Every year around the end of July 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 for the upcoming school year can ease the transition to a new schedule and maximize everyone’s productivity. If there are students in your life heading back to school, here some things you can do to start off strong.
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 supplies periodically (e.g. when students are at school) to make sure it is in good shape.
- Set up a separate supply closet, shelf, or drawer where you will keep the “extra” supplies (notebooks, poster paper, extra pens, erasers, index cards, etc.). This helps keep the “workbox” and work area from getting 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.
Filing has changed as we have shifted from a mostly paper-based system to a more digital system. Younger children still have a lot of physical paper, so we need space for this. As children grow, solid computer files become more important.
Some files you may wish to establish include:
- School files, such as one per child. Older children might like having one folder per class.
- Activity files, such as for sports, clubs, church groups, etc.
- Medical files. Each family member should have one. Keep copies of health forms, records from any significant procedures, and vaccination history inside.
- A memorabilia file (or box, or bin) for each student. Memorabilia is often physical, and can be large. The goal is to identify an easy-to-access location where you/your child can quickly stash ticket stubs, show programs, awards, or anything else you want to keep.
- Artwork file. It’s handy to have both a display area for “new” art, and a location for storing older art. An app like Artkive can be a terrific tool for capturing, sharing, and archiving artwork electronically as it comes in.
4. Establish a staging area for each family member.
This is where each person should put 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), so they can be sure to have the right supplies ready to go.
5. Set up a “last minute prep” station for younger students.
This is a place near the door (e.g. a downstairs bathroom) where students can brush their teeth or get their hair done before heading out the door. This can save time, especially because children often get distracted when they go back upstairs and out of sight of Mom and Dad.
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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?