All over the U.S., parents and children are saying where did the summer go? True, summer doesn’t officially end until the third week of September, but with school starting for many families in early August, it feels like the season is changing. The more casual, unstructured days of summer will soon give way to the heavily scheduled and sometimes frantic days of the school year. Heading back to school? Get organized now! Want to make the transition easier? Here are ideas to help everyone in your family.
Make It Routine. If you do nothing else, do this. Set a routine and stick to it. Easy to say, hard to do, but it will pay off in the long run. How much easier would it be if every time your kids came in the house, they put their shoes, jackets and backpacks in the same place? How about if instead of throwing their dirty clothes on the floor in their room, they put them in the laundry room? You can label laundry baskets by laundry type or by each child’s name. Getting enough sleep is a challenge, so how about setting a lights-out time and enforcing it (for you, too!)? Give your kids age-appropriate responsibilities by creating a checklist for each child to follow, morning and evening. There will always be disruptions, but if you set a routine, the days will be smoother.
Where’s My…? Getting out of the house in the morning may depend on what happens when the kids come into the house in the afternoon. Create designated places for those items that always seem to cause delays. It helps if you have a mudroom or generous entry area, but there are other ways to organize. First, what pieces slow down the morning departure? Keep jackets, hats, shoes/boots and backpacks in one place. Parents, the same goes for you. Keep your keys, purse/wallet, jacket and shoes in the same place every time. If you have room, a hook and a basket for each person, preferably in the entry/exit area, will help. If that’s not possible, designate another place in your home for a basket for each person. If homework keeps getting lost, make it a rule that it goes into the backpack as soon as it’s completed.
Who’s On First? Are you running a home or a small corporation? Sometimes it may feel like there’s very little difference. A shared calendar can be a lifesaver, and there are different ways to create one. You can download a calendar app that everyone uses. You can use a whiteboard, paper calendar, or chalkboard (or paint part of a wall with blackboard paint) as mission control. Whatever method you use, keeping it current is the key to success.
I’m Hungry. Breakfast. Lunch. Dinner. Snacks. Do kids do anything other than eat? Start by planning family dinners for the week, and try to have everyone sit together for the meal. No electronic devices allowed! If your kids take packed lunches, create areas in the fridge and a cupboard for lunch supplies, including food and containers. Have a meal plan for each day, and pre-portion food for faster prep. Think the same way for breakfasts and snacks. Ease the daily grind with a designated place to grab a post-school snack, and a breakfast station with the necessities for a good start to the day.
What To Wear. You can skip some of this section if your kids wear school uniforms, but they’ll still need all the pieces of their uniforms, clean and ready to wear. For kids who don’t wear uniforms, choose an outfit for each day of the week and place it on a labeled section of a shelf or basket/bin. If you can keep up with the laundry during the week, great, but if you can’t, make it a rule that all school clothes are in the laundry room after school on Friday.
Work Zone. Kids need a place where they can do their homework. You may want to keep an eye on them to make sure they are doing their homework and not texting or playing games. One solution is a workspace in or near the kitchen. Keep it supplied with pens, pencils and other necessities, along with the computer they use for schoolwork. If you don’t have a designated space, or you have multiple users, spread out onto the kitchen or dining room table.
One last thought. Don’t forget to take care of yourself. In the midst of all this organizing and routine changing, carve out some adult time for yourself. Make a regular date-night. Treat yourself to an ice cream, a coffee, or an hour with a good book. Show your kids that your time is valuable too. You are more than the source of meals, laundry, and rides to soccer practice!
We hope these lessons help make back to school season seamless for the entire family!