events, pickup and drop-off lines.

“I feel like my primary job is reading massive quantities of communications from the school so I know where he needs to be, because we’ve never done this before,” said Rebecca Malotke-Meslin, whose oldest son, Jonah Meslin, will be a freshman at Naperville Central High School. “Right now, it’s just really mastering the calendar.”

7. Pack in the fun

Now is a great time for one last road trip, a day at the pool or a backyard get-together with friends.

“The biggest thing we’re doing now is getting ready for our end-of-summer celebration ... before we get back to the reality of being back in school,” joked West Dundee mom Melissa Wolf, whose son, Charlie, is starting fifth grade at St. Margaret Mary Catholic School in Algonquin.

8. Get involved

If children want to play a fall sport or join drama club, be sure to sign them up.

“We know, looking at our student success data, that students who are connected through an after-school activity or sport are more successful in the classroom,” Cain said, adding that students involved in extracurricular activities typically have fewer absences and higher GPAs.

9. Ask questions

Unsure if your child’s class schedule is correct? Not sure when you should pick up your student’s laptop? Wondering how hot lunch works? Don’t wait until the first day to get answers; call ahead for a smoother start to the school year.

10. Enjoy

When that first day of school rolls around, take it in and enjoy.

Malotke-Meslin said this year might be a bit more hectic with one in high school and another in middle school, but she’s determined to keep alive the family tradition of a dinner out for the first day of school, even if it means grabbing a hot dog before football practice.

“We don’t make a huge fuss the morning of, but we always do dinner out,” she said. “We can sit together and have a moment to talk about all that’s coming this school year.”