Summer is now gone and Fall is upon us; and that means it is back to school time. Like us, kids benefit highly from being organized. Order in all things brings a sense of calm to the household. How did the first days go? If not smooth, consider implementing some or all of these ideas to make everyone’s life easier!
Establish a Command Center: a center where you and everyone else can find out what is going on, find critical papers, as well as process the incoming mountain of stuff.
It should contain the following:
- All Calendars: some options are to place all on a corkboard, use a large dry erase calendar and log each family members activities in a different color or for just referencing; create a binder with sections for each child
- Other School Forms: such as payments due, permission slips and more – Read it and deal with it immediately – touch each paper only once. If you can’t do that, file it in a “Take Action” folder or wall pocket and then designate a weekly or daily time to thumb through this and act on the item – ideally Sunday night so if due that week they get in on time.
- Drop Zone: create “homes” for backpacks, sports equipment, ID’s, coats and accessories and more. This may be part of our command center or a mud room designated spot. Also, consider a bin or magazine holder for each day Mon-Fri for placing and keeping track of things that go in or are due back certain days of the week – an itemized list on the bin for known things should be put up.
- Artwork: Artwork is great but the volume can be overwhelming! By all means display some, either on a corkboard or create a gallery on one wall. Update often and place the pieces that are taken down or overflow from what comes in as part of a “current” box. Go through a few times a year and place in an archival location with name and year. A great idea if you don’t want to save them (especially large pieces) but don’t want to lose the memories is to take a digital photo of the piece for the memory.
- Finished Homework: Homework that is graded and home for good should either be placed in a “To Be Filed” container or tossed. Go through a few times a year with your child and pick out favorite projects or big achievements and put them in a box or folder labeled with their name and year – creating a keepsake. Involve the child in the decision making.
Homework: Ask yourself the following, When will they do it? and Where will they do it? You need answers to these!
- Dictate your expectations – when they should be working on it
- ZONE – create a homework zone for each child, equipped with but not limited to the following: a flat surface, a comfortable chair, task lighting, a clock in sight, stock of typical supplies used, corkboard and/or magnetic board, bookshelf/shelving close by. If the space if for the entire family, a bin/shelf/drawer for each person’s personal stuff works well
- Have the child utilize a homework planner to document each subjects’ homework assignment is a must. Ensure they use it daily. And with that “planner”, teach them to check it just prior to leaving school to ensure associated books and papers needed to do the assignment make it home (place in drop zone). For younger children, a visual laminated checklist may be useful for things they have to bring home each day – homework, coat, books, etc and clip to backpack.
- For older students, a corkboard in their room with sectioned off areas with masking tape can be set up to house short and long term assignments like reading lists and reports due.
- Teach and foster good time-management skills for completing homework.
A few Other Trouble Areas:
- Clothing: Pick out outfits together on the weekend. Utilize a days of the week/sweater sorters hanging in the closet for each outfit, include socks, underwear and even shoes if possible to be completely efficient. Or, you can pair shirt and pants on one hanger together and always have 7 hanging.
- AM Routine: Craziness!!! Make a list of what needs to get done (dressed, breakfast, teeth, shoes, etc.) Make a list of “Bring to School” items; such as 1. Homework 2. Forms 3. Instrument 4. Gym clothes, and so on (picture checklists or flashcards for the younger ones). Explain your expectations with times, consequences if missed. Some tricks besides the lists are to use a timer for each activity (i.e. eating, dressing) to have them learn how long it should take or create a CD that goes on at 7:10 and off at 8:00 (out the door time) – kids will get into the rhythm of what song they should be done on or should be playing for each part of the routine. And lastly, set all clocks back 10 minutes to get out the door on time.
- PM Routine: Decide immediately what the rule is for Monday – Thursday evenings. Schedule, depending on your own schedules and extracurricular activities, what the flow is each day will be upon arriving home: snack and/or dinner time, lounge time, allowable amount of time of TV / video games (you can purchase times that auto-shut off the TV when time is up), homework start time, and tackling the harder stuff first helps with getting it done and lastly, bedtime (and when to start the bedtime routine – and what that routine IS).
Remember, if something isn’t working either in getting homework done or getting to bed on time, reevaluate the system you have in place and keep trying until you get a consistent result. Every child reacts differently to systems, find one that works for them and you.
Lastly, since the kids are getting back to school, take the extra time to get yourself organized. Make a project list for you and the house and prioritize it. Put the projects as appointments in your planner and tackle!