Natalie Moore: With children, the days are long and the years are short

Reclaim time with your children by following these tips on preparing and getting through the school year.

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Columnist Natalie Moore (right) enjoys a selfie with her daughter Skye.

Columnist Natalie Moore (right) with her daughter Skye.

Natalie Moore

Advice, resources, and reflections on back-to-school season for Chicago's students, families, and educators.

In my childhood kitchen, a framed crocheted sign hung on the wall, a gift from a family friend. It read: “With children, the days are long, and the years are short.”

A cliche, to be sure. But the adage is accurate. My daughter Skye is headed to second grade at a Chicago Public School, and the whole family looks at this 7-year-old with wonder and wistfulness, asking, “Gee, where did the time go?”

For Skye, the time doesn’t pass fast enough.


“I’m excited to go to second grade because we’re going to be the leader of the primaries,” Skye told me. Kindergarten, first and second grades are the primary grades. Being a leader to her means: “Knowing what’s right and wrong, and knowing what not to do and what to do. It’s wrong to hit somebody.”

Her personal goal is to learn division and chemistry. I have no idea why or where chemistry comes from. I don’t know a second-grade class that teaches the subject.

But I’m here to give sage back-to-school advice, practical advice. After all, I am now the mother of a leader in the primaries. Frankly, I’ve been ready for my kid to go back to school since the third week of June. Camp schedules don’t accommodate working parents. I need a 7:45 a.m. drop-off and a 6 p.m. pickup. Also, children don’t use their school stomachs while at home. Always asking for snacks, increasing the summer grocery bills.

As you parents get cameras and first-day-of-school outfits ready, don’t get misty-eyed. Make the school year productive and convenient for your families.

  • Social media is flush with parents taking pictures of their bright-eyed children on the first day of school. They are great! But did you ask for your child’s consent before posting? According to local scholar Devorah Heitner, it’s a good idea to do so. Follow her on social media (and buy her books) to learn about raising children in a digital age. By the way, your high schooler will likely say no. I speak from experience.
  • Join and support the PTA or other parent-led school organizations. Trust me, the executive board is trying to build community and experience. Help them out by showing up or volunteering for an event.
  • Resist the urge to pack a breakfast or lunch for your child if the school provides meals. (Allergies and other issues notwithstanding, of course.) The convenience of not doing those chores in the morning serves us all well. Plus, it’s easy on the wallet.
  • Ask your teacher what reading curriculum is used. There’s a big shift in the educational system in how reading is taught. Some schools are using a scientific approach to teaching reading as opposed to focusing on the love of books.
  • Be kind to the principal, staff and teachers. Parents like to fuss and sometimes think their children are smarter or more well-behaved than they are. Be easy on overworked school employees.
  • Readjust summer bedtimes a week before school starts. No one wants a cranky kid on day one.
  • Keep extra poster boards at home in case your kid inevitably forgets about a project the night before.
  • School supplies are expensive. Plenty of groups host back-to-school events with free book bags filled with items. You can never have too many pens or erasers.
  • Read school emails. Then you won’t have to play catch-up.
  • Have your children write all of the passwords for school in one place. Searching is a headache.

Think of this advice as a way of reclaiming your time with your children. Those years are short, and days indeed long. So there is no need to waste the little time we have.

Natalie Moore is a reporter for WBEZ. She writes a monthly column for the Sun-Times.

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