HELP! The School Year is Coming

Girl with a bouquet of flowers for the teacher. HELP! The School Year is Coming

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.

*     *     *     *     *

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?

32 thoughts on “HELP! The School Year is 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!

  6. Gosh, Seana, your tips about having a downstairs bathroom staged for teeth brushing and hair is such good advice! Children get easily distracted when they venture back to their bedrooms after breakfast. Everyone is rushing to get out the door and then you have to go hunt down the child who is engrossed in something in their room. Love all the tips but this one struck a real chord with me.
    Diane N Quintana recently posted…Clutter and Anxiety: 5 Hacks To Keep Your Worries In Check As You Declutter Your HomeMy Profile

    1. Once they are downstairs, don’t let them disappear back into their rooms! It’s just too tempting to become engrossed in something more interesting than brushing teeth. I always had a “hair station” downstairs. We could fix the hair and head right out. 🙂

  7. There is an art to organizing a family, especially all of the extras that come into play around organizing for school. I love ALL of your suggestions because they address the ‘stress’ points that can make life chaotic. But with a little planning and prep as you suggested, these challenges can be alleviated.

    School lunches can be a thing. Early on we had our kids learn how to help grocery shopping in relation to what they wanted for lunch. And then we also encouraged them to make their own lunch. As they got older and were allowed to go into town for lunch, we helped them learn about budgeting. We gave them a monthly lunch allowance which let them have about 4 lunches out per month. They got to decide how to use the money. One of our daughters always used the full amount. The other always had money left over, which she saved.

    1. Great ideas for options around the whole “lunch” topic. There are so many options, right? And they change as children grow older. I’m thinking how lucky your girls were to be able to go into town for lunch – what a luxury! Sounds like they were able to make informed choices and develop the skill for managing lunch, which carries into adulthood.

  8. It’s kind of sad to think that my days of organizing for this kind of “back-to-school” are over – my youngest heads to college tomorrow! But now I have an opportunity to re-organize and repurpose the old supply area in the closet – lots of possibilities now. Thanks for such great tips – it was a nice trip down memory lane.

  9. We start early in the South – we went back a week and a half ago! It always sneaks up on me – planning is definitely key to starting the year on the right foot. Mixed emotions for me this year as my oldest heads off to college!!

    1. I know… up here in the Northeast we still have two weeks before school begins. Wherever you are, it’s never too late to get organized, right?

  10. Whether parents are sending kids to school for the first time, or doing it “for realsies” after a lot of back-and-forth with virtual, this post is a great way to make sure nothing falls through the cracks. The homework stations and staging areas really give each person a set-up that is unique to whatever needs each has. And I think a lot of people consider the kid-stuff, even the calendars, and then forget about the need for files for all those documents. This is a great reminder for everything that needs wrangling!
    Julie Bestry recently posted…Paper Doll on the NAPO Stand Out Podcast: Why Paper Still MattersMy Profile

    1. I’m not in this role any longer, but I remember it can be chaotic. I’m hoping all families get to enjoy a more “normal” back-to-school this year!

  11. Seana,
    I love the idea of your last-minute prep station (downstairs bathroom) closer to the door to get ready. Brilliant! When my kids were younger it would have been nice to not have them running back upstairs.
    I will have to share this with my grandchildren. May save them a bit of time getting out the door in the morning! 🙂
    Janet Scheisl recently posted…First Day of School!My Profile

  12. The memorabilia file is a great tip. When there’s somewhere to intentionally put things that we want to keep, it cuts down on a LOT of decluttering in the future. Instead of going through piles and piles of your kids’ artwork (not that that’s not fun!), you and your child can decide what to keep up front.

    Great stuff!

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