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?