Now that it is August, most students will soon head back to the classroom. While back-to-school time creates dread for school-aged children everywhere, it isn’t necessarily a pleasant time for parents either. Back-to-school often means back to craziness in many households as the daily grind of school, homework, practices, lunch making and more return like a freight train speeding down the track. The school year is often a whirlwind of chaos, especially for families with children in multiple schools, sports, and activities.
This August make a commitment to getting organized before the mayhem begins. Organization is a huge time saver and doing the prep work early will go a long way toward surviving the dog days of the school year. So, take notes on our top organization tips for back-to-school and head into this school year ready to earn an A+ for organizing.
The supply lists are up on the school websites and social media feeds are clogged with posts about happy back-to-school shopping. However, resist the urge to run out with lists in hand. Before you go back-to-school shopping, take stock of what you already have. If you didn’t already clean out the kids’ backpacks on the last day of school, do it now. Salvage what is usable and toss what is not.
Most of the time backpacks, lunch boxes, binders, and pencil cases need to be retired after the school year concludes, but it never hurts to check. Next, go through all of your school supplies from loose leaf paper to pens and paperclips. Store it all in a central spot and print the kids’ supply lists. Do your initial shopping at home, crossing off what you have before going out to the back-to-school sales.
Avoid the morning bedlam of lost sneakers, missing backpacks and ripped homework by giving each child and adults a personal cubby for storage. This way, each person has a space to store backpacks, library books, umbrellas and more. Include a hook or two designated for every family member.
The laundry, mudroom or foyer is the ideal spot for this setup since this is most likely the spot where people enter and exit the house. When homework is completed for the day, the backpack should be packed and ready to go for tomorrow. If you get kids in the habit of returning the ready-for-school backpack to their cubby before bed or as soon as homework is finished, the following morning shouldn’t be as nuts. The same is true for the adults in the house. Put briefcases, laptops and whatever is needed for work in personal cubbies. Avoid using the cubbies as the I’ll-put-it-away-later box. This drop-and-run technique will lead to the same jumbled mess you were trying to avoid.
Designate a Lunch Making Shelf or Cabinet
Eating healthy is a top priority in many homes. School lunches aren’t often the healthiest despite attempts to improve the quality and food choices in many school cafeterias, and the cost of buying lunch every day adds up. That’s why many families pack daily lunches for their school-aged children, but this task often becomes time-consuming and tedious after the first few weeks of school.
Designating a lunch making self or cabinet where you store lunch boxes, thermoses, and reusable food containers, make putting the lunches together much easier and faster. Store water bottles, juice boxes and lunch box snacks there as well. Keeping it all in one place makes it accessible and simpler to see what is needed from the grocery store. Just like the personal cubbies, kids should return the cleaned out lunch box to the shelf or cabinet after school. Having the kids help pack their lunches also takes the stress off of you and teaches them at an early age how to pack a healthy lunch. Extra hands get the lunches made quicker too.
Set up a Homework Area
Homework can be a battle in many households. After a long day of school, sports practices, music rehearsals, and more, kids are often disinterested in homework assignments. Some children just dislike doing homework, but establishing a homework area can go a long way in helping to make the process a bit more pleasant. Homework is always a dislike/hate relationship for many kids, but when you’re cleaning off a spot at the kitchen table or looking for disorganized school supplies, the task becomes much more arduous.
Earmark one area per child for homework and stock the spot with the necessities; pencils, pens, markers, scissors, glue stick, crayons, paper and a ruler. This way when your child sits down to complete an assignment, they have the tools needed at their fingertips. A homework area should be in a quiet spot, away from the television or radio. Some kids can’t handle distractions, making the kitchen a poor homework spot. Others may feel more comfortable being closer to the rest of the family or all alone in their room. If you child prefers working alone, invest in a desk or homework table in their room and stock it with school supplies.
Establish an Action Zone
The president has the oval office. Coaches have their locker room. Generals have their war room. Every person in charge has a staging area and you are not an exception. Parents need a command center too. It’s the spot where you keep track of the school permission slips, the sports schedules, dance classes, party invitations and more. Choose a spot in the house in the kitchen, family room or home office. Outfit it with a table or shelf, including convenient hooks for keys. Hang up a wall file holder and label each slot with a family member’s name. Make a folder for each child and adult. Keep relevant permission slips, schedules and more in each appropriate file. Extra slots can be utilized for mail, store coupons, and bills. Wipe boards come in handy with keeping track of upcoming appointments, sports games, and social engagements. Fill a small basket with a pen or two, a permanent marker, scotch tape, stamps and a stapler. Add an empty plastic basket to use as a to-do spot. Teach kids to place important school notices and other school/coach communications in the basket.
Kids and parents go into summer mode when the school years ends back in late spring. However, taking the time during those last few precious weeks of summer to get organized for the upcoming school year can make a big difference come the first day of school. Organization really is a huge time and stress saver and it just may cut down on that forgotten homework and where-is-my-permission slip calls during the school year. It will also leave plenty of time for those cute back-to-school pics for Facebook and Instagram.