Embrace a Rolling Start to the School Year

rolling start

Want to be the zen mom you always thought you could be? Embrace a rolling start to the new school year.

No one has pants that fit? Everyone’s bangs are in their eyes? No one has shoes with toes? Everyone needs a new water bottle?

No problem, mom. Relax, embrace the chaos, and prioritize those back to school must-haves. Because if you really think about it? The “must” part is largely silly.

I can’t say I came to this perspective on my own. I am usually very type-A and freak-outy about the first day of school. The other day, though, I was complaining on Facebook about all of the things I needed to do before the start of the year, and my wise friend Julie, who is generally my parenting guru, commented that I should not worry about everything at once because the school year could get off to a rolling start.

I fell immediately in love with this perspective and the new frame it gave me for the busy September season.

Who needs a new back pack when last year’s still zips? Not the four kids with pretty OK looking bags who live in my house. Who needs fall clothes when it’s still a million degrees outside? Not my kids, who will probably grow before it’s long-pants season anyway. Who says you have to get a check-up before the school year starts? Not me, at least not anymore. 

A rolling start to the school year means I have to triage their back-to-school needs to separate the musts from the would-be-nices and decide which ones I have time to tackle before I totally lose my mind. Spoiler alert: lost it mid-July from all the bickering.


Make sure everyone has tennis shoes that fit and socks they can tolerate.

Round up all of the required school supply items on their lists.

Get half of them haircuts so they can appear to be from a loving home. (The other two still look semi-cared for.)

Secure meds-at-school forms for the nurse.


Remember to buy Costco-sized boxes of snack for my elementary schooler’s classrooms

Remember to stock my middle-schoolers’ lockers with applesauce and Larabars in case they decide to stay after school for a club and get hangry.

Ask my husband to trim the other two kids’ hair because he loves to play barber dad in his spare time.

Buy my middle schoolers’ shoes for their gym lockers.

 Ditto deodorant—this one hinges on going to Costco to buy snack because one-stop shopping is my ultimate goal.

Definitely won’t until I have to:

Purchase all of the optional school supplies.

Take everyone shopping for pants and long-sleeves.

Think about scaring up some fall coats.

Host a back-to-school sleepover.

Replace water bottles.

Order more containers for their bento boxes.

Refill their school lunch money accounts.

Book check-ups and dentist appointments.

Take my oldest for a retainer check.

You have to understand that before that fateful Facebook convo, all of these things were on my must list. Now?  I have already done 3 of my 4 musts, and the other one is just a Zappos order away. 

The same goes with the first-day-of-school itself. I mean, all I have to do is send 75% of my children out the front door, one to the bus stop and 2 down the street the school. My oldest is in 8th grade, so he has the day off while 6th graders like his little brother get the lay of the middle school land. He and I have big plans to go to brunch and watch a movie. Talk about a rolling start! I mean, sure, I want the kids to look presentable and have a good breakfast and take cute pictures on the front porch, but all of those things? Are on the would-be-nice list. All they literally have to do is leave the house.

Bring on the reality TV and bon-bons! That’s how much extra time I have left now that I understand what has to happen and what could happen if I get myself together. And if I don’t? Meh, at least I have the essentials covered.

I hope to apply the rolling start mentality to everything that stresses me out this year. School parties, birthdays, recitals, sportsball tournaments: I am going to approach them all understanding the difference between wants and needs. I feel pretty confident that if I don’t stress about the needs, I will have plenty of time to scoop up a few wants.

What about you? What are you absolute MUST-DO’s before the kiddies start school, and what can you let slide?

Sarah Jedd has a Ph.D. in communication arts from the University of Wisconsin-Madison where she teaches and studies the rhetoric of Planned Parenthood. Sarah has 5 (F I V E) children: teens Harry and Jack, elementary schoolers Cooper and Dorothy, and sweet baby Minnie, born in August 2020. Sarah blogs about being a mom of many at harrytimes.com and overshares on IG as @sarahjedd. Sarah, her husband, and their kids live in Verona with the world's laziest dog.


  1. Oh my word, whatever you do, prioritize the deodorant! You might have a couple kids, but we teachers have a whole classroom full! It gets real, really fast!


Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here