Intentional Living

Intentional parenting: start the new school year with purpose

little girl with backpack holds a person's hand. intentional parenting back to school concept

This post applies an intentional parenting approach to the back to school transition. However, this method is helpful for all aspects of parenting. So, dive in and get a valuable framework that’ll help make home life better throughout the year.

August has arrived!

My family’s in the midst of enjoying warm summer days. We’re also checking items off our vacation bucket list.

But hints of fall are already in the air.

The mornings are getting crisper and the hours of sunlight, slowly but surely dwindling. And let me not forget. There’s an uptick of school-related chatter on my social media feeds.

While I don’t want to rush the summer out, the fall will soon be upon us. And for my household this means back to school preparations are underway.

As is true of any family transition, a little bit of intentional parenting can go a long way—reducing stress as well as saving us time and money.

It’s easy to get swept up in a flurry of activity at summer end.

There’s a lot to prepare, after all.

But, without pausing, first, to consider our top family priorities, it’s easy to fall victim to rushed decision-making.

The result?

A life that doesn’t ultimately serve us, as parents, or our families.

So, let’s infuse some intentionality into our back-to-school preparations!

Read on to find out how.

Note book on beige surface with paperclips, pencils and an erased around its edge. There is text on the photo stating: "Intentional Parenting: Start the New School Year with purpose"

Transitions are an inevitable part of life

We can’t avoid change. And modern life—including parenting—can bring more than its fair share of transitions.

I mean, can’t things stay the same for a little longer, especially if we’re enjoying the current pace of life?

In some cases, transitions are under (or at least somewhat under) our control. For example, we may choose to move, change jobs, or have a child. These predictable shifts allow for a certain degree of planning. And sometimes we can also draw on similar past experiences.

In other cases, transitions catch us off guard, with no precedent to guide us. The COVID-19 pandemic is a case in point. Its abruptness and magnitude upturned already busy mom days. And the ripple effects continue to impact our lives.

For your family, big changes may lie in the month ahead. Perhaps your child is starting school for the first time or changing schools. Or maybe the upcoming summer-to-fall transition is a familiar process—something you’ve navigated many times before.

Regardless of their size and familiarity, transitions can present challenges as well as an opportunity for intentional parenting.

In the next section, we’ll delve into the summer-to-fall shift in more detail—starting with the challenges a new school year brings.

Mom and three kids, wearing backpacks, walk away from the camera hand in hand. First day of school intentional parenting concept.
Photo bchoreograph

Back to school brings too much to do

There’s a lot of preparation required to get our kiddos ready for a new school year.

Kids need stationary, backpacks, lunch bags, water bottles, clothes, footwear, etc.  And then there’s the long list of potential extracurriculars to sign-up for including team sports, dance, art lessons, and tutoring to name a few.

It’s easy to get caught up in a mad dash to get needed items and sign kids up for a million activities.

The push from advertisers—to buy more and the best—doesn’t help nor does the cultural norm to have kids involved in a ton of extracurriculars. These pressures play to our parental fears. We worry that our kids will be poorly prepared and left behind.

I’ve certainly fallen prey to these concerns. The result?

  1. Mad shopping sprees that leave my family with an excess of items, some of which aren’t aligned with household values.  
  2. Too many extracurriculars that replace family time with rushed exchanges while chauffeuring kids from one activity to the next

And another important thing that sometimes falls to the wayside?

Getting kids emotional and academically prepared for the new school year. And equally important, setting up family routines and systems that’ll make home life way easier to navigate.

So, how do we avoid these back to school pitfalls?

By infusing a big dose of intentional parenting into our planning. We’ll look at how to accomplish this feat in the sections below.

Young girl, with her caring mother buying school supplies in a store as preparation for first day at school
Photo by Dusan Stankovic

How to be a more intentional parent

Intentional parenting means raising kids with our values at the helm.

We commonly gravitate towards life on autopilot. This is a natural human tendency and one that saves us valuable energy.

Imagine having to think carefully through every decision, especially ones we’ve make countless times before?

But default action has disadvantages, too.

Life on autopilot can leave us frustrated and discouraged—with a nagging internal voice that insists something’s missing or not quite right.

It’s hard, if not impossible, to be intentional about every decision.

But incorporating some intentionality into our parenting, such as the back to school transition, is a great place to start.

What does this process look like?

Intentional parenting begins with reflecting on our family values and asking questions such as:

  • What do I want home life to look and feel like?
  • And what do I need to prioritize in order to make this vision happen?

When you do this exercise, write your ideas down. This keeps your insights more accessible and easier to infuse into the days, weeks, and months ahead.

And if you’ve undergone a similar transition before, consider how you can draw on these past experiences—positive and negative —to make the upcoming fall shift better aligned with what matters most.

Woman writing on notebook, hand of woman holding pen, intentional parenting concept
Photo bJoPanwatD

My family’s back to school approach

Different families have different values.

For my family, top guiding principles include minimizing costs to our pocketbooks, calendars, and the environment. We also try to maximize family connection time.

How do our values play out in new school year planning and decision-making?

When buying school supplies, we start by considering what the kids truly need. We then “shop” what we already have. If extra items are needed, we try to get these second-hand. And when new purchases are required, we buy the highest quality and most ethically sourced items we can afford.

In terms of extracurriculars, we weigh the potential benefits of these activities against their effect on home life. And, in particular, whether extracurriculars will negatively impact regular quality time together as a family.

To prepare my children emotionally, we start having conversations about the fall transition. This includes what the kids can expect as well as their personal aspirations for the new school year, academic and otherwise.

We also fine tune morning routines by doing practice runs as well as optimizing the home environment—such as reorganizing the mud room and setting up a family command centre.

And let me not forget the tweaking of bedtime routines and adjusting of sleep schedules to ensure my kids start the new school year well rested!

Happy African American mother talking to her small son while packing his books into a backpack.
Photo by skynesher

Ready for some intentional parenting?

The summer-to-fall transition can creep up faster than we’d like. And before we know it, we’re thrust back into the busyness of back to school life.

While we can never perfectly plan our lives, we can be thoughtful about transitions and start them with intention.

This includes first pausing to consider our family priorities then using this information to guide our decision-making ahead.

Without setting intention, we’re prone to making choices that aren’t aligned with the life we want. It’s so much easier to get things right from the get-go then to back-track after the fact.

So, before rushing into buying school supplies, signing kids up for extracurriculars, and tackling morning round-ups and bedtime tuck-ins—pause.

Here’s a golden opportunity to engage in some intentional parenting.

And experience a satisfying fall transition worth repeating, over and over again.

Happy family having fun on the beach - Multi-ethnic couple playing with cheerful daughter on summer time - Focus on kid face
Photo bDisobeyArtPh

I’d love to hear from you!

What’s top of your mind as you approach the new school year?

Any regrets from previous years—things you’d like to do differently this time around?

And please feel free to share successes, too!


  • Avatar
    August 15, 2022 at 4:45 pm

    This was great! Always a good reminder to make sure we’re being intentional.

    • Jenny Borst
      Jenny Borst
      August 21, 2022 at 9:42 am

      Hi Jill, thanks for your positive feedback. I’m slowly learning to be more thoughtful around transitions. And it helps a lot!

  • Avatar
    August 11, 2022 at 11:07 pm

    Back to school really is a hard transition. This is why as a homeschooler I was so excited to learn about year-round schooling. haha We take breaks regularly throughout the year, but I never have to deal with that one long break and then trying to break them of habits each time. And our routine stays pretty much the same all year long. Thanks for the great tips though! I will definitely utilize some of them.

    • Jenny Borst
      Jenny Borst
      August 21, 2022 at 9:38 am

      Such a good point, Julie. When you’re homeschooling there’s a lot more flexibility around break duration. With kids in the public school system, I find the summer break has its pluses and minuses. I guess this is true for all things in life! But getting back into routines can be hard. Shorter school breaks would make for less of a transition—and hence, easier on kids and parents.


Leave a Reply