Who is ready for back to school?
Probably most parents and maybe even some kids, like mine. But who is prepared for school to start? Not many of us right? I have a jump on clothes and a few supplies, but the mechanics of our household routine have a long way to go to break out of our relaxed summertime schedule!
Back to school makes me think of bigger issues than glue and crayons. I’m worried about packing lunches and healthy dinners on the table; making sure library books make it back to the library; socks that match. We still need to get organized!
While I’ve been making plans for the back to school changes that need to happen in my home, I thought I would share a few of the biggest lifesavers we use in our family to stay organized.
Step 1: Command Central
Dedicate a place in your home where you can keep everything you need to take with you when you leave for school or work. In our home, this area is right inside the door. Make sure the area you choose is large enough to keep everything organized and accessible.
Think of backpacks, lunch boxes, coats and jackets, sports bags, shoes, etc. When everything stays in one place it is easier to remember everything you need, without forgetting mittens or lunch boxes that might be scattered in other areas.
Keep in mind the reach of the children in your home and place hooks for bags and jackets low enough for them to hang things themselves.
This is a great area for adults as well to keep sunglasses, keys, laptop bags, outgoing mail and other items they will want to leave the house with.
Step 2: Organized School Supplies
Whether your children attend school, or are home-schooled they will need a place at home where school work is completed. That area could be their very own desk, or it might just be your dining table. Where ever it may be, that location should be consistently used for homework and studying.
Studies have proven that children are much more successful in school when they have a routine to their school work. Both the location and the time in their schedule that is devoted to their lessons have an impact. In our family we find that the dining table is a great place to work. But, I don’t want school clutter covering the table when school work is finished.
Each of my kids has a storage caddy just for them to keep their supplies together. We use these cute caddies from our friend Christina at 31. Your kids can choose their own print and even get them personalized with their name, initials or a cute icon.
Storage cubes or plastic tubs will work too. Keep in mind that whatever you use should be large enough to hold extra paper, notebooks, colored pencils or markers, pens and pencils, sharpeners, scissors, glue, and craft paper. When everything is in one place, homework goes more smoothly. After their work is done, they can take their caddy back to their room or even back to your command central if you have the room there.
One of the best things I do for myself as a parent is to do as much as I can the night before. Before the kids go to bed, I make sure they have their clothes out for the next day ready to put on as soon as they wake up.
You can even plan for the whole school week of outfits on the weekend as you do laundry by using a hanging sweater organizer in their closets. Make sure the hangar has at least 5 compartments. Have your kids help you select full outfits of school clothes including matching socks, underwear, even accessories they might want and line them up from top to bottom “Monday through Friday.” That way you only have to manage clothing choices once a week, and your kids can grab the next outfit in the hanger and be ready for the day.
Step 4: Lunch boxes
Speaking of things I want to make sure are handled the night before instead of our hectic school morning… lunches. Last year I found these great “bento style” lunch containers that make packing lunch a breeze. They are microwave and dishwasher safe and BPA free. The three compartments are perfect for entrée, side and treat, plus the lids snap securely to keep food and liquids in each compartment separate.
The largest compartment is perfect for a sandwich, but also great for a salad or any leftovers from last night’s dinner! The other two are great for a fruit or vegetable and another small snack like nuts, crackers, cookies or pretzels. Using these bento lunch boxes makes it easy to buy snack foods more cheaply in bulk. The three compartments also encourage more healthy choices like carrots or tomatoes. The medium-sized section is large enough for a clementine or sliced apple.
The kids can even help pack their own lunch with these and they fit into most standard lunch boxes or bags. Just toss in a reusable drink bottle of water or their favorite juice and they’re ready to go.
Step 5: Get Dinner Organized
I know. Some days you enjoy making dinner for your family. Other days you think to yourself, “Didn’t I just feed you YESTERDAY?!” But, even on the tough days, I want our family to have healthy nourishing food and for us to all sit and eat it at the table together. So, after you have mentally prepared yourself, head into the kitchen and take stock of your freezer and pantry. If your family is like ours you have enjoyed a relaxing summer of grazing and late dinners of food from the grill and whatever came out of the garden.
It is likely that your freezer and pantry are bare or full of expired food. But, whatever is in there, its a great time to clean it out. Toss what isn’t good anymore, donate what you no longer want or need and give your kitchen a good cleaning. If there is anything left, plan your next meals around using up those items this week and restock with school night dinners in mind.
Maybe you like to buy frozen prepared meals and heat them in the oven on school nights. Maybe you turn the crock pot on in the morning and come home to hearty home cooked meals. Maybe on the nights you prepare dinner, you make two or three batches and freeze them for next week. We do a good mix of all three in our family so we can participate in after school activities as they come up. Next week I’ll be heading to my favorite warehouse store to fill my freezer with the fish and meats we like and pick up some other favorites in bulk to prepare for our family dinners.
I hope that some of these ideas gave you some inspiration for your own family. Maybe they made you feel a little more excited about preparing for the start of the school year. If you have some make or break tips you rely on in your home I would love to hear about them! Look below this post for some of the great products and tools I mentioned here.
Have a safe and fun start to your school year!