Three months before school starts:

  • Make sure the school your child will attend in the fall knows she’s coming. If it’s a new school, introduce yourself to the principal, parent group leaders, and school secretary so you won’t be a stranger when things get hectic.

  • If your child needs any special services or testing done prior to the start of school, make those arrangements with the school or a private provider.

  • Find out what vaccinations are required and schedule an appointment with your child’s doctor. You might be able to combine a school vaccination visit with a pre-camp physical.

  • Ask if your child has any required reading for the summer. Reserve the books at the library, borrow copies from friends, or order them from a bookstore.

  • Look into the curriculum for the coming year. See whether you can work any major themes into your summer plans. For example, if your child will be studying ecosystems, visit some wildlife habitats.

  • Find out whether your state has any sales tax holidays and mark them on your calendar for buying school supplies.

  • Speaking of your calendar, go ahead and write in orientation, the first day of school, and other important dates you’re already aware of.

Two months before school starts:

  • Make sure your child is on track with summer reading and other assigned prep work.

  • Try slipping in a few questions to see whether he is retaining what he learned last year. Some kids retain information easily, while others need more practice and review. If your child needs reinforcement, find fun ways to fit it in.

  • Assess how the summer is going so far. Is everyone having fun and relaxing? Are your kids finding time for learning? Are they overscheduled or bored? There is still time to add anything you might be missing or cancel some plans if you’re overloaded.

One month before school starts:

  • If your child will be going to a new school, start doing some casual drive-bys. Ask how she’s feeling about the start of school. If she’s anxious, build in activities to ease her fears, such as play dates with potential classmates.

  • If you have any concerns to discuss with the principal, request a meeting. Most principals work during the summer and are happy to meet with parents.

  • Make transportation and child-care arrangements. If you’re carpooling, touch base with the other parents to discuss schedules. If your child needs after-school care, sign him up.

  • If you want to be more involved in your school’s parent organization, consider offering to help with back-to-school activities.

  • Make sure your child remains on track with summer reading and other work.

  • Start thinking about activities for the school year. Does your child want to continue with the same ones or try something new? If it looks like your family will be overscheduled, talk with your kids about scaling back.

  • Work out a back-to-school budget. If your children are old enough to participate in clothes shopping, let them know early on how much they’ll have to spend.

  • Look through your kids’ closets to see which clothes still fit and are in good condition. Start watching for sales to pick up new items they need.

Two weeks before school starts:

  • Talk to your child about his goals for this school year. Does he want to make new friends? Improve his grades? Do better at sports? Learn an instrument? Help figure out ways for him to have the school year he wants.

  • Start setting alarm clocks. Gradually roll back bedtimes and wake-up times to ease kids into their new schedule.

  • Check the school website for news about the upcoming year.

  • Firm up transportation plans: Find out whether the bus route has changed and what time you can expect it to arrive. Confirm carpool arrangements.

  • Shop for school supplies. Now is a good time to stock up on basics your kids will use all year, like paper and pencils.

  • Push your child to finish her summer reading and schoolwork assignments. Shift into nag mode if necessary.

  • Get out the master calendar and mark in any important dates, activities, and appointments that are missing. Consider using a different pen color for each child.

One week before school starts:

  • Many schools will reveal the all-important class lists. Prepare your child in case she doesn’t get the teacher she wants or finds out her best friend is in a different class. Show excitement no matter which teacher she is assigned.

  • Print out the school rules from the website and review them with your child.

  • This is a good time to talk about academic expectations, too. Discuss the curriculum and the fun things he’ll be learning.

  • Review the school routine. Talk about catching the bus, going to after-school care, and getting to and from activities.

  • Talk with your child about the start of school. Ask what lingering worries he has and what you can do to help.

  • Do a dry run or two—waking up early, getting ready, and leaving the house on time.

  • Go over supply lists to make sure you have everything.

The night before school starts:

  • Follow your child’s cues about the new school year. She may want to talk about the first day, or she may prefer to play it cool.

  • Pack lunch with your child’s help. Or, if he’s old enough, have him make it himself. If your child is buying lunch at school, include the lunch card or money in his backpack and remind him where it is.

  • Help your child pack his backpack.

  • Help her lay out her clothes.

  • Do any necessary prep work for breakfast so the morning runs smoothly.

  • Set alarm clocks.

The first day of school:

  • Get everyone up a few minutes earlier than you think is needed just to make sure no one misses the bus.

  • Make time for a protein-packed breakfast: Include some cheese, eggs, yogurt, or peanut butter. Even a turkey sandwich will do the trick.

  • Make an extra effort to ensure that everyone has what they need before heading out the door.

  • If you have time, take a photo! Years from now you will treasure these first-day-of-school pictures.

  • Give your kids an extra hug and some encouragement before they head off to class.