Back to School: Friend or Foe?


It’s rather the thing, this time of year, to exult about the imminent return of our children to school. No more expensive weekly day camps, no more kids underfoot while we’re working, someone else on deck to occupy and fulfill them for at least a few hours of every day.

I wasn’t feeling it, though. I’ve loved this summer with my kids, I thought, admittedly rather smugly, as I read one essay or blog entry after another celebrating the approach of fall. I don’t even want them to go back to school!

Then the squabbling started (or re-started). The children who’d been pretty happily occupying themselves most days suddenly found themselves at loose ends again, laying on the kitchen floor, moaning about the onset of school or, more likely, their remaining summer homework. And suddenly I was, if not exactly ready for summer to be over, ready to think about being ready for it to be over.

There comes a time when we all need a little more structure to our days.

That said, now’s a good time to take stock of what worked for your family this summer, and what didn’t. Summer should be a happy interval in these pleasant modern lives we’re living, and if in many ways it wasn’t—if the gift felt like a burden—ask yourself what could be better. Did one kid need more activities, while another needed less? Did you travel more or less than you wanted to? Did the camps or day care fit your work schedule? When you were all at home, what were the best moments, and could there be more of them? What did you hope or plan to do that you didn’t—and did you really, really want to do whatever that was?

I like to make a note in my calendar, set to pop up in April, reminding me of the things I want to do differently to make next summer even happier. And then, even if I’m still of mixed emotions about our return to 6 am wake-ups, homework and everything else, I schedule a few things to look forward to in September, get ready to take the annual second-day-of-school picture and wipe out the lunch boxes.

School’s coming, if it’s not here for you already. Might as well find a way to like it.

Looking for a couple of August book recommendations? They’re right here.

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