Back to school organization
When I used to work in retail, the back to school season seemingly started the same day as summer vacation, but now, in the last few weeks of August we are actually counting down the days. Although the starting dates vary, all parents know what time it is... it's Back to School time.
It's easy to be lax on schedules and organization during the summer, but it's time to get back on track and set your family up for success this season. You don't have to be overwhelmed. Here are some great ways to handle everything this school year will throw your way - and get your family involved too.
#1 – Kids can help pack lunches
This requires very little prep on your part. Have a couple plastic bins in the fridge for items like cheese sticks, yogurt, or individually bagged fruits or veggies. You can also make batches of sandwiches a few days at a time and store them in the fridge. Have a couple baskets on the counter or in a pantry with items like granola bars or crackers. Then in the morning each kid can grab their lunch box and fill it up.
You can set guidelines like “one each – meat, cheese, veggie, treat”, or just let them figure it out. Just sort out “lunch” items into these spots when you're putting groceries away and you'll be all set.
#2 – Plan out clothes for the week
This is more for kindergarten age kiddos, to help them feel independent while subtly offering guidance. Depending on your space you can get hanging cubbies that attach to a closet rod, a small plastic drawer unit, or even a small bookshelf. You'll want at least 5 spaces – one for each day of the school week. Every Sunday, help your child lay out complete outfits for each day, including socks, undies, and any accessories. Older kids can also use this for remembering gym clothes or sports uniforms.
Now you won't have to worry about helping your child find “that perfect red shirt” 5 minutes before they're supposed to be at the bus stop.
#3 – Homework Station
This will vary the most, depending on the age of your child and where in the home they do their homework. Young children may work at the kitchen table or in a playroom, while older children might use a corner of the home office or have a desk in their own room. Regardless, you want to set them up for success by keeping any supplies they may need close at hand so they're not wasting time searching for a functioning pen.
This can be as simple as a small basket with pencils, paper, a calculator, and other small supplies that can be kept in a cabinet when not in use and carried wherever it's needed. For basic supplies like pens and pencils, you can often find silverware caddys in the kitchen department that can hold them all.
Or if you have a dedicated space you can hang a bulletin board or clipboard for keeping track of any papers that need to be signed and returned to school.
Another component of this is a small file box for each kid in your family to store all those keepsake papers - their first spelling test with an "A" or favorite pieces from art class. One hanging folder per grade year is usually enough space. Then you have a keepsake box all in one place.
#4 – Family Command & Communication center
Even with all the digital methods for sharing schedules and information, there are always papers to keep track of and to-do lists you don't want to lose. At the center of a home command center is a calendar for keeping track of everyone's activities. This can be a paper calendar, a chalkboard or dry-erase calendar, or even something digital. Then you'll want a message center for keeping track of grocery lists, household chores and “honey-do” lists, and maybe a bill-paying center.
Check out this awesome simple build from the Ana White website for creating a chalkboard command center. Her website has all kind of plans for easy to make projects like this one, along with photos people submit of their own builds based on her tutorials.
#5 – Chore charts and daily schedules
This is another one that will vary according to the needs of your family and your individual children. Chore charts are a great way to divide up family tasks and teach responsibility. I am no expert here on age appropriate tasks, but creating a chore chart can be as simple as an excel spreadsheet printed on fun paper and put in a frame with glass, so you can use a dry erase marker to check off completed tasks. Even as a parent, I find having a chore chart for myself can be useful so I can remember if I cleaned the bathroom this week.
Daily schedules are another thing that can be helpful to have posted. For little kids it can be as simple as a picture version of a morning and bedtime routine. But they can also be helpful for children with attention issues or who struggle with consistency. Breaking down the tasks that need to be completed before school, after school, and before bedtime can help cut down on the parental nagging. Again, this can be typed up, printed out on cute paper, and hung in a frame in a few places where your kid is most likely to need a gentle reminder.
So there you have it. I know every family is different, and these ideas may not be perfect or necessary for everyone, but hopefully they inspire you to think about your daily routines and come up with systems to reduce daily stresses in your life.
Getting organized = being able to relax and enjoy the school year