Time to lace up the saddle shoes and inhale the sweet smell of leather. A new school year is here. And I am in total denial.

But, we forge ahead, for there are papers to write, drawings to color, books to read and tests to take. We’ve been at this “first day of school” gig for about 12 years now, since my oldest began preschool at age two. Now, he’s a sophomore in high school. His five other siblings are right behind him in middle, elementary and pre-school.

We’ve learned a few things – mostly the hard way – on how to have a great year. My mistakes are your lessons. Let’s break it down, shall we?

Ready for a new school year? These 10 commandments help guide our family on a stellar school year with our kids.

#1: Take it up with the teacher. None of us is perfect, it’s painfully true. When you have an issue with your teacher, for the love of all that’s good and holy, talk to the teacher first. Sometimes our initial instinct is to take it to the top and justify your message by saying, “The principal/superintendent/dean needs to know about this.” Possibly. But, unless your child’s life is in danger, work your way up the chain. Ultimately, we all want to be respected and valued. Give your teacher the benefit of the doubt.

#2: Decide what hill you want to die on. If I got my panties in a twist about ALL THE THINGS I would be in trouble. When something arises with your kids in the education hamster wheel, ask yourself one question, “Is this a hill I want to die on?” In other words, just how important is it? That can usually be answered with this question: “Is this a salvation issue?” If not, simmer down, mama, and sleep on your concern and say a prayer to the Holy Spirit to guide your words. That always gives me added perspective.

#3: Employ the 24-hour rule. Have a grievance? Wait 24 hours before you act. If your child’s life is in danger, act a little faster.

#4: Be quick to praise. Did the school just make a curriculum or schedule change that just made you and your kid’s life exponentially easier? Spread the praise! Did a teacher go above and beyond, an event bring you to tears (the good kind) or did the school really knock it out of the park on something? Tell them. Y’all, we all need to feel the love from time to time. Don’t be shy.

#5: Easy with social media. Once upon a time I got cocky on social media and guess what? Kathryn got a phone call from the front office. Ouch. The circumstances don’t really matter, nor is what I said of particular importance. The lesson, however, was learned. I had a concern but rather than air the dirty laundry on FB, I should’ve marched my hiney to the office and had a face-to-face convo. Those are always better than social. Always. And, it’s our family rule, but I generally shy away from social media class groups. For me, it’s 1) a huge time suck and 2) an opportunity to get pulled into the gossip train. Neither are good for me, so I bow out. Speaking of social…

#6: Wait to follow/friend/like your child’s teacher on social media until after the year is over. You never really know someone until you’ve spent time together. I’ll admit, it’s easy to do a Google search and make an assumption about someone. Guilty, I do it all the time. Let’s not be that parent. If someone Googled you and based an entire assumption of your whole person based on one post/tweet/photo/snap, would it be accurate? I’m thinking more like, sobering.

#7: Love where you are. When I was going through sorority rush at A&M, I was fretting about what house to join. {I know, life was really rough back then.} My mom reminded me that I would never know what I was missing in the other house if I was loving the one I was in. My reality was determined by my attitude, not my geographical location. If you want to see change, BE change.

#8: Don’t bail out your kids. Did they forget their lunch, water bottle, band instrument, homework, PE shoes, class project? If you haven’t already gotten that phone call, you will. Y’all, let me be the first to tell you that your child will not wither away and die if you respond to that phone call with: “Honey, I love you and I’m so happy you called. While I cannot bring said item to you, I know you’ll remember it next time. Have a great day.” Do I think you’re a bad parent if you do bring it up? Hardly. But the name of the game here is responsibility. Your kids have to learn it sometime and best if they learn it from a loving parent.

#9: Label all the things. Well, just the ones you care about. Because my children wear uniforms to school, do you know how many blue blazers and gray sweatshirts there are? Answer: one million. A cute label or a plain sharpie will do the trick. You’ll thank yourself later.

#10: Find your people. We all need a band of cheerleaders. There is a small group of moms with whom I trust my biggest fears and greatest challenges and they are my lifeline. We laugh on the good days and drink margaritas on the bad ones. True story. Find your band and never let them go. They will get you through every season of motherhood, that I promise.

I would be remiss without mentioning how much prayer plays a major role in my vocation of motherhood, and particularly with the education of my children. It lies within each one of these commandments. It guides my words, my thoughts and my reactions. I’m no perfect parent, but I’m a better one when I pray first.

God bless y’all as you start a new school year. No matter what it brings, I pray it brings you closer to your kids, your community and your maker. After all, that’s the stuff that matters.

9 Comments

  1. Donna Pugh on August 23, 2016 at 8:15 am

    Kathryn, I love just almost everything you write! This one is right on!!! I have it printed and will use it for my next radio program. Thanks for sharing!

  2. Jenny on August 23, 2016 at 8:18 am

    I just dealt with #8 this morning! As I was driving out of the drop off line I heard a water bottle clanking around in the backseat that I told my oldest 3 times to just put in his backpack! I really had to grapple with stopping and walking the water in school so he would have it or just leaving it in the car. I chose the second route. They need to learn at some point right?! 😉
    I also love #2 and teach this to my kids already. It was a hard lesson for me to learn the first few years my kids were in school 🙂

  3. Karrie on August 23, 2016 at 11:09 am

    Oh Kathryn, you are so dead-on with these. I said an ‘Amen’ when I read #2. I’ve been doing this for a while and it is amazing how much 24 hrs can change your perspective and probably save you some face later on! God bless you!
    A Texan missionary in AZ:)

  4. Adria on August 23, 2016 at 11:28 am

    Thank you. Your timing is perfect as our son starts kindergarten tomorrow.

  5. Jacelyn on August 23, 2016 at 1:39 pm

    Great post, Kathryn! I’ve learned a few of these the hard way, too, after only 3 short years of school. My favorites from your list are #7, #8, and #10. Now, if only more people would abide by #8…:) And, thank you for the prayer reminder. I really must do that one, and maybe this year will be better than last school year.

  6. Skye-Christina Angioletti on August 23, 2016 at 6:32 pm

    Hi! Thank you so much for this list. I really appreciate #1 sooooooo much. I am a Theology teacher at an all-girls Catholic high school in Manhattan and it is always better to talk to the teacher first. I love taking to parents and we usually find out that the problem was simply due to miscommunication! It only takes 5 minutes to realize this and then all is well… So I thank you for this. If one goes to the Principal, it takes soooooo much longer. Of course, if you get no where with the teacher, by all means… go to the Dept Chair or Vice-Principal.

    I am not a mom yet (we are in the process of adopting!) but I really love reading your blog so I can get prepared! Thank you!

    Peace,
    Skye

  7. Jenny Ryan on August 24, 2016 at 3:53 pm

    Thanks so much, Katherine. We are just starting on this crazy school train and this was really helpful!

  8. Lis Luwia on August 24, 2016 at 9:46 pm

    These are awesome! You must have really awesome coffee. 🙂

  9. Link Love #21 - Real Mom Nutrition on September 3, 2016 at 12:31 am

    […] A School Parent’s 10 Commandments from Team Whitaker […]

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