Mrs. Quimby's 6 Best Back to School tips plus one from me "Beverly Cleary Fandom" by Multnomah County Library (2014) via Flickr, CC-BY-NC-ND 2.0

Even though my personality is way more Beezus than Ramona, I’ve always loved Beverly Cleary’s Ramona series. Now that I’m a parent, I notice the many ways Ramona’s mom has been a sort of parenting mentor for me.

Mrs. Quimby is absolutely not a helicopter parent. She fosters independence in her children when it comes to schoolwork, helping around the house, and entertaining themselves. Here’s how she does it:

  • Set clear expectations. In the Quimby household, everyone knew what was expected of them regarding homework, study, chores, and behavior. There were no surprises, and routines were in place to make sure things got done.
  • Hold firm. Mrs. Quimby, while compassionate, stuck to her guns regarding things that mattered: respectful behavior, schoolwork, chores, and saving money. Temper tantrums did not sway her. Once, when Ramona squeezed an entire tube of toothpaste into the sink, she made Ramona spoon it all into a container and use it until it was gone.
  • Be prepared. Ramona’s parents always made sure she had plenty of paper and crayons—the supplies she needed as a primary-grade student. I take my cue from Mrs. Quimby by stocking up on extras of the items on my children’s school supply lists, and I make sure to lay in a supply of poster board at the beginning of the school year to avoid those Sunday-night runs to the office supply store.
  • Step aside. Mrs. Quimby knew that schoolwork was not her job. She created the environment for study, made sure everyone was prepared, then required her children to do what was assigned them. No hovering, no hand-holding, no nonsense.
  • Allow for a mess. She stepped over a large sheet of paper stretched across her kitchen floor for a couple of weeks while Ramona, along with her dad, illustrated a map of the state.
  • Leave room for kids to learn from their mistakes. Mrs. Quimby wasn’t one to hover over her kids, protecting them from ever making a wrong decision. She knew that mistakes can lead to learning experiences, and she (wisely) didn’t make a huge deal about it when they did. There was the time that Beezus, wanting to avoid a home haircut, saved her money to get a new salon ‘do…which wound up going very wrong, Mrs. Quimby offered a shoulder to cry on and a closed mouth. No “I told you so” lecture, just a listening ear.

[Tweet "Beverly Cleary's books are full of sound #parenting advice. #backtoschool tips from @franciscanmom"]

I get the feeling Ramona’s mom would wholeheartedly endorse my own homework policy: “It’s not done until it’s packed!” I’ve been repeating that sentence several times a week for nearly two decades now. It’s all about the follow-through, kids!

What's your best back-to-school tip, and where did you learn it?

Copyright 2016 Barb Szyszkiewicz, OFS