Back-to-School Tips – Already?

Every summer around this time, I get transported back to when I was a schoolgirl, getting ready for the new school year to begin.  Being an organized kid, I would start cutting out wardrobe ideas from the new fall magazines, buying school supplies and getting a fresh new haircut. Now, I know a lot of kids dread going back, and begrudgingly leave these matters to the last possible moment; but being an only child and rather shy, I always looked forward to going back to school to be around kids my own age again. So forgive me if, in my enthusiasm, I post these back to school tips a little too soon. If you are a parent who likes to plan in advance, you will appreciate it. And if you prefer not to hear anything about school until summer officially ends, then come back to this post in a couple of weeks. Either way, implementing some of these ideas will help you and your children feel less frazzled as we transition from the lazy days of summer to the structure of a new school year.

1. Create a family communication center.

To create a command central post, choose a location in your home that is used regularly by family members, preferably near a phone.  Put up a bulletin board to display messages and the family calendar. Transfer all the information you need about upcoming activities and events to a family calendar, and then toss the original invitation or note.  Not only will this cut down on paper clutter, you’ll also have the information close at hand on the day you need it.  This can include directions, times, and things to bring.

2. End ‘what to wear’ battles.

A simple 5-compartment sweater organizer for the closet can tame morning madness.  Have your child choose his/her wardrobe in advance for the whole week and store each day’s outfit, including socks and underwear, in one of the five cubbies.  Some stores carry child-friendly sweater organizers made in bright colors with each cubby labeled with the day of the week.

3. School snacks made easy.

When bringing home cookies and other school snacks, immediately pre-package daily portions in small zippered plastic bags and keep them in a bin on a designated shelf.  This saves time daily when packing school lunches, and removes the temptation of snacking on these items at home.

4. Routines make life easier.

The fall is an ideal time to establish family routines that will make life run smoother.  To make sure everyone is clear on expectations; post a schedule indicating regular times for repetitive tasks, i.e. homework, picking up toys, bath time and bedtime.  For auditory learners, consider recording a tape of their daily schedule. Be consistent and firm, keeping in mind that it takes about one month for routines to become part of daily life.

5. Say goodbye to morning TV and finally get to school on time.

Watching TV while getting ready for school is a distraction which can slow down the entire family.  If getting out the door on time is a struggle, consider listening to music in the mornings instead.

6. Use alarms and timers.

We can all lose track of time.  In the morning or before important appointments, set a timer or an alarm to signal a 10-minute warning so you and the kids can get out the door in time without feeling frazzled.

7. Why waste time filling out forms?

Every time kids go on a field trip, their parents are asked to fill out a permission slip and emergency medical form for each child. Doctors, dentist, and emergency contact addresses and phone numbers have to be looked up and transferred onto the forms, which can be time-consuming. Save time by doing it once and photocopying several to have on hand when you need them. 

8. Is your family over-scheduled?

If you feel you’re spending too much time driving your children all over the city for their extracurricular activities, consider limiting each child to only one after-school activity at a time. If you choose to have them involved in more activities, consider car-pooling or hiring a university student or retiree to do the dropping off and picking up. Another option is to encourage activities where the teacher will come to your home i.e. piano or guitar lessons.

9. Keep track of school papers easily.

Start the school year off right by purchasing a file box for each child to store all the multitude of school papers that would otherwise end up cluttering your kitchen counter. These usually come with hanging folders, which can be labeled by subject. This acts as a temporary home for exams, assignments and notes that will be referred back to throughout the year (or semester).  At the end of the year, they can be tossed to make space for the following year.

10. Create a homework center.

Create a study space conducive to doing homework. Find a location away from the TV.  Some children like to do their homework in a central location like the kitchen, where mom and dad can help. Designate a cupboard or basket for homework supplies and stock it with scissors, glue, pencils, pens, paper and any other items your child will require on a daily basis. For those who prefer to do homework away from any interruptions, make sure there is a comfortable desk surface, adequate lighting, and comfortable seating in addition to homework supplies. Get the kids involved in picking out colorful containers for their space to give them feeling of ownership and they’ll be more likely to keep their space tidy.

Although the first few weeks of a new school year can be challenging for kids and their parents, getting organized can relieve some of the stress and set everyone up for success.

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