School is around the corner, and unlike past years, we might not know quite what we need to prepare for. Due to COVID-19, many are sending kids back to school part time, a few may be going every day, and some are looking at homeschooling. Because 2020 seems to be a moving target when it comes to getting organized and making plans, it might feel a little overwhelming to prepare for this school year. But regardless of what back to school looks like for you, here are a handful of tips that can help.
Tip #1 Routines, routines, routines!
Because our brain doesn’t like to figure out what to do, it will default to whatever is easiest. Setting up a routine that takes care of all the guesswork will allow your default to be a routine that works to your advantage.
Of all routines, bedtime is the most important. It’s like a domino effect that will help you wake up on time, get to school (or start home school) on time, and complete school work or homework on time. Your entire family will thrive with this consistency, so begin to shift your summer schedule to include a bedtime that will allow you to wake up at the right time every morning.
PRO TIP: If your school district is mandating a part time home school/public school schedule, maintain the same schedule every day. When we stick to the same bed and wake time each day, our biochemistry adjusts and we fall into a healthy daily rhythm. In other words, we get tired at the right time and we are more inclined to wake up at the right time, allowing us to establish a predictable rhythm to help us feel more in control of our lives.
Tip #2: A place for school things, and school things in their place.
What goes hand in hand with sweaty kids and after school snacks? A trail of shoes, backpacks and jackets after they walk in the door. Get ahead of this problem by creating a convenient station to hold these items. Whether it’s in the garage, mudroom, or next to your front door, here are some ideas of how you can create a simple system that the kids can adopt.
Tip #3: Create a study center in your home
Whether this is used for homework or at-home schooling, prevent the inevitable clutter of pens, pencils, paper, laptops, chargers, and other learning paraphernalia. Convert existing desk space into a deliberate school zone, and use containers to keep supplies orderly and convenient.
If no such space exists in your home, create a portable station that can travel to the various locations where you children will do their work. Or create a home base where all school supplies are stored, and train your kids to return those supplies to their proper place at the end of homework/study sessions.
Tip #4: Outsmart the Paper.
While this year may be be different with the homeschool option, paper is still going to be an issue. Without a game plan, it will start piling up quickly. Here are two solutions I suggest:
Action System: Having an open, desk top file in the main area of the home, with a folder for each person in the family. This will help everyone keep track of important papers. The only catch is that the paper that goes in this folder is paper that needs some action taken on it. For example, papers you need to sign, papers that need to be turned in, papers that are part of an ongoing school project, etc. Having this designated spot will help everyone know where to put – and find – those important papers that get lost in the piles.
Special Box: Have a container to store art work and other school year memorabilia. Be selective about what goes in, and give the pile a final sort at the close of the school year (you’ll be surprised how much you’ll detach from all those color pages and spelling tests as the year goes by.) Once the year is over, keep the winners from that school year in a special manila envelope or binder, and the empty bin will be ready for next year’s treasures.
Tip #5 Organize the Details
The more you need to accomplish, the more organized you need to be. That means keeping track of the details – such as important school phone numbers and dates, that special supply you need to remember to send with your child to school later in the week, and what you are making for dinner. While there are various ways to organize this type of information, a command center is one effective tool that can help.
At first glance, command centers have felt a little overwhelming to me. There can be a lot going on on one of these walls and desks!
But the gist of a command center is capturing all of a family’s important details and keeping them in one place where it all can be found. Start with a family calendar (I like the dry erase kind) and build from there. Do you need a place to post you weekly dinner menu or jot down items you need from the grocery store? Do you want to utilize a pocket file that hangs on your wall for your incoming mail? Want a reliable place to keep your car keys or charge all the family phones? There’s no right or wrong way to do this, so just start by making a list of your family’s most important needs and design a small system for a wall or desk to accommodate them.
Any transition from one season of life to another always calls for a little organization, and going back to school is definitely one of those times. It might seem a little tedious, but taking the time to create some order will always pay off in the end!