Does any of this sound familiar? Are you already frustrated by the morning chaos of the back-to-school routine (or lack thereof) just thinking about it? The truth is that organization is a culmination of learned skills. If we don’t teach our children those skills or exhibit them ourselves, we can’t expect them to be organized. But there are simple steps that we can take in order to build organizational systems and skills for the whole family. Here are my 9 organizing ‘lessons’ for back to school:
Make Peace with the Paper
Designate a basket or bin for all papers including rosters, permission slips, long term homework assignments and other school related papers that parents may need to reference.
Corral the Family Calendar
Use one and only one calendar to post all of the family events to avoid confusion. There are quite a few calendars on the market that allow a row for each member of the family for every day and make it easy to view at a glance. You can try using color-coded markers instead if you don’t mind the extra step.
Hold a Family Council Meeting
Have a weekly family meeting and involve your children. Review the family calendar, appointments and events over the next 7 days and identify any tasks necessary to prepare i.e. sign permission slips, wash the soccer uniform, make carpool arrangements, start studying for the math test on Friday, etc. This will help you (and your family) prepare for these events and it will teach your children the skills necessary to become organized adults.
Establish an Evening Routine
If bedtime has been designated at 8:30pm, have your kids change into their pajamas, brush their teeth, wash their face and hands or bathe, etc. starting 15-30 minutes earlier…and be consistent. This will also help them create healthier sleeping habits by winding down ahead of time.
Layout School Clothes
Pick out school clothes the night before. By doing this, you will avoid (or at least minimize) last minute rushes around the house for your child’s missing ‘Dora’ sneaker or another matching (unwrinkled) shirt for them to wear because the one they had on was stained. If you can’t do this every night, do it once every few nights or once a week. It’s not always important to know which outfit if for which day. It will make getting dressed in the morning quicker and easier by having to choose one of 5 prepared outfits.
Purge Book Bags Daily
Clean out your child’s’ book bag every evening. If they are five years of age or older they can assist or you can supervise the process. Remove and dispose of leftover lunches or snacks, other trash, sign and replace any necessary paperwork, books or materials. This can also be a method of taking general inventory of what should be there. The sooner an item is identified as missing the easier it can be to get it back.
Create Sport/Activities Packs
Use different colored/types of duffle bags or backpacks for equipment for sports or other activities. For example, if your daughter participates in dance lessons and soccer, designate one bag for cleats, shin guards, extra practice uniform, etc. and the other for dance shoes, tights and leotards. This will make life easier when it is time to run out the door and will eliminate or minimize missing or lost equipment if they have a home and are not constantly being shifted around.
Set the Stage
Establish a ‘staging area’. If possible, establish an area in your home near the morning exit where book bags, cleats, sports equipment, etc. can be kept for the next day. The fewer steps involved in getting out the door in the morning the more efficient and on time it will be.
Write or type up an after-school schedule for each child so they know what is expected of them and post it on the ‘family’ board. i.e. Snack 3:30pm-3:45pm; Homework 3:45pm-4:45pm, etc.
I could go on but instead I’d love to hear some of your greatest tips for back to school whether it’s for grade school, high school, your college freshman or the adult going back to school!