It’s That Time: A Back to School Checklist For Parents

Sep 13, 2023 5:59:29 PM


The first weeks of the school year are busy, filled with meeting students and learning schedules—and it is the optimal time to set routines for back-to-school success. Setting practices and procedures is critical to ensuring a productive and successful classroom environment. This is so important that many teachers (myself included) are given the book “The First Days of School: How to Be an Effective Teacher” by Harry K. Wong and Rosemary T. Wong, as it’s considered a “must-read” for educators. However, classroom preparation is only one part of the back-to-school success equation. 

Children need structure both at home and school. Parents need to mirror setting routines and procedures at home. The US Department of Health and Human Services shares that schedules and routines at home help children to:

  • Feel in control of their environment

  • Feel safe, secure, and comfortable

  • Know what is happening now and what comes next

  • Know how to do an activity or task

  • Engage in learning

Also, the CDC states that home should contain three essential elements: consistency, predictability, and follow-through. The organization provides charts that parents can use to implement those areas.

Research has shown that the home environment impacts students' emotional and social well-being. It translates into children being better able to thrive in the school environment. 

Creating structure does not have to be a militant endeavor. The structures should be rooted in what works best for the child. Start by identifying those elements.

Parents who create the routines before and after school help ensure a sense of structure, expectation, safety, and consistency, all of which contribute to student success.

Before School Routine-Setting Questions

  • When should my child wake up?

  • Should my child have an alarm clock, or should I be the alarm clock?

  • Who is the adult on deck to monitor the child?

  • If an adult is unavailable, what will I put into place to help my child? A posted list? A conversation the night before?

  • When should my child eat breakfast? Before getting dressed? After?

  • Should my child bathe in the morning or at night?

  • If my child takes lunch to school, should I pack it, or should my child?

  • If my child will buy lunch, should I give my child money in the morning or at night? Can I electronically deposit money into a lunch account?

  • How will my child get to school? Car rider? Carpool? School bus? Walk? Public transportation? 

  • Does my child need a house key or know the alarm setting?

  • What items does my child need every day for school? Where will they be located?

  • What affirmations will I say to my child to get my child ready for the school day?

After School Routine-Setting Questions

  • When should my child go to bed?

  • When and where should my child complete homework? At aftercare? At home? In the kitchen?

  • What is the plan if I’m not available after school?

  • When will I prep and cook dinner?

  • When will I verify my child’s homework is done and I’ve read the papers they have brought home?

  • How much free time will I allow my kids to have after school?

  • What chores should my child complete before bed?

  • What affirmations will I say to my child before bedtime?

Weekend Questions

Weekends should be a time to rest, excluding any extracurricular activities. It should also be a time for reflection to consider what went well and what should change for the upcoming week.

All kids need structure, but routines should not only exist in the classroom to contribute to student success.

Shawnta S. Barnes

Shawnta (Shawn-tay) S. Barnes, also known as Educator Barnes, is a married mother of identical twin boys. She navigates education from not only the educator’s perspective but also the parent’s perspective. She has been an educator for nearly two decades. Shawnta works with K-12 schools, universities, & education adjacent organizations through her education consulting business Blazing Brilliance. She is an adjunct college professor, supervises student teachers, Indy Kids Winning Editor-in-Chief, Brave Brothers Books Co-founder, & CEO, and Brazen Education Podcast host. She holds five education licenses: English/language arts 5-12, English to speakers of other languages P-12, library/media P-12, reading P-12, and school administration P-12, and she has held a job in every licensed area. Previously, she has served as a school administrator, English teacher, English learners teacher, literacy coach, and librarian. She won the 2019 Indiana Black Expo Excellence in Education Journalism Award. In 2023, she completed her doctorate in Literacy, Culture, and Language Education with a minor in Learning Sciences. She is an urban gardener in her spare time and writes about her harvest-to-table journey at To learn more about Shawnta, visit

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