Nine ways to survive back to school

Ah, back to school. Once more the shrill insistence of the alarm clock heralds an hour of utter chaos as people charge around the house shouting about lost RE books and who’s moved their plimsolls. Here’s our Radio 4 in Four guide to making the school run more of a slow jog than a 100m sprint with three false starts.

1. Lay out the breakfast things the night before. This is pleasing because it makes you feel terrifically organised, your kitchen suddenly looks like a hotel breakfast room and even though everyone will not realise you have done this and get themselves another bowl or amble round the kitchen eating with their fingers anyway, you’ll still feel faintly on top of the game. If bored, fan the napkins. Special points are awarded if you can make them into a swan.

2. Have a spare toothbrush and toothpaste by the kitchen sink. This avoids Bermuda Triangle Syndrome, which is when you send a child up to brush their teeth and then they promptly vanish, having decided that now is the ideal time to teach the hamster to play the clarinet or pluck all their eyebrows out.

3. It is a universal mystery that a child, closely questioned the evening before about homework, will deny all existence of same until 8.15am the following morning when the amnesia will suddenly lift and they’ll remember they were supposed to build a scale model of St Paul’s out of yoghurt pots. Impose a ban on morning homework. After the first detention they receive you’ll find their amnesia clears up in no time. Neuroscientists marvel at it.

4. Make packed lunches the night before. People worry that sandwiches will then become a little damp and soggy, like the ones on trains, but it’s fine: after three hours in a rucksack in an overheated school they’ll dry out so beautifully they’ll resemble rusks.

5. Music practice does sometimes have to occur in the morning, to ensure that Little Cuckoo Song is fresh in the child’s mind. You will be accused of “not listening”, despite the fact that there are dolphins on the sea bed that can probably hear Little Cuckoo Song at the volume it’s being blasted out. Avoid this by regularly shouting “you’ve definitely improved, darling!” BUT intersperse it with “shouldn’t you hold the D for another beat?” which gives the impression of close attention.

6. For little ones, lay their clothes out the night before. This avoids them making a unilateral decision that a Dora the Explorer rucksack worn across the chest teamed with a pair of sparkly tights and some flippers is ideal for school and also avoids the hour of shuddering sobs when they’re told it isn’t.

7. To avoid nasty surprises, frisk more often than a Heathrow Customs. Go through blazer pockets, PE bags and lunch boxes for letters from school. Only then will you find out that your payment for a trip you never knew they were going on is two months late, that they got bumped on the knee a week last Friday and that the PTA are going to come round and beat you up unless you bring in a lemon drizzle cake tomorrow.

8. Create a text group of parents and carers who can be called upon quickly to verify anything potentially problematic. There is nothing worse than dressing your child up as a Roman soldier for History Day, sending them clanking dismally off down the road and then realising it was Thursday, not Wednesday.

9. Avoid contentious discussions at breakfast. The last thing you want is a tantrum or a teenage existential crisis at 8am. If there are tellings off to be done or announcements to be made that aren’t time critical, then save them for dinner: then you can look forward to just ruining your own evening, rather than the entire day.

So there you are. This should ensure you get gold in the school run. Unless of course, you can’t find your keys. Or work pass. Weren’t they on the hall table? Who’s moved them? HAS ANYONE SEEN MY KEYS?

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