5 Simple Tricks for an Organized Back to School
We are coming up on the end of summer, and I am so sad. We recently sold our event business and in past years my summers were packed with work and I tried to fit in a little bit of fun with the kids, but this summer was wide open and we truly had the Summer of Adventure!! I still feel gypped to be sending them off to the world again. But I would be a crazy homeschool mom, so back to school we go. (Hats off to all of you home school moms out there!)
This fall I’ll have a 10th grader, 7th grader, 4th grader, and preschooler. Four schools, four schedules, and four completely different sets of needs. Now, to get organized. This is my second year with kids spread to the wind and I’ve learned a few strategies to manage the chaos. Here is what we try to do to keep our crazy ship afloat and have fun along the way.
Family Calendar. I am a paper and pen kind of girl-nothing floats my boat more than a new journal book and a pen-but I’ve learned that to manage my busy family I need more than just a small paper calendar. I use the ical app on my iphone and sync it to my computer so I can check it anywhere with internet—I’d truly be lost without it. A similar option would be a google calendar. To keep the kids on track with their activities and schedules I also use a big wall calendar. I print out a monthly calendar and write -in pencil for the inevitable changes- the kids schedule at the beginning of each month.
Then, the fun part-I use a highlighter to mark each kids activities. Each kid gets a different color. For the three bigger kids, I expect them to check the calendar and keep track of what they have going on. I always have a running schedule going on my head (darn mommy brain that never shuts off) but to help them learn responsibility I don’t remind them and if they ask what they have going on I refer them to the calendar. They have missed gym practices, swim workouts, and lacrosse games but they usually learn pretty darn fast to check the calendar regularly.
You could also print off a calendar from whatever electronic calendar you use so you don’t have to write them in. But again, I like the act of pencil to paper even though it does take me a bit of time to add in all the details. Seeing the month all at once really helps me to keep enough down time for each kid and not over schedule every second the way I might if I just look at an individual day or week. At the beginning of each week, usually on Sunday night, I look over the digital calendar and note any changes, then make sure they are also added to the written calendar.
Homework Station. Each age of kid will need different levels of homework help, but the best thing we can do is provide them the tools to succeed. If you are lucky enough to have a dedicated office space or desk for homework, you can set up a station equipped with all the supplies they might need with a file for each kid to store their papers.
- Create a quiet space equipped with supplies they will need.
- Have a file for each kid to put completed work.
- For junior high and high school kids a full file box with a file for each class may be needed.
- Make unpacking backpacks part of the daily after school routine so you can capture all those school field trip forms and announcements.
- If you can let go of calendar control (LOL-that’s a good one), let your kids add activities for school to the family wall calendar and you can add them to your digital calendar.
- Decide on a set time for homework each day-might work best right after school, after dinner or even early morning if you have a later school start. Each kid and schedule varies, so don’t be afraid to make it unique to each child.
- If your school uses online grading you can access, schedule a set day each week to go online WITH your student to check grades and watch for missing assignments. Doing it together teaches them accountability-you are just there as a witness.
- As the kids get older they will have more communications come from their teachers, often to your email or phone-you could print these and put them in their work station to see, or forward to their phones. Try to give as much power back to the older kids as they can manage. Hardest part for you will be to not nag them, but let them face the consequences of their action or inaction.
Provide a place for backpacks, coats and shoes to keep the clutter down and the morning start off smooth.
Lunch Prep Made Easy. The biggest key to a smooth morning is the night before prep.
- Put kids in charge of packing their lunch before bed.
- Create a lunch packing station.
- Keep all items at kid level so they can reach them.
- Leave a shelf in the fridge clear for lunches to rest there until the kids leave for school.
- Don’t get stuck in a rut-try new menu items or sides to keep it fresh.
Evening and Morning Routines Makes Life Smooth.
- Set out clothes the night before, down to socks and shoes. This saves the last minute-I can’t find my shoe!- stress.
- Have backpacks and coats packed and ready in their designated spot.
- Lunches packed and ready in the fridge.
- Breakfast plan-even if it’s cereal. This can be written as a schedule so that every Monday is the same, every Tuesday the same etc. Or if you love to cook breakfast for your munchkins, plan it out ahead of time so mornings are a breeze.
- Get to bed on time!
- Create a Evening and Morning Routine Chart
Use a simple piece of paper and have the kids write or draw in the tasks they need to complete each morning, or just create a simple checklist you can place on the doorframe of their bedrooms to keep them on task to get out the door on time. Some great online resources for creating routines can be found here:
https://www.choremonster.com/ – digital chore charts
http://busykid.com/ – digital chore chart and allowance system
https://tinyurl.com/y8l2ft6u – printable paper chore charts to specific ages
I wish you all luck with the new school year-and if you happen to give small yip of happiness if your house is now empty a few hours each day, or shed tears after your oldest or your baby says goodbye for the first or last time, know that you are their first and best teacher and no one can ever take your place. Then go out to lunch-you deserve it.