HELP! The School Year’s Coming

Getting Ready for School

Every August the commercials begin… “back to school” is everywhere you look. This time may bring mixed feelings, but regardless of how you may feel, it’s important to be intentional in how you act. A bit of planning can ease the transition to a new schedule and maximize everyone’s productivity. If there are students in your heading back to school, here are a few ways you can help…

1. Set up a central calendar.
Every family needs a central calendar which captures activities, events, work schedules, etc. for the whole family. This is a place everyone (or at least those who read…) can look and be reminded of what is going on when. Remember to:

  • Choose a format that works for you (dry erase, paper, electronic such as Google calendar)
  • Color code activities by family member
  • Put EVERYTHING on this calendar (the more committed you are to keeping the calendar complete/accurate, the better it will work.) Encourage older family members to add their own activities & commitments to this central calendar.
  • Train family members to check this first before calling Mom to ask “am I free?”

2. Designate and stock a homework station.
Remember that each child is different. Some like working on the floor, some on the kitchen table, and a few even like the desk in their rooms!

  • Have all the needed supplies available wherever they work, such as sharpened pencils, pens of different colors, colored pencils, ruler, tape, highlighters, calculator, scissors, etc. (the exact contents will vary, depending on the age of the student)
  • Check this periodically (e.g. when students are at school) to make sure it is in good shape.
  • Set up a separate supply closet/ shelf/drawer where you will keep the “extra” supplies (notebooks, poster paper, extra pens, erasers, index cards, etc.) so that the “workbox” doesn’t become too crowded.
  • Be sure the space has an outlet to plug in a computer and has internet access.
  • If your students use a common space, have a bin/box/rolling cart that they can bring to the workspace for studying, and then quickly clear away when the space is needed for something else.
  • Clear a section of a bookshelf nearby for keeping large textbooks, dictionaries, etc.

3. Set up files for the year.
Beginning at about middle school age, everyone benefits from filing (until then, it may be easier for the parent to keep the files.) You don’t need a large filing cabinet… any file box will suffice.

  • Set up a file for each class. This will give you a place to put “old” papers at the end of each quarter, helping to minimize backpack weight and disorder.
  • Create a file for each activity, such as a sport, a club, church group, etc. Again, when paper comes home, it can be easily put away.
  • Create a “memorabilia” folder for the current school year for each student. This is the place to quickly stash photos, ticket stubs, show programs, awards, or whatever else walks in the door that the student wants to keep.
  • For smaller children who mostly have artwork, establish a display area for new pieces, and switch them out regularly. You can also keep a file, bin, or box for artwork. An app like Artkive can be a terrific tool for capturing, sharing, and archiving artwork electronically.

4. Establish a staging area for each family member.
This is where each person should put the items they will need for the following day (read more here.) For younger children, it may be helpful to have a rotating chart (e.g. cards on a flip chart hung on a hook) reminding them what special activity they have (e.g. gym, art, library).

5. Set up a “last minute prep” station for younger students.
This is a place in a downstairs bathroom where students can brush their teeth or get their hair brushed before heading out the door. This can save time, especially for those who get distracted when upstairs and out of sight of Mom and Dad.

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Like it or not, the school year is coming. By taking these few steps now, you will be ready for a smooth start.

What tricks have you found useful for busy school days?

16 thoughts on “HELP! The School Year’s Coming”

  1. Thank you, thank you, thank you! With Emma starting Kindergarten in about a month, I need all the tips and advice I can get. So, I truly appreciate your advice here and pinning to refer back to now 🙂

  2. I get so nauseated by the “back to school” stuff! It’s only July! I guess some people do go back in August, though. Not here!
    We do need a central calendar. That’s a huge family goal. We need to know everything and even just a task part of it so we don’t double-feed the pets! (that happens)

    1. The “double feeding” of the pets actually came up at our organizing conference, Tamara! It’s a common problem. The winning suggestion was to rotate days of the week… just a thought:) This isn’t a problem in my house because NO ONE EVER besides me feeds our dog… I swear the dog would starve if I died!

  3. VERY HELPFUL!! I’d love to have a central calendar probably when Reiko starts going to school because we’re not really that busy with activities now as a small family of 3. I’d like to have the last minute prep station and I think it can greatly avoid the back and forth walking, it’s frustrating when you just need to brush your teeth but you left it somewhere and you’re in a hurry. Geez.

    1. You are still a little early on for needing the big family calendar, Rea, but great to think about for the future. I can relate about the last minute prep station… my husband has commandeered the downstairs bathroom for teeth brushing for himself!

  4. Seana, I need to file through your blog to learn more about you and your family. This post makes me think of people with a healthy way of using a small level of OCD. I know some people joke about that disorder, but I know for some, it’s no joking matter at all. But I feel like when I read what you are suggesting, that you have a healthy mild case that some people talk about. Perhaps that really isn’t OCD and maybe it’s just the desire to be organized; which I and many other families could probably use a lot of. Hehe. I love all of the things you have in place here so people are not constantly checking in with Mom. It’s always right there in front of them so they can all see what’s what. Organization seems to be out the window these days sometimes for me since my 2 year old loves making messes, but I’m learning and taking notes for sure. 🙂

    1. Too funny, Brittnei! I definitely am working to use my naturally … shall we say “strong”… organizational compulsions in a positive way:) True OCD is no fun, it can control your life. I always say I have OCP.. “Obsessive, compulsive personality”… I function fine, just drive everyone around me a bit nuts! Every life stage is a bit different as well. I tell my clients with small children that my house wasn’t as tidy when my children were little as it is now. BUT, being able to put things away, and being able to find what you need, when you need it – that’s what its all about!

  5. These are all great Seana. I think the ones we found most helpful were the central calendar and the staging area. Knowing what we were already committed to was a great asset to helping decide whether or not to commit to more “opportunities”.

    Staging is a great tool. Not only does it teach the kids to put all they need into one place, but their days are apt to be smoother because they are not missing things like gym stuff, homework, etc. Plus, you won’t’ get the emergency panicked call from school. 🙁

    It’s also a great habit for the future to help them successfully navigate adulthood and its multitude of responsibilities.

    1. Thanks for this affirmation, Kim. I definitely use my staging area every day — it is the only way I keep from forgetting things, especially on those mornings when I wake up to something I didn’t anticipate and my “prep time” gets chopped!

    1. I imagine with your family sports schedule you’ve got a schedule somewhere, Michelle! Execution is always the hard part… if I only I could run like you do!

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